Wild barley—harbinger of biodiversity

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Wild barley, Hordeum spontaneum, is the progenitor of barley, Hordeum vulgare, an important cereal grain and food employed throughout the Fertile Crescent from where it (and H. spontaneum) originated as a medicine against cancer, inflammation, and diabetes. These uses of barley may be partially related, to the presence of relatively high amounts of certain Vitamin E isoforms or tocols, namely tocotrienols, synthesized by barley from the more common tocols, namely tocopherols. Cultivated barley is also a very rich source of valuable water soluble fibers and minerals, especially selenium, but also manganese, phosphorus and copper. Wild barley has been collected from hundreds of sites across the Fertile Crescent over the past four decades, and preliminary genomic, proteomic, and metabolomic studies have revealed diversity coinciding with diverse environmental stress factors. These include biotic stress (e.g., viral, bacterial and fungal disease) and abiotic stress (e.g., drought, UV radiation, and salinity). These attributes make wild barley an attractive candidate for studying the effects of environmental factors on the emergence of biodiversity, as well as representing a promising source of genetic material for improving the hardiness and economic value of cultivated barley.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-25
Number of pages7
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - 2010


  • Fertile Crescent
  • Tocopherols
  • Tocotrienols
  • Wild barley

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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