Fast-forward breeding

The American Malting Barley Association now has only two recommended winter malt barley varieties, drastically limiting the options of growers. But a new cross of those varieties, called 10.0777, may soon provide growers with a powerful new option that offers the best attributes of each.

And thanks to an innovative laboratory shortcut, that hybrid will be available years ahead of the normal breeding timeline. Called doubled haploid technology, it is part of a scientific trend that is bringing new barley and wheat hybrids to market in the Pacific Northwest faster than ever before.

Pat Hayes, a barley breeder at Oregon State University, explained that 10.0777, crossed four years ago, is a doubled haploid. That means it was bred with two identical sets of genes — haploids — to avoid variation among the progeny. The technology fast-forwards breeding by years without introducing foreign genes, as is done with controversial genetically modified organisms.

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