Better Barley by New Breeding Techniques


Start date: 1 April, 2021 End date: 31 March, 2025 Project type: Research projects in countries with extended development cooperation (earlier Window 1) Project code: 20-04-AU Countries: Ethiopia Thematic areas: Agricultural production, Climate change, Food security and safety, Lead institution: Aarhus University (AU), Denmark Partner institutions: Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR), Ethiopia Haramya University (HU), Ethiopia Project website: go to website (the site might be inactive) Project coordinator: Henrik Brinch-Pedersen Total grant: 11,986,554 DKK

Project summary

Barley is an important food security crop in Ethiopia, and is a priority crop for the Ethiopian Government. There is an urgent need to lift breeding activities by incorporating new breeding techniques (NBT) to reach a planned yield goal of 3.9t/ha in 2030. In this project, we do research in, and apply New Breeding Techniques/ CRISPR to speed breeding of local food barley genotypes with 1) drought tolerance, 2)fungal and 3)viral disease resistance, and with naked grains to enhance food security and market potential.
The project specifically enhance breeding of local, climate resilient cultivars. The project will educate 4 PhDs, anchored at Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research, with local enrollment at Haramaya University (2) and Ambo University (2), in joint collaboration with Aarhus University.
The project team covers competences in molecular and conventional breeding, genetics, and pathology, and vast experience in barley research.
The project builds technical capacity and a broader knowledge base to enable Ethiopia to produce NBT crops, but also to handle issues related to introduction of NBT crops from other countries.
The project will generate hands on new scientific knowledge and drive the state of the art forward, also of relevance for other developing countries with similar climate change challenges and food security issues, and at the samt time it will strengthen research capacity by generation of a research network including local research stations and universities.


First year report
Several barley field-trials have been carried out in Ambo, Holetta and Kulumsa in Ethiopia to identify superior lines from around 1500 food barley landraces obtained from the Ethiopian Biodiversity Institute. The material includes both two-row and six-row spike types. Landraces possessing disease resistance and showing high yield potentials have been identified, and the process is ongoing to purify these lines for further conventional breeding and CRISPR gene editing. The work has involved personnel from the three partner institutions in Ethiopia, namely EIAR, Ambo University and Haramaya University, and has generated good synergies among the institutions, which also include the enrollment of 4 PhD students, two at each university. At AU, tissue culture work to test for somatic embryogenesis and plant regeneration from Ethiopian barley landraces has shown that plants can be regenerated from some landraces. Somatic embryogenesis and plant regeneration is currently a prerequisite for CRISPR gene editing in barley. The in-house protocol still needs some adaptations to obtain a higher percentage of regenerated plants. So far, no landraces have been successfully transformed yet, and the transformation protocol needs to be refined to obtain plants with gene edited traits. The project activities have been hampered by Covid-19 and the safety situation in Ethiopia, but we are on the right track, and we look forward to continue the project activities in the following 3 years.

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