university of adelaide

Breeders and researchers unite to accelerate variety advances

Overview

Wheat variety development has been given an important boost through a new research hub that pairs three universities with three breeding companies to advance and potentially speed-up new trait discoveries. The hub pulls together advanced pre-breeding technology and fosters its utilisation by commercial breeding programs.

Included is technology that can rapidly screen a vast amount of biodiversity for traits that can potentially improve crop resilience, grain quality and yield.

First among the traits to be targeted by the hub is tolerance to the combined stress of heat and drought. This work is underway at the ARC Industrial Transformation Research Hub for Wheat in a Hot and Dry Climate, a five-year program that is co-funded by the Australian Research Council and the Grains Research & Development Corporation (GRDC). It is headed by Dr Delphine Fleury at the University of Adelaide’s Waite campus. Participant breeding companies LongReach, Australian Grain Technologies and InterGrain are running the field trials associated with typing and screening novel germplasm.

“We are seeing the most progress in the drone program,” Dr Fleury says. “This uses imaging technology to robotically screen plants and algorithms to convert plant growth data to physiological and genetic information. Collaboration between Uni SA, the Australian Plant Phenomics Facility (University of Adelaide Waite Campus) and breeders within the hub has vastly improved the image-processing algorithms, which expands the range of this technology and its capability.”

“With breeding companies running the field trials, breeders also have the opportunity to observe the plants and pick material of interest to them to progress further,” Dr Fleury says. “In the meantime, pre-breeding researchers can phenotype the material and
map genes of interest.”

To further advance heat and drought-tolerance research, 350 lines representing worldwide diversity of spring wheat are also being studied within a heat chamber, where it is possible to apply heat and drought stress at specific stages of the plant’s development.

Read the full article, by Dr Gio Braidotti, in the latest issue of GroundCover here.

To find out how technology at the Australian Plant Phenomics Facility can support your plant research, contact us.

Bumper funding to enhance national infrastructure and grains research

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Dean of the Waite Mike Keller, GRDC Managing Director Steve Jefferies, and GRDC Chairman John Woods in a greenhouse with DroughtSpotter system at the APPF’s Adelaide node.

 

National infrastructure at the Australian Plant Phenomics Facility’s (APPF) node at the University of Adelaide Waite Precinct will be enhanced as part of a $1.1 million grant announced by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) today.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce, said the funding was another important measure supporting the productivity and profitability of Australia’s grain industries through the development of more drought-resistant crops.

Almost $1 million will be invested at the APPF to build a specialised heat and drought phenotyping facility consisting of two new controlled environment rooms (CERs) fitted with LED lighting and gravimetric watering (DroughtSpotter system), and add further LED lighting in the facility’s greenhouses. The specially fitted CERs are the first of their kind in Australia, and will boost research into improving stress tolerant crops.

GRDC Chairman John Woods said the GRDC Grains R&D Infrastructure Grant was part of $15 million the GRDC Board had agreed to invest in key infrastructure, in a strategy to build national research capacity and to create enduring profitability for grain growers.

A co-contribution from the University of Adelaide supported the GRDC grant which will also add a polytunnel and birdproof enclosure to the Waite Precinct, expanding grains research capabilities.

These investments are expected to improve trait selection and increase trait delivery to breeders, facilitate simultaneous drought and heat experiments, expand bulking and selection capacity, reduce research costs and improve energy use efficiency.

For more information, visit grdc.com.au and the APPF.


What are CERs? CERs enable plants to be grown within precise temperature, light, humidity and other environmental parameters.

What is the DroughtSpotter system? DroughtSpotter is a fully automated gravimetric platform that was made to assess the transpiration dynamics of plants with a precision of up to 1 g. The integrated irrigation units allow precise and reproducible water application for drought stress or related experiments requiring accurate control of water volume to 1 ml.

Want to fly drones? New Remote Pilot Licence training course available

Ramesh and drone cropped

Dr Ramesh Raja Segaran from APPF partner, URAF

The Unmanned Research Aircraft Facility (URAF) at the University of Adelaide, is offering a commercial drone course leading to the award of a Remote Pilot Licence (RePL) by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority of Australia (CASA).

This five-day intensive RePL course is conducted on University of Adelaide campuses by a team of CASA-certified drone operators and trainers from the University.

