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Why barley?

Barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) is the fourth most important cereal crop in the world after wheat, maize and rice. It has a global production of more than 150 million tonnes produced from about 60 million hectares.

Barley is grown from arctic latitudes to tropical areas and from sea level to high altitudes. In Tibet, Nepal, Ethiopia and the Andes, farmers cultivate barley at elevations higher than any other cereal. However, it is in marginal and stress-prone environments where barley becomes a key asset to increase farmer’s resilience to climate change.

Barley predominates in the drylands of North Africa, the Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Eritrea and Yemen where is considered to be a risk-avoidance or life-saving crop thanks to its adaptation to dry conditions and poor soils and its multi-purpose nature, including its use for human food, animal feed and, as a highly priced commodity, as raw material for alcoholic beverages.

What we achieved

  • 347 samples of 21 different wild barley (Hordeum) species were collected from 11 countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Chile, Cyprus, Georgia, Guatemala, Italy, Lebanon, Pakistan, Portugal and Spain. This included 13 samples of H. brevisubulatum, a wild relative that copes extremely well with saline soil but that was poorly represented in genebanks.
  • A total of 117 accessions of wild barley (H. spontaneum) were evaluated for resistance to leaf rust, net blotch and scald in Morocco. Among these, 25 accessions were found resistant to leaf rust, 16 accessions to net blotch and 52 accessions to scald. Three accessions were found resistant to all three diseases, while several others were found to have multiple disease resistance. These were also evaluated for content of beta-glucans and micro-elements (iron, zinc and selenium) and 15 accessions with higher contents were used to develop biofortified barley germplasm.
  • Segregating populations and elite lines developed from crosses between barley and two wild relatives (H. bulbosum and H. spontaneum) have been made available for further selection and for sharing with partners.
  • The most promising pre-breeding lines have been shared with partners in Australia, Algeria, Ethiopia, Morocco and Tunisia.
  • Introgressed lines (ILs) were included in breeders’ crossing blocks in Morocco, yield trials in Algeria, Ethiopia, Morocco and Tunisia and participatory varietal selection trials in Ethiopia. Yield increases of 20% to 80% relative to commercial checks were recorded in trials in Morocco.
  • Promising ILs have been conserved in genebank of the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), Morocco, for sharing with global users through SMTA.
  • The project contributed to capacity development through training more than 35 young researchers and four PhD students, organizing the first international workshop on strengthening pre-breeding using crop wild relatives and upgrading the documentation systems of genebanks in Azerbaijan, Lebanon, Morocco and Tunisia.

Project partners


  • Armenian Botanical Society, Yerevan, Armenia
  • Genetic Resources Institute, Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences, Baku, Azerbaijan
  • Instituto Nacional de Innovacion Agraria, La Cruz, Chile
  • Agricultural Research Institute, Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment, Nicosia, Cyprus
  • National Botanical Garden of Georgia, Tbilisi, Georgia
  • Institute of Botany, Ilia State University, Tbilisi, Georgia
  • Instituto de Ciencia y Tecnología Agrícolas, Villa Nueva, Guatemala
  • University of Pavia, Italy
  • Lebanon Agricultural Research Institute, Rayak, Lebanon
  • Plant Genetic Resources Institute, Islamabad, Pakistan
  • Museu Nacional de História Natural e da Ciéncia, Lisbon, Portugal
  • National Institute for Agricultural and Food Research and Technology, Madrid, Spain

Pre-breeding and evaluation 

Lead Institute: International Center for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas, Rabat, Morocco


  • Acharya N.G. Ranga Agricultural University, Lam, Andhra Pradesh, India
  • Institute National de la Recherche Agronomique, Rabat, Morocco
  • University of Calcutta, Department of Genetics and Plant Breeding, India
  • Leibniz-Institut für Pflanzengenetik und Kulturpflanzenforschung, Gatersleben, Germany
  • Institut Sénégalais de Recherches Agricole, Senegal
  • Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
  • Lebanon Agricultural Research Institute, Rayak, Lebanon

Barley key collections, materials and data

Pre-breeding materials 

  • All pre-breeding materials are conserved in the ICARDA genebank and are available for sharing through SMTA.

  • International Nurseries distributed to up to 42 partners in 24 countries in 2019–21 included a total of 24 elite lines derived from crosses with H. spontaneum, a barley wild relative.


Barley collections

Barley stories

Crop Trust stories
Partner stories

Partner stories

Relevant publications
  • Acqbouch, L. 2020. Évaluation des performances de lignées d’orge (Hordeum vulgare ssp. vulgare) issues de croisements interspécifiques. MSc thesis. IAV Hassan II, Rabat, Morocco.
  • Rehman, S., Amouzoune, M., Hiddar, H., Aberkane, H., Benkirane,R., Filali-Maltouf,A., Al-Jaboobi,M., Acqbouch,L., Tsivelikas,A., Verma, R.P.S., Kehel,Z., Birouk, A., Amri, A. 2021. Traits discovery in Hordeum vulgare sbsp. spontaneum accessions and in lines derived from interspecific crosses with wild Hordeum species for enhancing barley breeding efforts. Crop Science 61: 219–233.
  • Elouadi, F., Amri, A., El-baouchi, A., Kehel, Z., Salih, G., Jilal, A., Kilian, B., Ibriz, M.. 2021. Evaluation of a set of Hordeum vulgare subsp. spontaneum accessions for β-glucans and microelement contents. Agriculture 11(10): 950.
  • Müller, J.V., Cockel, C.P., Gianella, M., Guzzon, F. 2021. Treasuring crop wild relative diversity: analysis of success from the seed collecting phase of the ‘Adapting Agriculture to Climate Change’ project. Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution 68: 2749–2756.
  • El Haddad, N., Sanchez-Garcia, M., Visioni, A., Jilal, A., El Amil, R., Sall, A.T., Lagesse, W., Kumar, S. and Bassi, F.M. 2021. Crop wild relatives crosses: multi-location assessment in durum wheat, barley, and lentil. Agronomy: 11(11), p.2283.
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