A gene that is considered to be responsible for the drought resistance of cereal plants has been identified by a group of scientists at Heriot-Watt University.
According to the press release, this discovery could lead to “future-proof cereals”, i.e. cereals that can better withstand the ongoing climate changes that are expected to lead to increasingly frequent droughts in cultivation.
The study, published in the Journal of Plant Physiology and Biochemistry, describes how researchers over nearly five years have identified the HvMYB1 gene.
This gene manages stress tolerance in various cereal plants, including barley itself. This is the first study that associates the HvMYB1 gene with a plant’s resistance to drought.
Peter Morris of the Institute of Earth and Life Sciences at Heriot-Watt University explains the meaning of the research he has carried out: “As climate change is accelerating and we are experiencing more extreme seasons, it is essential to maintain continuity of supply. This is significant for key sectors such as Scotch whisky, one of the UK’s major export items. Our project focused specifically on barley; one of the three ingredients used in the production of Scotch whisky.
It was not an easy task considering that barley has more than 39,000 genes, twice as many as human genes.