The epidermal patterning factor (EPF) family of secreted signalling peptides regulate the frequency of stomatal development in model dicot and basal land plant species. Here we identify and manipulate the expression of a barley ortholog and demonstrate that when overexpressed HvEPF1 limits entry to, and progression through, the stomatal development pathway. Despite substantial reductions in leaf gas exchange, barley plants with approximately half of the normal number of stomata show no reductions in grain yield. In addition, HvEPF1OE barley lines exhibit significantly enhanced water use efficiency, drought tolerance and soil water conservation properties. Our results demonstrate the potential of manipulating stomatal frequency for the protection and optimisation of cereal crop yields under future drier environments.
- Journal article