Crop and Horticulture Genetics Research

Research and teaching in plant genetics is broad encompassing the following areas:

  • Traditional plant breeding
  • Genome mapping
  • Molecular biology of plant/pathogen interactions
  • Ecology, biodiversity and systematics of natural plant populations
  • Conservation genetics

Current Research Projects

Almond genomics and gene discovery

Almond (Prunus dulcis) is a nut tree species which belongs to  the Rosaceae family and is closely related to peach, apricot, cherry and plum. The  world wide almond industry has expanded rapidly in recent years and continues to expand.

The majority of almond trees are planted in Mediterranean climactic regions. In Australia, the almond industry has great potential to expand, as Australian almond production only accounts for 1-2 % of world almond supply. Australian almond production in 2007 totalled 25,000 tonnes (kernel), being a 65% increase over 2006, and nearly 3 times of the production in 2000 (8558 tonnes).

To facilitate Australian and International almond breeding programs, we focus on the following research areas.  

  1. Construction of an almond genetic map in collaboration with colleagues at The University of Adelaide.
  2. Development of SNP markers using high resolution melting curve analysis (HRM).
  3. Characterisation of candidate genes which may control agronomically important traits.
  4. QTL mapping of economically important traits such as flowering time, flower structure and kernel size.

Researchers
Prof John Gibson
Dr Shubiao Wu

PhD student
Gholamreza Rabiei

Collaborators
Dr Peter Hunt (CSIRO),
Dr Michelle Wirthensohn (Uni Adelaide),
Iraj Tavassolian (Uni Adelaide),
Dr Robert Murison (UNE)

Triticale breeding for Australian conditions

UNE has a longstanding triticale breeding and improvement program which aims to develop improved grain and dual purpose (grazing and grain) varieties combined with work to improve triticale soil nutrition, acid soil tolerance and weed competitive characteristics. Research work to develop a triticale production manual (as part of the Pork Meat CRC) is underway combined with the release of a series of high yielding triticales based largely on CIMMYT genotypes from Mexico. The recent increase in the susceptibility of most triticales to new races of stripe rust has led to the urgent need to replace older varieties; we have a number of new resistant lines being multiplied for release in 2009. The breeding work involves both pedigree breeding systems and selection from a range of Mexican lines. Our breeding materials are also being assessed for disease and acid soil tolerance which are the two main agronomic areas of interest to commercial triticale growers.