China emphasizes importance of collaboration in barley resources

2024-04-29 Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

China has abundant germ plasm resources that are crucial for breeding better-performing varieties of barley, a crop widely used in animal feeding, the malting industry and human diet, a Chinese crop scientist said, calling for more global knowledge sharing in the sector.

Zhou Wenbin, director of the Institute of Crop Sciences, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, told a mix of Chinese, German, Australian and Japanese barley experts that the growing of the world's fourth most important cereal crop can be traced back to about 4,000 years ago in China, where the plant's germ plasm resources is abundant and well-preserved.

"By 2022, the National Crop Genebank of China has collected 25,000 barley genetic samples," he said while addressing the International Symposium of Barley Adaptation in Beijing in mid-April, which also serves as the Workshop on the Adaptation of Barley to Diversified Climates.

The workshop was launched in 2022 as part of the Sino-German Mobility Program, which has granted fellowships to Chinese barley experts working alongside their counterparts from Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK) in Germany. The mobility program is funded by Sino-German Centre for Research Promotion.

Zhou said barley researchers from his academy have been actively involved in international exchange programs and published many original pieces of research in influential journals such as "Nature" alongside their international colleagues.

"Since November 2022, the Program has been running well," Zhou said, adding scientists from China and Germany participated in short-term exchange programs last year, and made progress on barley germplasms evaluation and innovation using state-of-art approaches of bioinformatics and genomics.

Zhou extended invitations to global barley experts from many countries including Germany, Australia and Japan to attend the workshop, in order to exchange information on the latest research progress.

About 1 million hectares of barley are planted in China every year, with the output ranging between 4.5 and 5 million metric tons, Zhou said.

Qian Yu, deputy director of the academy's department of international cooperation, said at the workshop that China consumes 15 million tons of barley each year, 70 percent of which are bought overseas.

The mobility program is among just a handful of agricultural programs handpicked by Sino-German Centre for Research Promotion in 2022 for funding, a telltale sign of barley's importance in both countries' economies as the raw material for making beer, said Yang Ping, a researcher with CAAS who oversees the workshop.

He said collaboration between China — the world's largest barley consumer and importer — and Germany — a frontrunner in barley research — is mutually beneficial.

"On the Chinese side, stepping up cooperation with Germany can help bolster research capabilities in the sector and benefit Chinese industries," he said, adding that China is heavily reliant on imported barley for making beer, and inadequate research has weighed on the Chinese beer's competitiveness in the global market.

From April 22 to 26, workshop participants visited experimental fields and production bases in Henan and Jiangsu provinces to learn about barley production in China.

During the field studies, they were briefed on dense planting techniques widely used in China's coastal regions and research progress on a new barley variety known for disease-resistance properties.

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