Carbon partitioning as integrated tools for optimizing growth and yield in Pisum sativum


Australian agriculture faces immense challenges to satisfy demand for food, fuel and fibre whilst simultaneously coping with the effects of climatic change. Improvements in yield must come from both improved germplasm as well as management based upon a sound understanding of plant processes. Great focus has been placed on improving yield via improvements in the fundamental processes of plant growth. Legumes are thought to hold great potential under future climates due to their relative independence from nitrogen supply. Australia presently grows 2440 kt of field pulses (lupin, field pea and chickpea) 85% of which is exported for a combined export value of $1022 million (ABARE 2012). These production totals are moderate given the considerable environmental scope for legume production thus great potential exists for expansion and/or intensification of legume production. For example, Australian production of Field Pea (Pisium sativum) is currently 400,000 tonnes, the majority of which is exported to markets in Asia and the Middle East. Field Pea, as is the case with many other crops often falls short of yield potential due to a range of environmental and developmental factors. Overcoming such factors requires network scale approaches to plant development. With ample scope for both for improvement in legume production and demand, the potential for growth in such markets will continue to rise in the coming decades. Underpinning yield is a core set of post-photosynthetic (post carboxylation) reactions that govern the allocation of photoassimilate. These reactions are well characterized and conserved among plants. Less is known regarding the regulation of these reactions at the network scale. Whilst many studies have investigated source driven limitations to biomass accumulation through the effects of water, temperature or nutrient limitation, few have investigated the role of sink driven limitations to photosynthesis and allocation of carbon to sink tissues. Several sink driven limitations to photosynthesis are thought to exist in plants. For example, it is known that triose phosphate utilization (TPU) is an important determinant of photosynthetic rate among a range of environmental conditions. Focus on sink dynamics within the plant network also enables the investigation of processes underpinning advanced yield development as a consequence of plant scale biomass allocation.


Dr Andrew Merchant, Professor Mark Adams, Dr Brian Jones

Research Location

Agriculture and Environment

Program Type



It is clear that the partitioning of carbon at the plant scale influences primary productivity and is central to plant responses to environmental change. If we are to understand how plants acclimate to changes in resource availability, we must understand the mechanisms that govern the central conduits of carbon partitioning. This project will combine chemical, molecular and imaging techniques to characterise the homeostatic regulation of plant growth and biomass partitioning to the effects of elevated CO2 (eCO2), water deficit and changes in the strength of carbon sinks. Using metabolic flux analysis, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and the generation of transcript catalogues this project will investigate the allocation of carbon at metabolic branch-points post-photosynthesis. This approach will develop surrogate measures of legume growth and biomass allocation and characterise plant responses to resource limitation throughout development. This information is central to improving the efficiency of legume production but more broadly provide tools for increasing food, fuel and fibre production across a range of crop species

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carbon, legumes, metabolomics, partitioning, pea, plant biology

Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is: 1785

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