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New gene-edited barley that could improve beer

Date: 15.11.2021 

After a spell of unexpected rain, before the harvest season, a farmer may be faced with the unpredictable problem of untimely sprouting of barley. Sprouted barley fetches considerably lower market prices and poses an economic burden on farmers and corporations that are at the mercy of nature. The aggravation of climate change has not made this situation any better.

Kredit: Hiroshi Hisano / Okayama University.The problem of pre-harvest sprouting has thus kept agricultural researchers occupied. Pre-harvest sprouting can be avoided by prolonged grain dormancy through genetic manipulation. However, dormancy can interfere with malt production, and also cause non-uniform germination upon sowing. Balancing these issues is necessary for high-quality barley production.

Now, a team of scientists, led by Associate Professor Dr. Hiroshi Hisano from Okayama University, Japan, offers a solution to this age-old problem. To achieve the perfect barley, they looked to the latest gene manipulation technology – CRISPR/Cas9-based gene editing. Dr. Hisano says, "We recognized the need to strategically manipulate crops to weather the effects of steadily exacerbating climate change.

Using CRISPR/Cas9 targeted mutagenesis, Dr. Hisano and his team genetically manipulated samples of Golden Promise barley to be either single mutants (qsd1, or qsd2), or double mutants (qsd1 and qsd2). Then, they proceeded to perform germination assays on all mutants and non-mutated samples.

Dr. Hisano says, "We successfully produced mutant barley that was resistant to pre-harvest sprouting using the CRISPR/Cas9 technology. Also, our study has not only clarified the roles of qsd1 and qsd2 in grain germination or dormancy, but has also established that qsd2 plays a more significant role."





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