The hop plant (Humulus lupulus) is dioecious, which means male and female sexes are on separate plants. Female hop plants are essential to the beer brewing industry, however, hop plants are wind-pollinated and the presence of a male hop plant near commercial hop fields can result in seed on the female hop cone, reducing brewing quality and value.
Male hop plants cannot be differentiated from female plants by physical observation before flowering (sexual reproduction). Therefore genetic molecular markers could provide a useful tool to determine male hop plants.
In a collaborative study, Plant & Food Research scientists grew a mapping population (of 500 seedlings) DNA phenotyping them over a five year period from 2007-2011. The study focused on enriching the hop genetic map with additional markers using diversity arrays technology (DarT).
The study identified potential markers for identifying plant gender (sex), which could be used by breeding programmes worldwide to identify male hop plants and remove them at the seedling stage. This would save space and speed breeding programmes by ensuring that only females are planted in the field.
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Plant & Food Research