Scientists at Okayama University used CRISPR/Cas9 technology to create genetically modified barley that does not germinate until harvest.

If it rains before harvesting season, the barley may sprout unexpectedly. Such goods are sold at prices well below market prices and this becomes a serious problem for small farms and large corporations. The aggravation of climate change also did not improve this situation.

Germination of barley before harvest can be avoided by leaving the grain alone for a long time and applying genetic manipulation to it. But this prolonged dormancy can interfere with malt production as well as cause uneven germination during sowing. Therefore, in order to produce high quality barley, it is necessary to balance these processes.

The authors of the new work decided to create the perfect barley and used the newest gene manipulation technology – editing based on CRISPR/Cas9.

Previously, scientists have found specific genes in barley that prevent the grain from germinating – Qsd1 and Qsd2. The authors used this information and made a single mutation in a part of barley and a double mutation of the Qsd1 and Qsd2 genes in another part. They then proceeded to analyze the germination of all mutant and unmutated samples.

As a result, the authors concluded that their experiment was successful – they produced barley that was resistant to germination before harvest. All grains germinated more slowly than usual.

The researchers hope that this will help them solve the food and environmental problems that people around the world currently face. Also, the massive use of such barley will have a positive effect on the production of beer.