Plant Sciences

Limes

The Plant Sciences cluster researches the full range of plant sciences, from molecular biology and plant physiology, though to the interactions of natural and managed plant communities with their biotic and abiotic environments.

Our research outputs cover basic fundamental aspects of plant growth, all the way through to plant-based foods in our diet. With research sites in central Sydney, Camden and Narrabri, and field sites in many other locations, our research involves plants in both protected agriculture and out in the field.

We have strong relationships with plant-based industries, enabling our research to be funded by and engaged with industry, and our undergraduate and higher degree students to experience plant science in context.

Specialist areas in Plant Sciences include plant genetics and breeding, production of commercial cultivars, plant pathology, agronomy, characterising chemical constituents of plants, bushfire ecology, and plant physiology.


Research Themes

Plants are the foundation of all life on Earth. For this reason, research into how plants function from molecular to ecosystem levels will enable humanity to better manage the planet. Our research has the following themes:

Plant physiology

Our research examines how plants function and interact with their environment. The scope of the research includes the chemical and physical processes associated with life: the key processes of photosynthesis, respiration, gas exchange, water, and nutrient uptake.

Molecular biology, breeding and genetics

We contribute to the global efforts to make plants resilient to more challenging climates, resistant to pests and diseases, and more productive with limited resources. From model species to crop species, we study the fundamentals of plant function and improving nitrogen usage to increase productivity and sustainability of crops. We use both cereals and nitrogen-fixing legumes to understand the molecular, cellular and the whole-plant level mechanisms regulating nitrogen transport, assimilation and tissue redistribution.

Plants as food

Our research concentrates on the quality and sustainability of fruit and vegetable production, and on their microbial safety. Our research is industry focussed and is helping to build the food and agribusiness sectors, enhancing the international reputation of Australian produce and increasing our access to growing export markets.

Plant pathology

Our research is focused on the interaction of cereal hosts and the ‘rust’ fungal pathogens (various Puccinia species), adaptation and evolution of the fungal species, the genetics of resistance and virulence, and breeding of cereal crops resistant to epidemics of these diseases.

Nutrient and water cycles in natural, forestry and agricultural systems

Our research concentrates on the cycles of nutrients, energy and water that affect the ability of farmland, grassland and forests to grow and thrive. The retention (sequestration) and emission of carbon between the soil, vegetation and the atmosphere is a key focus, especially any changes caused by significant natural and manmade events such as bushfires and agricultural management.