Skip to main content
ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Aberdeen, Idaho » Small Grains and Potato Germplasm Research » Research » Research Project #434280

Research Project: Improvement of Barley and Oat for Enhanced Productivity, Quality, and Stress Resistance

Location: Small Grains and Potato Germplasm Research

2020 Annual Report

This project intends to produce improved barley and oat germplasm, and new information and techniques to facilitate increased efficiencies. The objectives below will be the specific focus for the next five years: Objective 1: Develop barley and oat germplasm with increased yield, better quality, and superior or novel resistances to biotic and abiotic stresses. • Subobjective 1A: Develop low protein barley lines suitable for all-malt brewing. • Subobjective 1B: Develop improved winter food barley varieties. • Subobjective 1C: Develop facultative malting barley. • Subobjective 1D: Develop barley varieties with improved Fusarium head blight resistance. Objective 2: Translate new, sequence-based information into breeder-friendly tools for crop improvement in barley and oats. • Subobjective 2A: Map Fusarium head blight (FHB) resistance and develop germplasm resistant to multiple diseases via marker-assisted selection. • Subobjective 2B: Map quantitative trait loci (QTL) from new sources of adult plant resistance to oat crown rust disease (OCR) and develop milling oat germplasm resistant to crown rust. Objective 3: Develop and implement novel biotechnological tools to produce barley germplasm with unique traits and enhance understanding of the genetic mechanisms underlying key traits. Subobjective 3A: Deliver a site-specific recombination (TAG) platform via Ds-mediated transposition, and demonstrate functionality for RMCE in barley. • Subobjective 3B: Construct and deliver Ds-bordered RNAi constructs that are transposition competent and that confer resistance to Fusarium head blight. • Subobjective 3C: Perform genetic analyses of seed total phosphorus and phytic acid in barley.

Objective 1: Productive varieties will be developed that are improved for agronomic performance, protein and beta-glucan contents, winter survival, and Fusarium head blight (FHB) resistance. Hybridization with generation advance in greenhouses, New Zealand, and by doubled haploids will be used for population development. Breeding efficiency will be enhanced by investigating the genetics of key traits to enable genomic selection and the development of novel selection schemes. Agronomic performance and FHB resistance will be assessed in multi-location field trials. Grain quality will be assessed by physical examination and chemical analysis of grain for malt quality, protein and beta-glucan contents, and mycotoxin content. Objective 2: Research will relate genetic sequence to disease resistance. Incorporating resistance to diseases that constrain oat and barley production outside of the Intermountain West will make Aberdeen germplasm more valuable. Since Idaho locations have low disease, direct selection for resistance is difficult. Indirect selection of sequence-based markers associated with resistance will combine good agronomic performance and grain quality with resistance to rusts and blotches. For diseases with established markers, development of new lines with specific markers will precede field screening in disease-prone sites outside of Idaho and in greenhouses using artificial inoculation. For other diseases, such as oat crown rust, screening in disease-prone sites will measure disease in multiple test lines, and statistical associations between specific sequences and resistances will identify and “map” new markers. Hybridization, generation advance, and genotypic and phenotypic screens will establish new populations from which lines that have improvements in disease resistance, yield, and quality will be selected. Objective 3: Research will develop tools for experimental genetic manipulations and knowledge of how phosphorus is stored in seeds. Phosphorus is a critical nutrient and a major water pollutant. The hypothesis that the gene lpa-M955 is responsible for reduced seed phosphorus will be investigated by investigating statistical associations between the gene and different levels of seed phosphorus as measured by chemical assays. The hypothesis that new mutations can be found that result in 25% less phosphorus but without negative impact on plant performance will be examined by finding low-phosphorus mutant seeds, and growing them and selecting healthy plants that will then be tested in greenhouses and fields. To facilitate future genetic engineering experiments to identify additional genes of importance, the hypothesis that causing test genes to “jump” (transpose) into specific locations will help answer genetic questions will be tested by attempts to move a test gene into a specially designed receiver site. To test the hypothesis that this process can be harnessed to produce a non-chemical method of controlling a fungus that produces toxins in crop seeds, transposition will deliver an antifungal gene, followed by greenhouse and growth chamber screening for the reduced ability of the fungus to grow and produce toxins.

