John Barleycorn Must DNA

Barley made the news yesterday, in part thanks to a Minnesota scientist. Professor Gary Muehlbauer of the Department of Agronomy and Plant Genetics at the University of Minnesota and a cadre of international researchers managed to sequence the genome for barley, said to be “one of the world’s most important and genetically complex cereal crops“. Results were published in the journal Nature. Apparently this work could lead to higher barley yields, better resistance to pests, and enhanced nutritional value. It may also help barley adapt to the stresses of climate change.

You know what that means – we can trash the environment and still have beer!

Congratulations to the researchers. A round for all my genome sequencing friends! It made me think of this old song about barley and its role in the beer and whiskey making process. Sung here by Martin Carthy.

The scientists have done their best
employing all their means
They found out, using every test,
John Barleycorn has genes!

They chopped him up so very small
and put him on display.
Tore him apart to see it all
and mapped his DNA.

If you were him by now you’d know
the sum of all your parts.
What makes you wilt. What helps you grow.
The compounds in your farts.

The sequence tells us who he is,
of what he is composed.
His elements, his spark, his fizz.
John Barleycorn, exposed.

Would you want to have a map of your DNA?

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71 thoughts on “John Barleycorn Must DNA”

  1. Morning all.

    Not sure I want to know all the secrets of my DNA. For the same reason that I don’t call psychics; if you are skeptical then what’s the point and if you’re a believer, do you really want to know ahead of time?

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    1. I’m with you, vs. Some things you just don’t want to know. As it is, we already know a lot about things to do or not to do in order to stay healthy, yet so many of the maladies that affect us are a result of us ignoring that information. I don’t consult psychics either, I fall in the category of skeptics.

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  2. Good morning. Okay, I wouldn’t mind having my DNA mapped, but what would that lead to? Is there any useful information that would found on my DNA map and are there any ways that harm could come to me or any one else if my DNA is mapped? Maybe the EPA should study the impact on the environment of mapping my DNA. Is there something that could be learned from my DNA that would be harmful to the environment? Are there dark secrets found there? If Monsanto found out what is on my DNA they might splice part of it into a plant which would grow in unexpected ways. The Jim plant might spread it’s seeds everywhere and plants might take over the world.

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      1. Yes, BiR, Dr. Kyle and Monsanto both seem to both have an interest creating a strange new world by splicing genes together to create unusual organisms.

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        1. i hear they are getting in trouble in europe and far away places that dont want engineered grain and the damn bees are pollunating ajoining fields and corrupting the organic strains. who wouldnt want insects messing woth their grain? people who prefer insects to labroom voodoo that cant be shut off. feels like flying carp. once you let them loose how do you go back?

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  3. As a geneticist I don’t want a map of my DNA until there is a Genomic GPS. A map that can neither be followed nor understood with current technology wouldn’t be worth the stress to me.

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    1. I’m afraid that a GPS for my DNA map would show that there are some significant dead ends on my map. I might also have some of those tight circles that Clyde has mentioned.

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  4. But what if a bridge or two has washed out, or detours, or one of the signs saying Minimum Maintenance Road, or the equivalent in German.
    Actually 25% of my ancestry and DNA is unknown. It would be fun to find some Germans wandering around central Wisconsin and tell them we’re related. Except my map alone would not do the trick.

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        1. Garrison Keillor has been snickering at Mpls with its alphabetically organized grid of streets for decades. The next line is usually the one about Mpls being white bread and St Paul being dark bread.

          OT: speaking of bread, should I get a bread machine? Are the expensive to run? Hard to clean?

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        2. Steve – I think bread machines are wonderful. If you decide to go for it, I’d be willing to come over and do a short tutorial and bring some of my favorite bread machine recipes!
          I’ve had two over the years and neither were hard to clean out. The only problem I ever found w/ bread machines is that if I set the bread to be done baking when I get up in the morning, the smell of the baking bread wakes me up!

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        3. Forgot to answer the second question about bread machines. No, they are not expensive… unless you always use boxes of bread mix that you buy in the store. But if you’re just using flour, yeast, etc., it’s pretty cheap!

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        4. Steve, I had good luck using a bread machine for several years, but didn’t replace it when it wore out. If you decide you want one you should talk to people who use them. Some are better than others and it would be good to get one that is know to be easy to use by some one who has used it. I think bread machines make good bread, but there are better ways to make bread. I think making bread with a machine would be good for you because your problems with arthritis would limit your ability to do the hand work needed to make bread other ways.

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        5. And bread machines are also excellent for when you have a challenging schedules, when you can’t always count on being in the right place (kitchen) at the right time.

