NIAB Scientists Attend International Barley Symposium in Egypt

1 Apr 2008

A high ranking delegation of plant geneticists from the National Institute of Agricultural Botany are next week attending an international conference on barley and sharing findings from their innovative research.

Five scientists will be going to the 10th International Barley Genetics Symposium in Alexandria, Egypt between April 5-10, including Chief Executive Prof Wayne Powell. It is held once every four years and Prof Powell represents the UK on its international organizing committee. It is regarded as one of the most important events for barley breeders and scientists, where results and current trends are presented and discussed.

Dr Donal O’Sullivan, will present a paper outlining his group’s in-depth study of DNA variation found in two genes controlling winter/spring growth habit in barley, and this will be of significant interest to breeders in adapting future varieties to cope with climate change.

Prof Powell will chair a session on genomics and plant breeding. In addition, with other members of the international organizing committee, he will determine the venue and host of the next congress.

Prof Powell and Dr O’Sullivan will be joined by researchers Dr Kostantina Stamati and Dr Fiona Leigh, and Phd student Zoe Rutterford who are looking forward to developing collaborative working relationships with other scientists from around the world. More than 300 barley geneticists, breeders, and researchers from more than 60 countries are expected to participate.

Dr O’Sullivan’s paper is entitled "Allelic diversity and phenotypic associations at vernalization loci in cultivated barley". It describes his in-depth study of DNA variation in two genes called Vrn-H1 and Vrn-H2 which previous evidence showed worked together to determine whether a barley plant is winter or spring sown; winter varieties are incapable of making ears until they have experienced cold temperatures for a duration of several weeks and this ability to have flowering induced by cold helps the plant avoid making delicate flowering organs during a mild spell in January as it "knows" the winter is not yet over.

He said:

“We were the first group to look at the forms of these genes found in a large sample of European barley varieties and in doing so, we have discovered several new gene variants and DNA markers to track each of these variants which may be of interest to breeders in adapting future varieties to a changing/warming climate.

“I am delighted to outline these findings and describe the work on barley genetics which my research group has been doing, as well as having the opportunity to meet up with barley researchers from all over the world, including new collaborators from Syria and New Zealand.”

Dr O’Sullivan believes the knowledge share with other barley scientific specialists will be extremely beneficial to NIAB.

He added:

“The symposium represents the single meeting worldwide where a cereal breeder can get the most comprehensive update in new knowledge of how barley works genetically. New materials, genes whose function has been newly characterized, new DNA markers for traits of economic importance, new tools for genetic manipulation will all be presented and discussed enthusiastically long after each days official proceedings have concluded. For researchers like ourselves, it is the best occasion to mentally piece together lots of diverse ideas and new trends, and importantly, to develop these new thoughts in conversation with the pick of the worlds barley experts.”

For further information please contact Dr Donal O’Sullivan