Course inclusions

  • All required theory and practical syllabus and requirements of CASA for a RePL.
  • Aeronautical Radio Operator Certificate (AROC).
  • English Language Proficiency certification (ELP).
  • Textbook: Remote Pilot Licence RePL Study Guide by Bob Tait and Ben Harris.
  • In-house examinations for ELP, AROC and RePL.

Assured quality teaching

Courses available

The URAF run regular RePL courses 4-6 times a year. Ad hoc RePL courses for government and industry groups are also available.

  • Remote Pilot Licence Course, Multi-rotor up to 7kg
    • $3500 + GST (includes textbook and application fees for RePL, AROC, ELP)
  • Practical type training for Multi-rotor/ Fixed wing up to 25kg
  • Others
    • If you have passed an aeronautical knowledge exam for a flight crew licence (e.g. PPL/ CPL), you can complete practical type training with the URAF to get type rated for a RePL.

Who needs a RePL?

Please contact the URAF for more information on the courses and how to enrol.

International consortia tackle the global challenge to increase wheat yields at the APPF

Field of ripe wheat

Two international consortia of scientists from the United States, Great Britain, Mexico and Australia are currently carrying out research projects of global importance at the Australian Plant Phenomics Facility’s (APPF) Adelaide node for the International Wheat Yield Partnership (IWYP).

The first research project, Improving Yield by Optimising Energy Use Efficiency, is phenotyping an Excalibur x Kukri RIL population to determine genetics controlling energy use efficiency (EUE) in wheat. The aim is to identify genetic loci and markers to enable breeding of high-yielding germplasm with:

  • low rates of leaf respiratory CO2 released per unit growth,
  • optimised levels of sugars, organic and amino acids for growth, and
  • increased biomass at anthesis.

More than 85-90% of the energy captured by plants is used in high-cost cellular processes, such as transport of nutrients and respiration, meaning about only 10-15% is allocated to yield. Thus, any small gain in energy redistribution and use for a costly process can have a marked positive impact on biomass accumulation and yield.

Improvements in EUE can be achieved at the cell, tissue and whole-plant level, with respiration being a prime target.

“Our initial screening of 138 Australian commercial cultivars revealed a two-fold variation in rates of leaf respiration, three-fold variation in the ratio of respiration to growth rate during early development, and significant heritability of 35%. This demonstrates there is untapped genetic variation in EUE amenable to fine-tuning and optimisation of biomass accumulation in the lead-up to anthesis, with concomitant positive knock-on effects on yield”, said Australian National University’s Barry Pogson, Project Lead and Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology (AUS).

The project has partners at University of Western Australia (AUS), CIMMYT (MEX) and  the University of Adelaide (AUS).

The second research project, AVP1, PSTOL1 and NAS – Three High-Value Genes for Higher Wheat Yield, aims to enhance wheat yield by exploiting and building synergy of three high value genes (AVP1, PSTOL1 and NAS) and enabling molecular breeding by:

  • developing two-gene and three-gene pyramiding combinations of AVP1, PSTOL1 and NAS using available transgenic wheat lines and quantifying the additive effects on yield in multi-location field and greenhouse trials (as a proof of concept),
  • identifying wheat orthologs and allelic variants of TaAVP1, TaPSTOL1 and TaNAS, and designing molecular markers to the best alleles for marker-assisted breeding,
  • providing basic understanding of the physiological and molecular mechanisms behind improved yield and selecting wheat lines with the best allelic combination and field performance, and
  • assessing the necessity for using genome editing technologies to optimise gene function and enhance positive effect on wheat yield by modifying expression of the wheat alleles.

The genes Vacuolar Proton Pyrophosphatase 1 (AVP1), Phosphorus Starvation Tolerance 1 (PSTOL1) and Nicotianamine Synthase (NAS) have been shown to improve plant biomass production and grain yield. Over-expression of these genes results in improved biomass production and grain yield in a range of plant species, including cereals (rice, barley, wheat), in optimal growing conditions. The enhanced yield of the plants is believed to be due to improved sugar transport from source to sinks (AVP1), enhanced root growth and nutrient uptake (AVP1, PSTOL1) and increase in shoot biomass and tiller number (AVP1, PSTOL1, NAS2).