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        6. I agree, VS. When I had a bread machine I was able to make most of the bread we consumed because it was a quick way to make good bread. Without a bread machine to help me, I am not getting much bread making done currently.

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      1. My map would look more like Duluth, a grid tipped 45 degrees.
        I spend way too much time looking at maps. I have nephew who inherited it. Now my 4th grade grand daughter gets an A+ in geography because she is supposed to be able to identify seas and continents when she can do most of the countries of Europe. She amuses herself in trips by studying the atlas. I gave her a big one awhile back which she keeps by her bed.

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        1. i was looking at the big road atlas i used in the hippy van to travel the world years ago and thinking how much cooler it was to figure it out than to hit the button on your toy and have it tell you which route you should take. the options never occur to you if you hit the go button.

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  5. i was ata dinner last night where the host was a big dog in the barley industry. he said it is the new super grain. the details on the wonders of barley are quite astounding. the protien is easily processed by our bodies unlike wheat the properties make it super food. the koreans and japanese mix it in with their rice because rice is so low in nutritional value. it sells in ethnic sections of the grocery store. it was a nice meal of his special pasta with chicken and sausage i could not eat with my vegetarian diet so they pulled out the barley and i ate it with a salad until the wife mentioned he hydrates the barley with chicken stock. i will try it myself with my own fixings. sounds like a good addition to the diet. grand forks is barley central right now and should be growing as the news gets out. you heard it here first…..

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    1. tim, I will have to tell my vegetarian daughters about barley. I’m surprised that it isn’t used more widely in cooking in our country. I know barley is good in soup and don’t know why I haven’t run into other culinary uses for barley. In fact, it seems to me that this is a grain I should use regularly in my own cooking.

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  6. Since I firmly believe that a day without dairy (milk, cheese, ice cream) is a day without sunshine, i strongly suspect that a map of my DNA would lead directly to a dairy farm…

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  7. I’m familiar with the ‘Traffic’ version of this song with Steve Winwood.

    I found the album 20 some years ago at a garage sale (probably for $.25.)

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    1. i still have my original was it 1969 or 70?
      that wa sthe last one before they broke up and dave mason went solo and stevie winwood did blind faith

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      1. I haven’t listened to it — probably since we got rid of the record player. And had just looked it up on iTunes. There IS good music on there! I had forgotten about it. Have to get it again.

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        1. there is a turntable i think it is 60 bucks that takes your albume and turns them into mp3′s i need to try it out. it would take me a long time to catalouge all my albums but it would be fun

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  8. Of course, barley brings up thoughts of beer, and that reminds us of the sweet Ben Franklin quote about how beer proves God loves us. Then it turns out the quote is wrong and that Ben was really praising how rain gives us wine and wine proves God loves us. And really, I find a lot of love in both and how nice to feel that kind of love on a gentle gray day in mid-October.

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  9. While visiting Korea I enjoyed barley tea. It is so mild that babies drink it in their bottles

    Roasted barley tea is a caffeine-free, roasted-grain-based tisane made from barley, which is popular in Japanese, Chinese, and Korean cuisine. It is also used as a caffeine-free coffee substitute in American cuisine. Barley water is a popular traditional soft drink in Britain.

    Roasted barley tea is called mugicha (麦茶?) in Japanese, dàmàichá (大麦茶) or màichá (麦茶 or 麥茶) in Mandarin Chinese, and boricha (보리차) in Korean. While the tea is generally regarded as a cooling summer beverage in Japan, it is served year-round, hot in winter and cold in summer, in Korea. Originally, roasted barley seeds were stewed in hot water (this is still the method generally used in Korea), but tea bags containing ground barley became more popular during the early 1980s; this is now the norm in Japan. It can be found from many different distributors in vending machines all over Japan.

    In Korea, roasted unhulled barley is used to prepare the tea. Often the barley is combined with oksusu cha (roasted corn infusion), as the corn’s sweetness offsets the slightly bitter flavor of the barley. A similar drink, made from roasted brown rice, is called hyeonmi cha (tisane) or genmaicha (with green tea added).

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  10. I don’t think so! I’m pretty suggestible, and I don’t need any information that I might be prone to having this or that.

    Nice parody, Dale – glad you were able to find something to rhyme with parts.

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  11. I don’t know if I really want a map of my DNA. I’m afraid of what I might find out. I can kind of see where things are headed by checking out my mom and remembering my dad. I think I’ll just wing it and see what happens! I don’t own a GPS either. That would take all the fun out of getting lost in St. Paul.

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