Progress Report
In support of Objective 1, plant scale tests for the craft brewing industry spring malting barley variety “GemCraft” were performed. This test will determine whether the craft brewing industry will put it on their recommended variety list. Gemcraft has demonstrated successful agronomic performance and acceptable quality parameters in industry-sponsored pilot scale tests, so the expectation is that the variety will meet industrial requirements. In addition, the line 11ARS162-4 has newly qualified for plant scale tests following two years of satisfied pilot scale tests, while 10ARS191-3 will be tested for a third year at the pilot scale. Industry interest remains in these lines, and one malting company has taken them up for in-house agronomic and malting quality testing. The all-malt brewing industry requires lower grain protein levels than does the adjunct brewing industry. In order to meet their needs, ARS researchers continue working with the Brewer’s Association to identify breeding material and National Small Grains Collection (NSGC) accessions with the combination of malting characteristics suited to all-malt brewing. Twenty additional low protein lines have been incorporated into the breeding program and we have initiated advanced research to explore the physiological and genetic mechanisms contributing to the low protein phenotype. Towards the development of improved food barley, we have forwarded data and seed of the new high beta-glucan barley ‘Goldenhart’ to potential users. The new variety “Upspring”, the first food barley with a winter growth habit, was submitted for Plant Variety Protection (PVP) and variety release applications. A winter food barley will give growers greater management flexibility in that market class. Upspring has been taken up by a commercial company for in-house field evaluation. As part of Objective 1, we are addressing the growing need for barley varieties in the Intermountain West that possess well-defined Fusarium head blight (FHB) response. This was our second year of evaluating winter germplasm for FHB resistance, and our first year evaluating a spring barley training population for the purpose of genomic selection for improved FHB resistance. Screening of elite breeding lines for FHB response has become routine and many of our elite breeding lines have good resistance. The updated results have been shared with stakeholders and some of these lines were requested by other researchers. Stakeholder need for barley with FHB resistance is also being addressed by Sub-objective 2A. Six bi-parental populations created by crossing two FHB tolerant Aberdeen spring malting barley elite breeding lines with each of three varieties possessing foliar disease resistance have been developed and genotyped. We are increasing seed this year to ensure that seed of each line will be available for FHB and foliar disease testing. These tests should tell us whether our FHB resistance is genetically distinct from that deployed by other barley breeding programs and will also enable us to incorporate additional foliar disease resistance genes into the Aberdeen, Idaho, breeding program. In support of Sub-objective 2B, ARS researchers continue to develop a set of bi-parental populations capable of identifying the map locations of quantitative trait loci (QTL) for oat crown rust disease (OCR) resistance. These populations will also be capable of informing us whether sources of disease resistance identified within the NSGC are unique or represent patterns of resistance already deployed in elite oat varieties. Related to this objective, we continue to collaborate with other oat researchers to catalog the genomic locations of resistance genes currently within the elite germplasm of major U.S. breeding programs. The OCR resistance gene Pc54 and a novel powdery mildew resistance gene were mapped this year. Newly appropriated funds have been used to partially fund the genome sequencing of four oat accessions chosen from the NSGC. These oat accessions (three cultivated oats and one wild oat) were chosen for their historical significance or promise of future contributions to oat crown rust resistance. Work on recombination mediated cassette exchange and transposition-competent RNAi constructs (Objective 3) continued. Additional plants were identified with potential “ideal” TAG-locus characteristics (that is, an isolated, single TAG locus in a homozygous state). These lines will advance for further testing. Our partnership with scientists in Madison, Wisconsin, resulted in stable meristem transformation of Gemcraft with vectors containing genes coding for marker proteins. We have designed vectors with inverted repeats of two genes (TRI6 and NOXA) and have shared those with our University of Wisconsin collaborators for on-going experiments. Expression in plants should reveal how these fungal genes function in FHB disease progression and may provide targets for novel disease control methods.

