News last update:6 Aug 2012

Drought-resistant barley to be developed

To withstand the North African climate, researchers form Algeria, Egypt and Tunisia will spend the next two years on creating drought-resistant and salt-tolerant varieties of barley.

Barley is traditionally used as animal feed in much of North Africa, but lack of alternative food sources is leading to human consumption.

Algeria's National Institute of Agricultural Research (INRAA), Egypt's National Research Centre and Agricultural Genetic Engineering Research Institute, and Tunisia's Centre of Biotechnology and National Institute of Agriculture Research will be involved in the project.

"We want to develop two varieties of barley in each country, making a total of six varieties expected to be resistant to drought and high salinity," says Hussein Irikti, coordinator of scientific activities and research for INRAA, which is overseeing Algeria's role in the project.

"If we succeed in achieving the goal, we will launch another programme bigger and broader than this," he adds. Irikti says they are focusing on barley because it is "exceptional, very adaptable to different climates, resisting drought and high temperature compared to other cereals — in addition to containing vitamins that are not found in other grains.

It is a strategic challenge for North Africa, which suffers from drought and high degree of salinity." Skander Mekersi, deputy director of INRAA, said researchers would share skills and equipment, adding that INRAA has invested equipment worth US$20,000 into the project.

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(Source: SciDev.Net)

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