Reducing stomatal density in barley improves drought tolerance without impacting on yield

Jonathan Hughes, Christopher Hepworth, Christian Dutton, Jessica A. Dunn, Lee Hunt, Jennifer Stephens, Robbie Waugh, Duncan D. Cameron, Julie E. Gray (Lead / Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

226 Citations (Scopus)
239 Downloads (Pure)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)776-787
Number of pages12
JournalPlant Physiology
Issue number2
Early online date1 May 2017
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2017


  • Journal article


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