iBarMed - Innovative barley breeding approaches to tackle the impact of climatic change in the Mediterranean region
Agostino Fricano, Consiglio per la ricerca in agricoltura e l'analisi dell'economia agraria ; Italy
barley, genomic selection, association mapping, FIGS, climate change
In the Mediterranean region, barley is the only cereal that can be grown in harsh environments owing to its adaptability in low rainfall and in general is the predominant crop in less favourable, low input and stress prone environments. In less developed Mediterranean countries, barley plays a key role as its grain and straws are the principal feed for livestock. Small ruminants such as sheep and goats are the main livestock in these countries and represent a valuable dietary contribution in rural areas as well as the principal economic output. In richer Mediterranean countries food science and industries are promoting barley use in human diet as functional food, motivated by the excellent profile in fibers, carotenoids, vitamins and microelements, as well as other healthy compounds such as beta-glucans, showing the best nutritional balance among cereal species. Climate change is expected to jeopardize barley yield, yield stability and, therefore, food security across the entire Mediterranean region, a trend already substantiated in some areas during the last years (Moore and Lobel, 2015; Lobell et al., 2011). These challenges, together with the need for greater barley production for food and feed make it urgent to boost barley yields using all available plant breeding techniques. iBarMed will tackle these challenges as well as the need of reducing chemical fertilizers using an integrated and multi-disciplinary approach. Specifically, iBarMed will pursue a strategy based on two main pillars: i) it will apply and validate new advances in the field of genomic prediction to allow selecting barley lines for temperate Mediterranean areas that respond better to climate change stresses and ii) it will create proof-of-concepts for new ideotypes of barley for semi-arid regions, analysing and studying the genetic architecture of aboveground and belowground traits in drought tolerance plants identified with multi-environment field trials. iBarMed activities will spans 5 working packages, gathering seven international partners of five Mediterranean countries: Italy as coordinator, Spain, Morocco, Turkey and Tunisia. The seven research teams will be involved with different skills and complementary competences to further strengthen the existing international network of collaborations that gave rise this ambitious proposal. Beyond delivering new plant lines and pre-breeding material for tackling climate change in the Mediterranean region, this proposal will i) implement new advances for using genomic selection methodology in barley and cereal breeding ii) advance our knowledge on the physiological role of aboveground and belowground traits that contribute to drought tolerance and iii) contribute to better understand genotype per environment interactions. iBarMed will contribute to the implementation of these new plant breeding concepts disseminating project outputs with seminars, workshops and specific training sessions customized for the audience.