Barley varieties could be tweaked to offer end users specific traits such as higher alcohol yields, stable sauces and effective dieting, thanks to new research.

Scientists at the John Innes Centre have been working with NIAB TAG to identify four barley starch genes that mean varieties could be honed to the needs of the end user.

The research has identified a waxy starch gene that is ideal for stabilising sauces in frozen food products, said Fiona Leigh, a researcher for NIAB TAG.

A sugary starch that could allow brewers and distillers produce peak alcohol yields at lower temperatures has also been located, as well as a starch that humans can’t digest, she said.

“This has a niche market as a diet food and a similar starch is already being produced in Australia. Because it can’t be digested it means people feel fuller for longer.”

A mutated low-starch gene had also been identified, but this didn’t yet have a specific end use.

The genes had been crossed into spring malting barley variety Tipple and the traits were being tested by end users. Once they were happy with the traits, the genes could be made available to breeders, Dr Leigh said.


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