Perennial crops grow over many seasons, require low agricultural input and thereby hold great potential for sustainable production systems and climate change adaptation. However, current efforts to breed perennial cereals are hindered by hybridization barriers between annual crops and wild perennial relatives and the trade-off between longevity and grain yield. In the ERC funded project PERLIFE we will identify traits and genetic variants promoting plant (meristem) longevity using comparative genomics in annual and perennial wild relatives of barley. In interspecific crosses, we will dissect the interrelationship of longevity and seed yield and identify linked coding and regulatory variation. The ultimate aim of PERLIFE is to engineer barley genotypes with increased longevity and good grain yield.
Life cycle of annual cultivated barley and perennial Hordeum species with differences in the duration of tillering and flowering, in whole-plant versus partial senescence and regrowth from crown tissue after flowering, shallow versus deep roots, and high versus lower seed yield. Annual barley requires annual tillage, herbicide and fertilizer application (Image: M. von Korff, M. Siebers).
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