Professor Robert Park


I have a passion for plant pathology and genetics, particularly in the rust fungi that infect plants. The research group I lead has a long and proud history in cereal rust research, and has made major contributions to the global effort to control these diseases. Our major research interests include genetics of resistance (including classical, molecular and cytogenetics), pathogenic and molecular variability in rust pathogens, and more recently, functional genomics of host-pathogen interactions.

Research interests

I am particularly interested in the way in which fungal rust pathogens evolve and acquire virulence for resistance genes in their hosts. I have conducted Australia-wide race analyses for the rust pathogens that cause stem rust in wheat, leaf rust in wheat, leaf rust in barley, and crown rust in oats, for the past 20 years. My research group is now developing and applying DNA-based markers that allow us to test hypotheses on how rust pathogen populations have evolved in Australia over the past 90 years.

I am also interested in the genetics of resistance to these pathogens in their respective hosts, and my group works very closely with most cereal breeders in Australia to provide support in rust resistance breeding. We have strong linkages with rust researchers throughout Australia via my position as Director of the Australian Cereal Rust Control Program, which is funded by the Grains Research and Development Corporation.

I am also actively involved in international rust research, notably via my participation in the global effort to tackle a new race of stem rust, known as Ug99, that has emerged in eastern Africa in recent years.


My career began with completing a PhD in Plant Pathology at La Trobe University in 1984. My first appointment was with the Queensland Department of Primary Industries, where I worked on the impact of wheat stripe rust in the north eastern Australian wheat belt. I was appointed as a Research Fellow at the University of Sydney’s Plant Breeding Institute in 1988, and have worked there since on rust diseases of cereals. In 1994, I received an Alexander von Humboldt Award and spent 10 months at the Technical University Munich.

My current position is the GRDC Chair of Cereal Rust Research, and I am Director of the Australian Cereal Rust Control Program that includes nodes at the University of Adelaide, CSIRO Plant Industry, and the International Wheat and Maize Improvement Centre in Mexico (CIMMYT). My group at the University of Sydney currently comprises six scientific staff and 11 support staff, and I currently supervise six postgraduate students. I am currently on the Editorial Boards of the Journal of Applied Genetics, Australian Journal of Agricultural Research, and Annals of Applied Biology.

Recent publications

  • Duplessis, S., Cuomo, C.A., Linc, Y.C., Aertsd, A., Tisseranta, E., Veneault-Fourreya, C., Jolye, D.L., Hacquard, S., Amselem, J., Cantarel, B.L., Chiu, R., Coutinho, P.M., Feau, N., Field, M., Frey, P., Gelhaye, E., Goldberg, J., Grabherr M.G., Kodira C.D., Kohler, A., Kües, U., Lindquist, E.A., Lucas, S.M., Mago, R., Mauceli, E., Morin, E., Murat, C., Pangilinan, J.L., Park, R., Pearson, M., Quesneville, H., Rouhier, N., Sakthikumar, S., Salamov, A.A, Schmutz, J., Selles, B., Shapiro, H., Tanguaye, P., Tuskand, G.A., Henrissat, B., Van de Peer, Y., Rouzé, P., Ellis, J.G., Dodds, P.N., Schein, J.E., Zhong, S., Hamelin, R.C., Grigoriev, I.V., Szabo, L.J. and Martin, F. (in press). Obligate biotrophy features unraveled by the genomic analysis of rust fungi. Proceedings of the National Academy of the USA (accepted March 31 2011).
  • Huerta-Espino, J., Singh, R.P., German, S., McCallum, B.D., Park, R.F., Chen, W., Bhardwaj, S.C. and Goyeau, H. (2011). Global status of wheat leaf rust caused by Puccinia triticina. Euphytica. DOI 10.1007/s10681-011-0361-x.
  • Hickey, L.H., Lawson, W., Platz, G.J., Dieters, M., Arief, V.N., Germán, S., Fletcher, S., Park, R.F., Singh, D., Pereyra, S. and Franckowiak, J. (in press). Mapping Rph20: A gene conferring adult plant resistance to Puccinia hordei in barley. Theoretical and Applied Genetics.
  • Park, R.F., Fetch, T., Hodson, D., Jin, Y., Nazari, K., Prashar, M. and Pretorius, Z.A. (2011). International surveillance of wheat rust pathogens - progress and challenges. Euphytica. DOI 10.1007/s10681-011-0375-4.
  • Visser, B., Herselman, L., Park, R.F., Karaoglu, H., Bender, C.M. and Pretorius, Z.A. (2011). Characterization of two new wheat stem rust races within the Ug99 lineage in South Africa. Euphytica. DOI 10.1007/s10681-010-0269-x.
  • Dadkhodaie, N.A., Karaoglou, H., Wellings, C.R. and Park, R.F. (2011). Mapping genes Lr53 and Yr35 on the short arm of chromosome 6B of common wheat with microsatellite markers and studies of their association with Lr36. Theoretical and Applied Genetics 122: 479-487.
  • Park, R.F., Burdon, J.J., Guest D.I. and Ayliffe, M.J. (2009). Dynamics of crop-pathogen interactions: from gene to continental scale. In Applied Crop Physiology: at the Boundaries with Genetic Improvement and Agronomy (eds V.O. Sadras & D.F. Calderini). Elsevier, pp. 423-447.
  • Park, R.F., Bariana, H.S. and Wellings, C.R. (2007). Global Landscapes in Cereal Rust Control. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research Special Issue 58 (6).
  • Park, R. F. (2000). Rust Fungi. In Encyclopedia of Microbiology (ed. J. Lederberg), Volume 4, pp 179-195. Academic Press: London.
  • McIntosh, R.A., Wellings, C.R. and Park, R.F. (1995). Wheat Rusts. An Atlas of Resistance Genes. 200pp. Melbourne: CSIRO.