, Volume 103, Issue 3, pp 307-318

Choice of selection strategy in breeding barley for stress environments

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To determine the optimum selection environment for barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) targeted at low-input, stress environment, barley lines were selected for high yield under stress (YS), high yield under non-stress (YNS), or average yield in stress and non-stress conditions (YA) during three breeding cycles (cohorts) of three years each. The lines were then tested in a total of 21 year-location combinations with average grain yields ranging from 0.35 to 4.86 t ha-1. Yield under stress of the YS lines was between 27% and 54% higher than that of the YNS lines, with the top YS lines yielding under stress between 16% and 30% more than the top YNS lines. Realized heritability was between 0.35 and 0.67 when selection was conducted under stress and was significant in all three cohorts. By contrast, selection under non-stress gave a significant response in only one cohort, and its efficiency in improving yield under stress was significantly lower than selection under stress. The best YNS line ranked only 19th for yield under stress. The highest-yielding lines under stress were not only selected under stress, but were also landraces collected in very dry areas (< 250 mm total annual rainfall). This confirms earlier findings and supports the idea that the most effective way to improve productivity of crops grown in less-favored areas is to use locally adapted germplasm and select in the target environment(s).

This revised version was published online in July 2006 with corrections to the Cover Date.