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Agronomic diversity of naked barley (Hordeum vulgare L.): a potential resource for breeding new food barley for Europe

Dickin, Edward, Steele, Katherine, Edwards-Jones, Gareth, Wright, David
Euphytica 2012 v.184 no.1 pp. 85-99
cultivars, foods, barley, seedling growth, landraces, Hordeum vulgare, plant breeders, plant establishment, intensive cropping, agronomic traits, multivariate analysis, Syria, Wales
Naked (hulless) barley was neglected by plant breeders in Europe during the period of intensive crop improvement in the 20th Century, but it is now receiving renewed interest due to the potential health benefits it can convey. Very few naked barley cultivars have been developed for modern UK or European agricultural systems, in contrast to the wide diversity of naked barley in Asia. Prior to initiating any breeding programme, phenotyping in UK field conditions is needed to assess the value of existing exotic landraces. This article reports such a programme where naked barley landrace lines were grown alongside modern cultivars and unimproved UK hulled landrace lines over 4 years at a research station in North Wales and assessed for yield and agronomic traits. Multivariate analysis of the traits suggested that accessions clustered by region of origin. Himalayan landrace lines formed Eastern and Western clusters while Japanese and Korean landrace lines were distinct from these. European naked barleys were found to be closest to European hulled barleys, suggesting that the distinctiveness of the Asian naked barley landrace lines was due to origin rather than the naked grain trait per se. The only agronomic trait that could be attributed to naked grain was poorer crop establishment, but some Himalayan landrace lines showed vigorous seedling growth. Modern lines of naked barley from Syria gave superior yields to old UK hulled barleys, indicating that there is potential for breeding modern UK cultivars of naked barley.