Genetics and Plant Breeding

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Declaration of Spanish researchers for the creation of a national research program in cereals

General objective

Development of plant materials adapted to Spanish and Mediterranean conditions.

Specific objectives

1.  Search for traits and genes for barley breeding.

E. Igartua, A.M. Casas, M.P. Gracia, B. Contreras-Moreira (Laboratory of Computational Biology)

Domestication crops and modern plant breeding narrowed down the genetic basis of many crops. Modern varieties have not incorporated a large part of genetic diversity present in wild relatives and landraces. This line has the following objectives: i) to explore, to characterize and to disseminate this diversity, and ii) to find favourable traits and to design strategies to deploy them to breeding programs. It is based on the detailed study of the genetic diversity of barley, with special emphasis on Spanish local varieties. The study of this germplasm has led to the discovery of features that served as starting points for specific projects (genes for adaptation to temperature and photoperiod , and disease resistance genes), while landraces with good agronomic potential were incorporated into breeding activities (line 2). The most interesting accession are subject to more detailed investigations, creating specific populations, and using molecular markers, gene expression and sequencing of DNA and RNA. We are currently designing and analysing experiments of transcriptomics of barley cultivars with contrasting adaptation to drought conditions, and exome capture experiments of different varieties and cultivars of barley, in collaboration with the Laboratory of Computational Biology.

Activities :

  • Association studies in barley with high throughput genotyping .
  • Distribution of germplasm to researchers and / or producers.
  • Application of functional markers
  • Search for genes responsible for drought resistance in barley.
  • Interaction of gene expression for photoperiod and vernalization response genes in barley
  • Development of a platform for the analysis of genetic variants of grass genomes for use in improvement of barley, constructed on the basis of BARLEYMAP

2.  Breeding barley varieties adapted to Spanish conditions.

M.P. Gracia, A.M. Casas, E. Igartua.

A barley breeding program has taken place in the Institute since 1982. In 1995, it became a national program, integrating all public groups with activity in barley breeding. This initiative aimed at responding to the demand of barley producers. Barley is the crop which occupies most land in Spain. Its objectives are to improve crop performance and stability, and stress tolerance of varieties through pedigree and backcross selection schemes. A distinctive feature of this program is the use of Spanish genetic diversity (line 1). As a result of these works, there is already a steady stream of new varieties listed in the Register of Commercial Varieties (MAGRAMA). The program is licensing its varieties to private companies for commercial exploitation. Thus, varieties CIERZO, ESTRELLA and YURIKO (best performing variety at independent national trials run by GENVCE) varieties have been licensed respectively to companies Eurosemillas SA (with an additional service contract is maintained), Agromonegros SA and Manchuela SL who are carrying out their commercial development.


  • Characterization of parentals with molecular markers.
  • Development of the breeding program with special emphasis on the introduction of local germplasm and search for favourable crossing patterns.
  • Multi-environment pedigree program with two primary screening centres and seven environments for agronomic evaluation.
  • Preparation of base seed and delivery to MAGRAMA Official Register for testing.
  • Maintenance of base seed of the varieties in exploitation.