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Barley genome breakthrough may lead to better beer

LONDON (Reuters) - An international consortium of scientists has published a high resolution draft of the barley genome in a move that could not only improve yields and disease resistance but may also hold the key to better beer.

"This research will streamline efforts to improve barley production through breeding for improved varieties," said Professor Robbie Waugh, of Scotland's James Hutton Institute, who led the research.

"This could be varieties better able to withstand pests and disease, deal with adverse environmental conditions, or even provide grain better suited for beer and brewing."

Barley which has been malted is a key ingredient in brewing beer along with hops and yeast.

The research, published in the journal Nature, could also be a boon for the whisky industry while barley is also a major component of animal feed for meat and dairy industries.

Barley is the world's fourth most important cereal crop, trailing only maize, rice and wheat, and its genome is almost twice the size of that of humans.

"It will accelerate research in barley, and its close relative, wheat," Waugh said.

"Armed with this information breeders and scientists will be much better placed to deal with the challenge of effectively addressing the food security agenda under the constraints of a rapidly changing environment."

(Reporting by Nigel Hunt; editing by Keiron Henderson)

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