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J Exp Bot. 2012 Jun;63(11):4085-94. doi: 10.1093/jxb/ers092. Epub 2012 Apr 3.

Non-destructive staging of barley reproductive development for molecular analysis based upon external morphology.

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School of Biosciences, University of Nottingham, Sutton Bonington Campus, Loughborough, Leicestershire, LE12 5RD, UK.


A prerequisite to study the molecular genetic pathways of pollen and anther development is an accurate staging system for reproductive development. However in barley, floret formation occurs mainly within the pseudostem, which makes the observation of floret development and access to the floret particularly difficult without dissecting the plant. Thus selecting stages for molecular analysis cannot be done non-destructively. A staging method has therefore been developed for barley in order to define the relationship between readily detectable growth points and reproductive development, to provide a clear key to enable accurate selection of reproductive material. Initial staging followed the traditional Zadoks decimal system, with minor adaptations to stages 31-34 and stage 37. The later stages, from 37 onward, were replaced by growth staging based upon the last flag elongation (LFE) and the position occupied by the spike within the pseudostem. Spike size could be readily predicted by using the staging system incorporating Zadoks stages 31-37, supplemented with substages and by LFE staging to improve accuracy. The different spike sizes, as well as the LFE stages, showed a clear relationship to events occurring within the anther, as confirmed by light microscopy of the anthers. The defined relationship between spike size and development to anther development now makes possible the accurate prediction of anther and pollen progression by external staging. This, therefore, provides a mechanism for non-destructive selection of material for analysis that is critical for the molecular characterization of genes in anther and pollen development.

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