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'Naked' barley could mean Welsh cereal opportunities

June 15, 2009

Farmers Guardian

15 June, 2009

By Barry Alston

 

THE wet and windy climate of Wales has always posed extra challenges to growing cereal crops � but a ‘naked’ barley from Tibet could well provide some of the answers.

 

Increased feed costs have generated more interest in growing cereals in Wales as input costs have risen sharply, grain markets become volatile and cash flow is under severe pressure in the tough economic climate.

 

Pesticide and water quality legislation could also restrict the use of several key plant protection chemicals and the effects of climate change could present yet more challenges.

 

But despite the challenges, innovative research work at Bangor and Aberystwyth Universities is helping to realise the significant opportunities that cereals can provide for Wales.

 

Demand for local food, health concerns and the healthy properties of barley and oats, the traditional Welsh cereals, are making both crops increasingly attractive.

 

Naked barley, in fact, is said to offer value-added outputs in the form of bread and breakfast cereals that can help lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of diabetes.

 

“At present, there are no varieties of naked barley bred for UK conditions,” says Dr Edward Dickin, from Bangor University's Henfaes Research Centre.

 

“We are, therefore, using an innovative system of natural selection that Bangor scientists have already proved can produce tough, well-adapted varieties for use in the developing world.

 

“The system utilises clever crosses between carefully selected parents, in contrast to commercial barley breeding programmes that may make 1,500 crosses per year.

 

“Wide crosses, for example between UK and Himalayan varieties, produce hybrid populations with large variation between plants.

 

“When these populations are grown in the field, and exposed to the north Wales climate, natural selection acts on the variation � with better adaptation to the climate being achieved with each generation.

 

“After several seasons, ears can be selected and seed multiplied to produce pure lines.”

 

•The naked barley project is being jointly funded by the Welsh Assembly and HGCA and an open day covering cereals research at the university is being held at Henfaes on July 1 starting at 1 pm. Details at calu@bangor.ac.uk or 01248 680450.

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