Spring barley is Ireland's most widely grown tillage crop. It provides valuable feedstock for the animal- feed and malting industries. In tillage systems, winter cereals are inherently higher yielding than spring cereals due to a longer growing season; however their use is limited by waterlogging, where wet soils over winter and in early spring result in crop damage or death. It has been predicted that the already high occurrence of rainfall in Ireland will further increase in the coming decades, with extreme precipitation and flooding events becoming more prevalent. One of the goals of VICCI is to develop a capacity to develop winter barley lines that offer the yield advantages, but exhibit enhanced resistance to waterlogging, and to better understand waterlogging tolerance.

Fusarium head blight (FHB) is an important pathogen of spring barley in Ireland. FHB will reduce both the quantity and quality of grain (of particular concern for malting barley). The presence of specific species will lead to contamination of the grain with mycotoxins that have potential animal and human health risks. Significantly, FHB cannot be controlled effectively using fungicides, which represents a significant restriction on productivity or industry expansion that can only be addressed through genetic improvement.

VICCI seeks to address these challenges in barley by:

  • Using transcriptomic and metabolomics approaches to identify genes that show potential for FHB resistance, validating their involvement using gene knockout and overexpression approaches, and developing genetic markers for natural variants
    Contact: Fiona Doohan
  • Functional testing in barley of candidate genes whose orthologues have been implicated in waterlogging tolerance in model species, and identification of further novel genes using forward genetics approaches (based on EMS mutagenesis)
    Contact: Emmanuelle Graciet and Frank Wellmer
  • Using a large association mapping population of winter and spring barley assembled by colleagues at the James Hutton Institute in the UK in GWAS experiments to identify loci involved in NUE and waterlogging under Irish conditions.
    Contact: John Spink and Petra Kock Applegren