The International Barley Sequencing Consortium (ISBC) made a discovery last October with the help of the National Center of Vegetal Genomic Resources(CNRGV), part of the French National Institute of Agricultural Research (INRA). The study found a physical, genetic and functional sequence assembly of the barley genome. The project presents an integrated and ordered physical, genetic and functional sequence resource that describes the barley gene-space in a structured whole-genome context. A physical map of 4.98 Gb, with more than 3.90 Gb anchored to a high-resolution genetic map, was also developed.

This data provides a platform for both genome-assisted research and enables improvement in contemporary crop farming. It also opens the way for development of new barley varieties that are adaptable to climate change and more resistant to diseases that are responsible for losses of millions of euros each year. For scientists all over the world, it means better yields, an increased resistance to parasites and diseases, and an enhancement of the nutritional value of the grain.

©Pascal Xicluna/Min.Agri.Fr

©Pascal Xicluna/Min.Agri.Fr

Cultivated for 15,000 years, barley is part of the Triticeae family along with wheat and rye, and is among the world’s earliest domesticated and most important crop plants. This cereal family provides around 30% of all the calories consumed in the world. Barley represents the fourth major crop in the world in terms of harvested area and the quantity of grains produced.
Barley’s genome is almost twice as substantial as the human genome, so its sequencing constituted a real challenge. For instance, it contains multiple sequences that are very similar and therefore difficult to assemble. With the help of innovative strategies, the consortium managed to determine the order of most of barley’s genes for each chromosome. It was one very important step towards the completion of barley’s complete genome sequence.

ISBC’s study provides precise eyesight of barley’s genome and functional areas that reveal the order and the structure of most of the genome’s 32,000 genes and a detailed analysis of the activating process in the diverse tissues and development stages of the plant. Scientists were able to localize dynamic areas of the genome containing the genes bestowing resistance to diseases. It will help to better understand resistance mechanisms to barley’s pathogenic agents. This sequencing gives prominence to the differences between barley’s varieties and will enable a better utilization of its genetic diversity.

The CNRGV-INRA is responsible for the preservation and maintenance of vegetal genomic resources produced in major projects led by famous international laboratories. CNRGV has reunited all of the necessary genomic resources for barley’s sequencing. It also developed specific tools for an efficient genome areas screening, which enabled the development of a genome card for barley.

FlickR - Global Crop Diversity Trust

FlickR – Global Crop Diversity Trust

ISBC was founded in 2006, and contains scientists from Australia, China, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and United States. The genome’s sequence and the additional resources are accessible online.