1. New food barley variety with a winter growth habit provides additional options for growers. “Upspring” is being released by researchers in Aberdeen, Idaho, as the first two-row winter type of food barley cultivar. The new cultivar is well balanced in yield, winter hardiness, and quality traits with high beta-glucan content. Now in the Plant Variety Protection (PVP) and variety release process, it has been adopted by one commercial company for in-house evaluation. Seed increase of Upspring is currently managed by the Aberdeen, Idaho, breeding program. Winter habit cereal varieties provide growers with options to manage soil moisture resources and to minimize crop losses to biotic and abiotic stress pressures.

Review Publications
Kruse, E.B., Esvelt Klos, K.L., Marshall, J.M., Murray, T.D., Ward, B.P., Carter, A.H. 2019. Evaluating selection of a quantitative trait: snow mold tolerance in winter wheat. Agrosystems, Geosciences & Environment. 2(1):1-8.
Huang, C., Liang, W., Esvelt Klos, K.L., Chen, C., Huang, Y. 2020. Evaluation of agronomic performance and exploratory genome-wide association study of a diverse oat panel for forage use in Taiwan. Grassland Science. Available:
Fogarty, M.C., Smith, S.M., Sheridan, J.L., Hu, G., Islamovic, E., Reid, R., Jackson, E.W., Maughan, P.J., Ames, N.P., Hsieh, T., Jellen, E.N. 2020. Identification of mixed linkage ß-glucan quantitative trait loci and evaluation of cslF6 homoeologs in hexaploid oat. Crop Science. 60(2):914-933.
Hu, G., Evans, C.P., Satterfield, K.L., Ellberg, S., Marshall, J.M., Schroeder, K., Obert, D.E. 2019. Registration of ‘Goldenhart’, a two-rowed spring food barley. Journal of Plant Registrations. 13(2):119-122.
Hu, G., Ellberg, S., Burton, C., Evans, C.P., Satterfield, K.L., Bockelman, H.E. 2020. Application of an orcinol-ferric chloride colorimetric assay in barley and wheat accessions for water-extractable and total arabinoxylan. Journal of Cereal Science. 93:Article 102962. Available:
Kebede, A.Z., Yimer, B.A., Bekele, W., Gordon, T.C., Bonman, J.M., Babiker, E.M., Jin, Y., Gale, S.W., Wight, C.P., Tinker, N., Menzies, J., Beattie, A., Mitchell-Fetch, J., Fetch, T., Esvelt Klos, K.L., McCartney, C. 2019. Mapping of the stem rust resistance gene Pg13 in cultivated oat. Journal of Theoretical and Applied Genetics. 133:259-270.
Gordon, T.C., Wang, R., Bowman, B., Klassen, N., Wheeler, J., Bonman, J.M., Bockelman, H.E., Chen, J. 2020. Agronomic and genetic assessment of terminal drought tolerance in two-row spring barley. Crop Science. 60(3):1415-1427.
Esvelt Klos, K.L., Hayes, P., Del Blanco, I., Chen, X., Filichkin, T., Helgerson, L., Fisk, S., Bregitzer, P.P. 2020. Quantitative trait loci for field resistance to barley stripe rust derived from malting line 95SR316A. Crop Science. 60(4):184-1853.
Baldwin, T.T., Arcibal, S., Bregitzer, P.P., Marshall, J., Esvelt Klos, K.L. 2019. Deletion of the benzoxazinoid detoxification gene NAT1 in Fusarium graminearum reduces deoxynivalenol in spring wheat. PLoS One. 14(7):1-14.