Research Project

Improving yield and sustainability of feed and fodder barley through targeted research in nutrient and water use efficiency

Project Lead: 
Yadeta Kabeta, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (Lacombe, AB)

Start date: September 1, 2016
End date: June 15, 2019


The primary objective of this project was to develop barley varieties with enhanced nitrogen use efficiency (NUE). The development of barley varieties with enhanced NUE presents the opportunity to lower input costs for farmers. The environmental benefits of NUE varieties are also significant, as less nitrogen (N) will be applied on the same land, and less of the N applied will be lost to leaching, surface runoff and gaseous emissions from the soil.

Over the duration of this project, we evaluated a number of advanced NUE lines across western Canada. Our first variety to be released from this program, T09154177, was supported for registration by the Prairie Recommending Committee for Oat and Barley (PRCOB) in 2019. This line has shown 106% higher NUE than the standard cultivars, combined with competitive grain yield (102% grain yield of the best check), good agronomic type, an excellent disease resistance package, and acceptable feed quality attributes. Three more lines, T09155136001, T09156061 and T09157121 are also in their 2nd year of multi-location testing across western Canada and may be considered for registration in 2020. Several other lines are also coming up through the breeding pipeline.

Through this project, we screened several germplasm lines systematically chosen from our large pool of introductions. Among these, we found line I10175 as the best for NUE. Although further testing is needed to confirm the results, the 2017 and 2018 data showed that this line is superior to all the other NUE germplasm we have been using in our breeding program. The use of this new line in the breeding program may allow us to develop even better NUE varieties.

The results of the present study revealed a positive relationship between NUE and WUE. While some of the lines evaluated were superior in either NUE or WUE, we found a few other lines that are good in both NUE and WUE. This indicates that combined breeding for high NUE and WUE may be feasible. Concomitant improvement in NUE and WUE may sustainably increase primary productivity and bring about greater profitability for farmers. The availability of NUE varieties will eventually help Alberta farmers to remain profitable and competitive in the global marketplace while meeting their environmental obligations.