Food Forever Champions

Ancient Grain

Dr Joanne Russell with bere barley

Dr Joanne Russell with bere barley which she has been studying to assess genetic diversity in this ancient grain in order to understand the genetic control of important traits like nutrient uptake.

Bere barley is an ancient grain possibly brought to Britain by the Vikings in the 8th century. Today it is largely confined to the Orkney Islands in Scotland. This fast maturing crop is a traditional harvest in Orkney and is locally known as 90-day barley, due to its rapid growth.

Bere is much more efficient at extracting vital plant nutrients from the soil compared with modern barley. Dr Joanne Russell of the James Hutton Institute, in Scotland, is exploring the genes in bere that control the efficient use of soil nutrients. This work has potential to raise crop productivity, without the need for costly artificial fertiliser, and improve the sustainability of farming on poorer soils.