OSU leads cold-weather barley research
By Christina Williams
Editor, Sustainable Business Oregon
OSU researchers will work to develop a cold-tolerant strain of barley.
Oregon State University researchers will use a $849,629 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to develop a hardier strain of barley that can be grown in colder regions.
The grant is part of a $25 million effort being run out of the University of California in Davis to produce climate change-tolerant barley and wheat varieties.
Barley crops in Oregon, grown on 31,400 acres and worth $6.8 million in 2009, according to an OSU report, are dwarfed by the value of the state's wheat crop, roughly $223.6 million for the same year. But researchers in Corvallis have been working on cold-tolerant barley for several years.
The school is also testing a "mini-malter" to uncover which varieties of Oregon barley might be good for brewing Oregon beer.
The cold-weather research is focused on cereal crops including wheat and barley because they are crucial to the world's food system. As the planet's climate changes, so will the regions where these crops can be grown. Cold-tolerant varieties will lead to more flexibility in the food system.
The grant will fund five years of research, testing more than 21,000 different strains of barley for traits including water-use efficiency and disease resistance.
"The beauty of this project is that in addition to all of this trait testing, we're generating very complete genetic data sets on every one," said Pat Hayes, head of the barley breeding program in OSU's College of Agricultural Sciences, in a press release. "What we're doing in plants now is the same thing that was the goal of the Human Genome Project, but plants are the subjects of this research."
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