2013-03-20 xml
Research into Grain Skinning will Identify Resistant Varieties

SRUC has just embarked on a new research project looking into grain skinning. Grain skinning is a physical defect in barley; the husk that coats the barley grain becomes weak and then detaches.

Much of Scottish barley is used in distilling whisky or brewing beer and poor quality grains – often those which have lost or partially lost their husk – are frequently rejected.

Grain skinning is a physical defect in barley; the husk that coats the barley grain becomes weak and then detaches

Grain skinning is a physical defect in barley; the husk that coats the barley grain becomes weak and then detaches

Dr Steve Hoad, who leads SRUC’s Agronomy, Physiology and Genetics team, says: “This is a very topical issue for the industry right now. At our cereals workshops in January many of the farmers were concerned about the problem of grain skinning. Often farmers only grow two or three varieties of barley and so if they suffer from grain skinning that could mean a large amount of their crop rejected by maltsters who look for very high quality barley for their products. They may be able to sell it for use as animal feed but the price they will get will be much reduced.”

The project has been funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Science Research Council (BBSRC) and will run for three years. Teams from SRUC and the James Hutton Institute will examine barley varieties looking for those that are particularly susceptible or resistant to grain skinning. They will then move onto looking at the physiological, genetic and environmental factors that could affect the condition.

Weather conditions could be a factor, as could the genetic make up of each variety. A difference in the growth between the grain and the husk could also cause the problem.

Dr Hoad: “One theory is that grain skinning occurs because the husk is not firmly attached to the grain. It could be that quality of the natural glue that performs this role – in some varieties – is poor.”

With the extremes of weather farmers have been dealing with in recent years issues such as grain skinning become even more vital to combat. Long, drawn out harvests seem to exacerbate the problem.

Dr Hoad says: “In good summers when we get long periods of dry weather grain skinning happens far less. However, during prolonged wet conditions farmers can only harvest small amounts at once. This delay often means that grain skinning is more of a problem. Although we hope that the recent bad summers are merely a glitch with the changing world climate Scotland could find that the weather continues to be very unreliable.”

Two new researchers – Maree Brennan and Monika Lenty – have been taken on by SRUC to carry out the work. The research teams will study hundreds of varieties of barley over the next three years looking for genetic markers for poor or good resistance and hope that at the end of the project they will have identified varieties that will hold fast against grain skinning.

SRUC


   
  Related Links
   
link SRUC Experts Warn Farmers of High Disease Risk to Spring Barley
link New Grain Store Will Benefit Region’s Farmers
link Getting Ahead with Spring Barley in the South


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