Drought-resistant barley to be developed

12-03-2008 | |
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

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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