Alberta Barley

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Development and commercialization of SNP marker technology for rapid identification of malting barley varieties

Project lead:
Dr. Aaron Beattie
Assistant Professor, Plant Sciences
University of Saskatchewan

Timeline: April 2014 – March 2017


Alberta Barley funding: $130,200
Total funding from other partners: $388,089

Benefits for barley farmers
This project will develop innovative technologies to support traceability and quality assurance within Canada’s grain handling processes. Single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) marker testing technology for distinguishing and quantifying malting barley varieties in a given barley sample will create greater confidence in products being supplied to customers, improve quality assurance, and decrease commercial risk.

The objectives of this project are to discover genetic markers and techniques for identifying malting barley varieties.

Developments – June 2016
Discovery and development of SNP assays for the most popular malting barley variety, AC Metcalfe, is an important milestone. We were trying to find a single SNP assay which could separate AC Metcalfe from others, but in the end needed to use two markers. In addition, identifying SNPs associated with two potentially up-and-coming varieties, CDC Meredith and AAC Synergy, is important to ensure relevancy of the developed assays to the industry.

Objectives for the upcoming year – June 2016
Work is in progress to identify SNP markers which can differentiate other prominent malting varieties. Once the assays for these varieties are developed, these tests will be ready for commercialization. Efforts will be made to align with a commercial lab which could provide testing services to producers, industry stakeholders and barley breeders to fulfill the need for a high performing and cost-effective two-row malting barley identification test (i.e. the CDC will develop the test and license it to a commercial lab to provide the service to customers).


The goal of this project was to develop, validate and commercialize an affordable and accurate DNA-based, single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) marker testing technology for distinguishing and quantifying two-row malting barley varieties in a given barley sample. This technology would help build on Canada’s position as a supplier of premium quality malting barley and malt by providing the ability to guarantee varietal identity and purity to domestic and overseas customers.

SNP assays were developed for malting varieties CDC Copeland, AC Metcalfe, CDC Meredith, AAC Synergy, CDC Kindersley, Bentley, CDC PolarStar, CDC PlatinumStar and Harrington. SNP assay(s) specific to each variety distinguish the variety from all other two-row malting and feed varieties. Internal and external proficiency testing was performed to identify and quantify a specific variety from a given barley sample. The proficiency testing was performed to validate the accuracy, repeatability and reproducibility of each assay.

SNP marker testing technology developed in this project was transferred to a commercial lab. We are in the process of negotiating a license agreement with SGS Canada Inc. to commercialize the technology. SGS Canadawill provide barley varietal purity testing services to the industry. The purity testing will be beneficial to barley producers and grain handling companies by creating greater confidence in their products being supplied to customers, improved quality assurance, and decreased commercial risk.

Last updated July 16, 2018