“Identifying and pyramiding the wheat orthologues of these high-value genes provides a real opportunity to produce wheat with significantly improved field performance and higher grain yield,” said Project Lead, Stuart Roy, from the University of Adelaide (AUS).

The project has partners at University of Melbourne (AUS), Arizona State University (USA), Cornell University (USA), University of California, Riverside (USA) and Rothamsted Research (GBR).

These extensive projects will continue throughout 2017 and into 2018.

 

Why is this research so important?

Wheat is the most widely grown of any crop globally, providing 20% of daily calories and protein. By 2050 wheat demand is expected to increase by 60%. To meet this demand, annual potential wheat yield increases must effectively double – an exceptional challenge.

In November 2012, funding agencies and organisations from the G20 countries agreed to work together and formed the global Wheat Initiative to develop a strategic approach to supporting research that would lead to dramatically increasing the genetic yield potential of wheat.

An essential pillar of this strategy is the International Wheat Yield Partnership (IWYP), a novel collaborative approach, enabling the best scientific teams from across the globe to work together in an integrated program to address the challenge of raising the genetic yield potential of wheat by up to 50% in the next two decades all over the world. IWYP builds on the initial research concepts of the Wheat Yield Consortium established by CIMMYT.

To deliver increased wheat yield, a combination of fundamental bioscience and applied research will be needed. IWYP will deliver this through a focused program of research to develop new knowledge, models and wheat lines suited to multiple environments ensuring global gains in wheat yields are achieved.

IWYP will target six key research scope areas:

  • uncovering genetic variation that creates the differences in carbon fixation and partitioning between wheat lines,
  • harnessing genes from wheat and other species through genetic modification to boost carbon capture and fixation to increase biomass production,
  • optimising wheat development and growth to improve grain yields and harvest index,
  • developing elite wheat lines for use in other breeding programs,
  • building on discoveries in wheat relatives and other species, and
  • fostering breakthrough technology development that can transform wheat breeding.

The “IWYP Science Program” provides a unique plan to generate new discoveries and provides for their rapid incorporation into wheat crops grown throughout the world. IWYP’s overarching aims are to stimulate new research, amplify the output from existing programs and make scientific discoveries available to farmers in developing and developed nations.

 

The Australian Plant Phenomics Facility

The APPF provides state-of-the-art phenotyping tools and expertise to help academic and commercial plant scientists from Australia and around the world understand and relate the performance of plants to their genetic make-up. Research facilitated at the APPF is leading to the development of new and improved crops, more sustainable agricultural practices, improved maintenance and regeneration of biodiversity in the face of declining arable land area and the challenges of climate change. Our services.

Do you need access to plant phenotyping capabilities? The PIEPS scheme can help!

Do you have an exceptional plant science research project destined to deliver high impact outcomes for agriculture? The Phenomics Infrastructure for Excellence in Plant Science (PIEPS) scheme was announced in May and is open to all publicly funded researchers. Emphasis is placed on novel collaborations that bring together scientists preferably from different disciplines (e.g. plant physiology, computer science, engineering, biometry, quantitative genetics, molecular biology, chemistry, physics) and from different organisations, within Australia or internationally, to focus on problems in plant science.

The PIEPS scheme involves access to phenotyping capabilities at the Australian Plant Phenomics Facility (APPF) at a reduced cost to facilitate exceptional research projects. Researchers will work in partnership with the APPF to determine experimental design and optimal use of the equipment. Our team includes experts in agriculture, plant physiology, biotechnology, genetics, horticulture, image and data analysis, mechatronic engineering, computer science, software engineering, mathematics and statistics.

Applications are assessed in consultation with the APPF’s independent Scientific Advisory Board. Selection is based on merit.

Don’t miss this an outstanding opportunity to gain access to invaluable expertise and cutting edge technology to accelerate your research project and make a real impact in plant science discovery.

Applications close:  30 September 2017

For more information and to applyAPPF Phenomics Infrastructure for Excellence in Plant Science (PIEPS).

To find out how the APPF can support your research, contact us.

Learn more about projects at the Australian Plant Phenomics Facility and keep in touch.

 

 

Drought knows no borders

The Australian Plant Phenomics Facility (APPF) was delighted to welcome His Excellency Mr Mohamed Khairat, Ambassador of The Arab Republic of Egypt, to its Adelaide node recently.

