Water use efficiency and barley production on the Canadian Prairies
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Water use efficiency and barley production on the Canadian Prairies. Dr. Anthony Anyia Senior Scientist & Acting Manager, Bioresource Technologies, Alberta Innovates – Tech Futures June 23, 2010. 21st BMBRI Triennial Barley Improvement Meeting held in Guelph.

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Water use efficiency and barley production on the Canadian Prairies

Dr. Anthony AnyiaSenior Scientist & Acting Manager, Bioresource Technologies, Alberta Innovates – Tech Futures

June 23, 2010

21st BMBRI Triennial Barley Improvement Meeting held in Guelph

Challenges of Crop Production on the Prairies Prairies –demonstrated through News Releases by CWB

  • June 11, 2010:Wet weather severely impairs crop prospects across the Prairies

  • June 11, 2009: Cold spring, dry fields lower 2009 crop prospects in Western Canada

  • June 12, 2008:Rains help boost 2008 crop estimates, cold spring a concern

  • June 14, 2007:Wet spring lowers Prairie wheat acres, increases barley

  • June 10, 2004:Moisture conditions improve across Western Canada but dry pockets remain

  • June 12, 2003:Improved moisture conditions good news for prairie farmers

  • August 6, 2003:Hot, dry July plays havoc with crops across the prairies

Characteristics of Canadian Prairies Prairies

Vegreville AB, April 2007

  • Short and dry growing season

  • Insufficient growing season rainfall

  • Drought and heat stress in summer

  • Long and cold winter

  • Spring and fall frost common

  • Occasional flooding and water logging in spring

  • Seeding delayed due to water logged field

  • Fields may be abandoned due to water logged soils or drought

Vegreville AB, 2002, courtesy AAFC

Despite the challenges, PrairiesCanada is a major world producer of barley

Canada is a major producer of barley

Canadian yields are lower than most other leading producers

Canadian barley and wheat yields in comparison to yields in China

China: W = 50%; B = 60%

Canada: W = 5%; B = 0%

Severe drought year in Alberta

Source: FAOStat

  • Breeding progress is masked by genotype by location variation in yield

  • Low yields can be attributed to poor growing conditions prevalent on the prairies

Barley yield depend on both moisture and temperature China

Yield (data label = tonnes/ha)

Weather conditions, Vegreville

  • Low moisture + high temp = very low yield

  • Good moisture + high temp = below average yield

  • Good moisture + moderate temp = above average yield

Can we further improve yield and yield stability? China

  • Improved management of the cropping systems (Agronomic research still essential)

  • Genetic improvement (direct vs. indirect selection)

  • Experience show that targeting of underlying physiological traits that limit yield can contribute to substantial yield improvements (there are only few successful examples)

  • To be useful, physiological traits should be easy to score and have no yield penalty under favorable conditions

  • Many breeders are already taking advantage of advances in genomics and genetic mapping in breeding programs (more still need to be done)

Bridging the gap between breeders, physiologists & ‘omics

Life-cycle of a typical cereal crop China





Establishment & Growth Foundation for future yield

Pre-Anthesis Formation of yield potential

Post-Anthesis determinant of actual yield

Growth Conditions

Moisture is limiting

Usually good moisture

Drought and heat stress

Adapted from Anyia et al., 2008

Adapted from Anyia et al., 2008

Genetic improvement of crops
Genetic improvement of crops China

Can we design new smart varieties that:

Use more of the water supply- Increase water use- Decrease soil evaporation

Early seedling vigour(Leaf area, SLA, LAI)

Increase TE(carbon isotope discrimination)

Better exchange of water for CO2-Increase water use efficiency

Increase stem reserves(non structural CH2O)

Convert more biomass into grain- Increase harvest index

Wheat lines selected for low CID China(Rebetzke et al. 2002)

Relationship between wue and cid adapted from anyia et el 2007

Relationship between WUE and CID China(Adapted from Anyia et el., 2007)

Well watered

Well watered

Well stressed

Well stressed

Six-row barley

Two-row barley

Rank stability of leaf-CID across locations & years China

Data from Chen et al. 2010, in-press

Two years

Two-row barley

Two locations

Six-row barley

CID & protein distribution of F China5 RIL population

Discriminant Analyses on Merit x H93174006 RIL population China

Variables; DM and Seed Weight and HI

Variables: Protein, DM, and Seed weight

Variables; DM and Seed Weight

*** Protein had a significant –ve corr with HI

Relationship between water/nitrogen use efficiencies & protein

We tested the following hypotheses

  • For the same nitrogen supply, higher levels of soil moisture will lower protein content, whereas drier conditions lead to higher protein content.

  • When moisture is limiting, water use efficient varieties will improve yield and hence decrease nitrogen concentration leading to lower protein content (implies a negative correlation)

The Results of greenhouse studies protein

Two N levels under WW and WD conditions

Conclusions GH

  • To maintain/improve on the yield progress already made by our breeders, new tools are needed to target specific traits and growth conditions that limit yield

  • The new tools must be complementary to existing tools and easy to deploy in existing breeding programs

  • Although several physiological traits have been proposed, only a few have been successfully used to improve yield

  • Improvement in one trait can have the unintended consequence of leading to a decline in another

  • Pyramiding of several traits such as WUE and NUE related traits may lead to progress in achieving yield stability

  • Narrow genetic base of modern varieties may impede progress (new sources of variations are necessary to overcome this)

  • Advances in genomics and genetic mapping are making it faster and cheaper to combine several polygenetic traits in new varieties

  • Identifying QTLs and their linked markers will potentially reduce time and cost to make the use of physiological traits more attractive in barley breeding

Acknowledgements traits may lead to progress in achieving yield stability

  • Funding:

  • Brewing & Malting Barley Res. Institute

  • Alberta Agricultural Research Institute

  • Alberta Crop Industry Development Fund

  • Alberta Barley Commission

  • Project Staff:

  • Jing Chen

  • Ludovic Capo-Chichi

  • Sharla Eldridge


  • University of Alberta

  • Dr. Scott Chang

  • FCDC Lacombe

  • Dr. Pat Juskiw

  • Dr. Joseph Nyachiro

  • Jennifer Zantinge