Project Description

This PhD project will exploit recent advances and opportunities in root research at The University of Queensland to improve the productivity of durum wheat cultivars in water limited environments. This could be achieved by creating cultivars with 'designer' root systems that could target diverse environmental conditions with different levels of water availability. While the direction of root growth is important, insight of other root traits, like total root biomass is critical for effective manipulation of root system architecture with increased soil resource capture. Combining traits such as root biomass accumulation and root growth angle could result in development of elite cultivars with distinct root ideotypes that could be advantageous in different environment types. Development of such materials and field testing could help inform cultivar design and breeding, which could help expand the Australian durum production area, particularly throughout northern New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria. For example, a narrow and deep root system ideotype with increased root branching at depth could improve access to moisture particularly deep soils, and thereby minimize the impact of drought on yield.

This project aims to create elite introgression lines using rapid generation advance technology ‘speed breeding’ in combination with marker-assisted selection and new phenotyping approaches to fast-track the desired gene combinations into different backgrounds of Australian durum cultivars. Lastly, the elite durum introgression lines will be evaluated in diverse environmental conditions to determine the ideal root system ideotype for each environment type. The best performing genotypes under contrasting environments will be available for breeding programs to support the development of more productive durum wheat cultivars.

Preferred educational background

First Class Honours degree, Masters by research, Masters by coursework or equivalent. Basic expertise and experience is required in one or more of the following areas: plant genetics, plant breeding, plant physiology and quantitative genetics. Application are strongly encouraged when one of the previously mentioned disciplines is combined with basics in R programming skills. Strong academic performance demonstrated through publication output in peer reviewed international journals is highly desirable.

*The successful candidate must commence by Research Quarter 1, 2020. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date. International applicants may need to apply much earlier for visa reasons.

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Chief Investigator
Associate Professor Lee Hickey