Barley Polysaccharide Could Find Use in Energy Production, Composite Materials

A new polysaccharide discovered by Dr. Alan Little and colleagues at The University of Adelaide School of Agriculture holds promise for many uses, including as renewable sources for energy production, composite materials, or food products.

According to Little, “We know that it can be found in the roots of barley, suggesting it may play a role in plant growth or resistance to external stresses such as salinity or disease. By observing natural variation of the polysaccharide in different cereal crops we will aim to identify links to important agricultural traits.”

The new polysaccharide is a mix of glucose, commonly found in cellulose, and xylose, which is found in dietary fiber. Based on the relative proportions of each sugar, the hybrid polysaccharide has the potential to behave as a structural component of the wall providing strength or conversely as a viscous gel.

“The genes involved in the biosynthesis of the new polysaccharide were also discovered as part of this work. The same genes can be found in all major cereal crops—not just barley,” said Dr. Little. “We can now use this knowledge to find ways of increasing these polysaccharides in crops, providing the possibility of generating plant material with a range of potentially different physical properties for industrial applications.”

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