Polish scientists develop innovative methods for barley varieties

Scientists from the University of Silesia (UŚ) have developed two solutions accelerating the process of obtaining new barley varieties. They skip one of the key stages of plant reproduction, namely fertilisation and a several-year cycle of crossing.

Co-author of the method, Dr Monika Gajecka from the Faculty of Life Sciences of the University of Silesia, explained that the result of many years of research is a new method of isolating microspores and initiating culture using an earlier stage of spring barley development. Culture in this context means the artificial cultivation of cells on media, and the microspore is a male spore.

Dr Gajecka said that due to the developed method “reprogramming” is observed, “as a result of which we can immediately obtain a new plant from the microspore, and not, as in the case of a naturally occurring process, a mature pollen grain”.

The method developed by Polish scientists shortens the process of obtaining new barley varieties by several years. “Within six weeks, we can already see the plants and in fact, in one year we have seeds that we can select to see if the plant has the specific, desired traits. Barley is an annual plant, so after another year we get a homozygous line. Previously, due to the eight-generation cycle of crossbreeding, we needed eight years for that,” Ms Gajecka said.

In addition, scientists have also solved the problem of albinism among plants, due to which these white plants - devoid of chlorophyll - are unable to perform photosynthesis. Their method of the isolation and initiation of microspore culture in vitro enables the production of green plants from all varieties, even those that previously regenerated albino plants.

The innovative solution is important for plant growing, as it reduces the time needed to introduce new cereal varieties, and it ensures that it is possible to produce green plants regardless of the genotype.

The authors of the patents are members of the Plant Genetics and Functional Genomics Team at the Faculty of Life Sciences of the University of Silesia: Dr Monika Gajecka, Professor Iwona Szarejko, Dr Beata Chmielewska, Janusz Jelonek and Justyna Zbieszczyk.