Six-rowed wild-growing barleys are hybrids of diverse origins

Yu Guo, Axel Himmelbach, Ehud Weiss, Nils Stein, Martin Mascher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Crop–wild gene flow is common when domesticated plants and their wild relatives grow close to each other. The resultant hybrid forms appear as semi-domesticates and were sometimes considered as missing links between crops and their wild progenitors. Wild-growing barleys in Central and Eastern Asia, named Hordeum agriocrithon, show hallmark characters of both wild and domesticated forms. Their spikes disintegrate at maturity to disperse without human intervention, but bear lateral grains, which were favored by early farmers and are absent from other wild barleys. As an intermediate form, H. agriocrithon has been proposed several times as a progenitor of domesticated barley. Here, we used genome-wide marker data and whole-genome resequencing to show that all H. agriocrithon accessions of a major germplasm collection are hybrid forms that arose multiple times by admixture of diverse domesticated and wild populations. Although H. agriocrithon barleys have not played a special role in barley domestication, future analysis of the adaptative potential of bi-directional crop–wild gene flow in extant barleys may prove a fertile research field.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)849-858
Number of pages10
JournalPlant Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors. The Plant Journal published by Society for Experimental Biology and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


We thank Susanne König, Mary Ziems, and Marius Dölling for technical assistance and Anne Fiebig for sequence data submission. Barley genomic research in the labs of NS and MM is supported by a grant of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (SHAPE II, FKZ 031B0884). Research on crop–wild hybrids is supported by a grant of the German Research Foundation (DFG, MA 6611/7‐1) to MM. Funding for open‐access projects was in part covered by DFG grant HE 9114/1‐1. Open Access funding enabled and organized by Projekt DEAL.

FundersFunder number
Deutsche ForschungsgemeinschaftMA 6611/7‐1, HE 9114/1‐1
Bundesministerium für Bildung und ForschungFKZ 031B0884


    • barley (Hordeum vulgare L.)
    • domestication
    • gene flow
    • hybridization
    • plant genetic resources
    • population genomics


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