Ethiopian barley gene now a savior for barley disease that costs $100 million per year globally

Ethiopian barley gene now a savior for barley disease that costs $100 million per year globally Ethiopian barley

Researchers from the Centre for Crop and Disease Management (CCDM) have discovered a genetic solution for Australian barley growers against powdery mildew disease, potentially saving the industry millions of dollars.

Globally, powdery mildew causes significant damage to barley yields. In Australia alone, direct losses and control costs can set growers back by up to $100 million per year.

Published in Nature Scientific Reports, lead researcher Dr Simon Ellwood and his team at the CCDM – which is co-funded by Curtin University and the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) – have for the first time found a gene within an Ethiopian barley landrace that is resistant to all forms of powdery mildew, without affecting yield.

“Currently, the best genetic resistance to powdery mildew in barley involves the mlo-11 allele, which has been widely deployed in Europe and the USA for more than 40 years and provides resistance to all known pathotypes of mildew,” Dr Ellwood said.

“However, while successful at preventing powdery mildew, mlo-11 has been shown to reduce yields by causing tissue damage in leaves and hence reducing the plant’s photosynthetic capacity.

“We’ve found a promising new resistance that is a variant of mlo-11. This variant is structurally different and does not possess known side-effects effects of the mlo-11 allele and, therefore, does not affect the plant’s ability to photosynthesise, ultimately maintaining production levels.”

Professor Mark Gibberd, CCDM Director, said the finding could not come at a better time for growers, particularly as powdery mildew pathogens had become resistant to DMI fungicides in many areas of Australia, reducing control options for growers.

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Ethiopian barley, Centre for Crop and Disease Management, Simon Ellwood