Egyptians share our love of wheat, however, they are heavily reliant on wheat imports which are struggling to keep up with demand. As a remedy, 1.5 million hectares of Egyptian land has been set aside for local wheat production, but there are challenges ahead. Egyptian wheat growers suffer from the same yield limiting issues of heat and drought as we do here in southern Australia.

While touring the facility, His Excellency shared his enthusiasm for future collaboration with the APPF’s Dr Trevor Garnett.

“There is a wealth of knowledge and experience at the APPF and the Waite Campus of the University of Adelaide in plant phenotyping and wheat production. His Excellency sees exciting opportunities for Egyptian scientists and PhD students to collaborate on research and share ideas on how to improve this essential crop”, said Dr Garnett.

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His Excellency Mr Mohamed Khairat, Ambassador of The Arab Republic of Egypt (pictured right) talks with Dr Trevor Garnett in the DroughtSpotter greenhouse at The Plant Accelerator®, Australian Plant Phenomics Facility (Adelaide node)

 

Getting to the root of the problem wins

olivia-cousins-poster-prize-photo

Congratulations to Olivia Cousins, one of the Adelaide-Nottingham PhD students, who won the student poster prize at a joint conference between Soil Science Australia and New Zealand Soil Science Society, held in Queenstown, NZ recently.

Olivia’s poster, which included co-authors from The University of Adelaide, The University of Nottingham and The Plant Accelerator® at the Australian Plant Phenomics Facility, was one of approximately 100 posters presented at the conference. The award also includes a cash prize for Olivia.

We announced Olivia’s study here in our blog in May. The aim of her study was to quantify the impact of different soil moisture regimes and increasing levels of soil nitrogen supply on shoot and root response in wheat plants. Olivia’s experiment utilised the DroughtSpotter, a precision irrigation platform allowing accurate and reproducible water application for drought stress or related experiments. She also used the facility’s PlantEye laser scanner to non-destructively measure plant growth.

Olivia plans an exciting move to Nottingham in 2018 to continue her research including root traits and responses across different wheat species.

To view Olivia’s poster… soilecology.org/conference-posters.

The Australian Plant Phenomics Facility is available to all researchers and/or industry. For bookings please contact Dr Trevor Garnett.

 

 

Drip-fed success

The Australian Plant Phenomics Facility (APPF) is pleased to announce the new DroughtSpotter precision irrigation platform has been fully tested and commissioned, and is now ready to support your plant phenomics research.

The DroughtSpotter is a gravimetric platform with precision irrigation allowing accurate and reproducible water application for drought stress or related experiments.

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Left:  Wheat plants on the DroughtSpotter  –  Right:  Cecilia and Viviana from Monash University harvest sorghum plants during their research

A number of pilot projects were carried out to test the platform with excellent results.

Monash University researchers, led by Associate Professor Ros Gleadow, investigated the impacts of dhurrin (a chemical that is toxic to grazing animals) on drought tolerance in sorghum plants. Plants were grown under a range of drought stresses and then harvested throughout growth for biomass characterisation, metabolomics and transcriptomic responses.

“We found the DroughtSpotter to be an excellent platform to apply accurate, reproducible amounts of water to large numbers of individual plants for growth and compositional analysis under different levels of water limitation,”said Associate Professor Gleadow.

Led by Professor Steve Tyerman, researchers from the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology at the University of Adelaide and TA EEA-CONICET Mendoza, Argentina investigated the relationship between hydraulic and stomatal conductance and its regulation by root and leaf aquaporins under water stress.

“A better understanding of these mechanisms is highly relevant to irrigation scheduling and to ensure sustainable vineyard management in a context of water scarcity” said Professor Tyerman.

“The DroughtSpotter platform allowed us to achieve precise control over soil moisture and vine water stress, which was the most critical aspect to the success of this project.”

The DroughtSpotter greenhouse is available to all publicly or commercially funded researchers. For further information, please visit the APPF website or contact Dr Trevor Garnett.

To read the DroughtSpotter pilot project reports:  “Drought Response in Low-Cyanogenic Sorghum bicolor Mutants”  and  “Investigating the relationship between hydraulic and stomatal conductance and its regulation by root and leaf aquaporins under progressive water stress and recovery, and exogenous application of ABA in grapevine”