Fungi colonise the roots of all cereal crops in a mutually beneficial association where the plant benefits from greater stress tolerance through improved water and mineral intake in exchange for carbohydrates for the fungi. The challenge in managing crop productivity and stress resilience is the unpredictability of plant growth responses when exposed to the fungi. It is possible to have too much or too little of a good thing! How do we get it right to avoid a detrimental impact on the plant and future crop production?
PhD student Rohan Riley, from Western Sydney University, is attempting to explain this unpredictability in terms of resource limitation by introducing fungal communities to plants which are isolated from soils containing high or low levels of salinity and analysing the effects on plant stress at the phenotypic level. He is undertaking his research at The Plant Accelerator® after being awarded a Postgraduate Student Internship Grant with the Australian Plant Phenomics Facility (APPF) in 2015.
”Using daily phenotyping following the application of salt stress and controlled watering-to-weight in The Plant Accelerator® allowed for an unprecedented resolution and range of plant genetic changes in response to combinations of nutrient level, salinity and two different fungal communities that would not otherwise be achievable in a regular greenhouse,”says PhD student, Rohan Riley.
”As a PhD student with limited experience in greenhouse experiments, the high controlled growth conditions, large-scale automation, digital imaging and software technology (high-throughput phenotyping) at The Plant Accelerator® provided me with the work-space, expertise and technical support to make a complicated experiment possible,”says Rohan.
The grain model Brachypodium distanchion was chosen to provide the greatest ease of knowledge transfer into many other crop plants with the view to developing future crops with greater resistance to environmental changes.
“It has been an amazing experience to conduct this experiment at The Plant Accelerator®. I am walking away from the facility with a big smile on my face, an incredible dataset for my PhD research and invaluable experience in greenhouse based plant research,’ says Rohan.
Thank you Rohan for being such a “fun guy” and a great addition to the team. It’s been a pleasure hosting you at The Plant Accelerator®!
Applications for the next round of APPF Postgraduate Student Internship Awards close on 30 November 2016.
To find out more about Rohan’s research: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Rohan_Riley
To find out more about Postgraduate Student Internship Grants, Scholarships and other programs at the Australian Plant Phenomics Facility: http://www.plantphenomics.org.au/education/