Edited by Stuart J. Smyth, Peter W.B. Phillips and David Castle
The small-grain cereals are temperate annual grasses cultivated primarily for their grains. Barley (Hordeum vulgare L.), oat (Avena sativa L.) and rye (Secale cereale L.) are members of the sub-family Pooideae within the monocot grass family Poaceae. Phylogenetic studies have estimated that these grasses (along with wheat) diverged from a common ancestor (Gaut, 2002; Kellogg, 2001; Zohary and Hopf, 2000), although barley and rye (tribe Triticeae) are more closely related to each other than to oat (tribe Aveneae). All three crops are characterized by large genome sizes (compared to maize and rice) - 5500 Mb (Mega base pair) for barley, 8000 Mb for rye and 11 300 Mb for oat (Bennett and Smith, 1976). To date, no genetically modified lines of these three crops have been commercialized although biotechnology tools have been implemented into breeding programs of these crops to various degrees through molecular marker assisted selection (MMAS). Barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) is an important cereal crop species, ranking after maize, wheat, rice and soybean in terms of area harvested worldwide (FAO, 2009, http://www.faostat.fao.org). The barley genome (2n = 2x = 7), comprising more than 5000 Mb, equals approximately 12 times the size of the rice genome and consists of about 80 per cent repetitive DNA (Flavell et al., 1974). Most oat cultivars belong to Avena sativa L., an allohexaploid species with 2n = 6x = 42.
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