New barley variety could make better use of nitrogen

LACOMBE, Alta. — A nitrogen efficient barley could be released next year.

Thanks to advances in genomics and the tenacity of plant breeders at the Alberta Agriculture Crop Development Centre, the new variety identified as T09157014 could soon be registered.

“The idea is to select and develop material that can pick up more nitrogen from the soil as well as utilize that nitrogen more efficiently,” said research scientist Yadeta Kabeta.

A typical plant uses only about 50 percent of the available nitrogen.

“With 10 years of work, I believe we have made quite significant progress. We have identified some lines with better nitrogen uptake. In general, the lines we have selected show 10 percent improvement over the standard lines,” he said during a field day at the Lacombe centre July 26.

More tests will be done this year but this particular cultivar appears to take up more nitrogen, resulting in a good forage crop with higher biomass and improved grain yield of five to six percent. The plant has smooth awns, which makes it suitable as a feed crop. It has average disease resistance.

Molecular geneticist Jennifer Zantinge has worked with plant breeders like Kabeta to help select and develop new varieties with better disease resistance, good malting quality or improved nitrogen use.

“Nitrogen use efficiency isn’t a simple gene. It seems to be multiple genes and seems to be affected by the environment,” she said. “It is extremely difficult to select for.”

Early tests were difficult and time consuming with limited information revealed. However better technology has made the work faster and cheaper.

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