The results of previous studies conducted at the University of Hohenheim and the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) indicated that the yielding ability and stability of barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) could be improved in environments with drought stress by increasing the level of heterozygosity. This would require increasing the outbreeding rate of locally adapted breeding materials. As a first step, we estimated the outcrossing rate of 12 barley landraces (Hordeum vulgare ssp. vulgare, in short H. vulgare) and 13 sympatrically occurring populations of its wild progenitor [Hordeum vulgare ssp. spontaneum (C. Koch), in short H. spontaneum] collected from semi-arid localities in Jordan during the 1999/2000 growing season. In each H. vulgare or H. spontaneum population 28-48 spikes were sampled, and up to six offspring (seeds) per spike (called a family) were used for PCR analyses. Collection sites covered high-low transects for rainfall and altitude in order to detect possible environmental effects on the outcrossing rate. Four microsatellite markers located on different chromosomes were used to genotype the samples for estimating the outcrossing rate. Low season-specific multilocus outcrossing rates (tm) were found in both cultivated and wild barley, ranging among populations from 0-1.8% with a mean of 0.34%. Outcrossing rates based on inbreeding equilibrium (te), indicating outcrossing averaged across years, were two- to threefold higher than the season-specific estimates. Under high rainfall conditions somewhat higher--though not significantly higher--outcrossing rates were observed in H. spontaneum than in H. vulgare. The season-specific outcrossing rate in H. spontaneum was positively correlated (r = 0.67, P = 0.01) with average annual precipitation and negatively correlated (r = 0.59, P = 0.05) with monthly average temperature during flowering. The results suggest that outcrossing may vary considerably among seasons and that high precipitation and cool temperatures during flowering tend to enhance outcrossing. The rather low levels of outcrossing detected indicate that increased vigour due to heterozygosity has not been a major fitness advantage in the evolution and domestication of H. spontaneum and H. vulgare, respectively. Stable seed production to secure survival under extreme heat and drought stress may have been more important. Cleistogamy may be considered as an effective mechanism to warrant pollination even in drought-stunted plants with non-extruding spikes.
Copyright 2004 Springer-Verlag