The Start of Cropping in Grains

July 31, 2015

Our former Centre Director, Emeritus Professor Geoff Fincher, and a team of international researchers have discovered the genes in barley that led to the start of human agriculture, published in the journal Cell today.

Evolution of the seed dispersal system in barley” discusses how the group of researchers, led by Professor Takao Komatsuda of the National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences, and the Okayama University Institute of Plant Science and Resources, both in Japan, discovered the Btr1 and Btr2 genes that are involved in grain dispersal in wild barley at maturity and how these ‘brittle rachis’ genes control the strength of the attachment point between maturing grains and the barley spike. The change to a non-brittle attachment point resulted in mature grains remaining attached to the plant.

“Ancient farmers recognised that they could now harvest all the grains at the same time,” says Professor Fincher. “They could then select the best barley plants for cultivation.”

Associate Professor Rachel Burton, Dr Marilyn Henderson and Dr Ashley (Hwei-Ting) Tan of the Plant Cell Wall lab in Adelaide were also integral to this research by performing skilled microscopy techniques.

University of Adelaide – media release