The Hub’s ﬂagship discovery is the BioClay™ platform, with research efforts currently focused on continued development across four key activity themes:
CROP/DISEASE SOLUTIONS • MECHANISTIC INSIGHTS • COMMERCIALISATION • POLICY & ENGAGEMENT
This research stream is focused on developing the BioClay™ platform to target fungal pathogens of global signiﬁcance.
These include several projects related to different fungal diseases across a variety of horticultural and broadacre crops.
Aim 1: To generate genomic and transcriptomic data of targeted pathogens for efﬁcient construct design
Aim 2: To develop dsRNA constructs targeting critical genes in selected pathogens
Aim 3: To translate BioClay™ from the lab to glasshouse/ﬁeld trials
The fungus that causes Botrytis fruit rot, also known as gray mould, is widespread in the environment.
It can infect strawberry flowers when spores landing on them and are exposed to free water during cool weather. Infections can either cause flowers to rot or Botrytis can become dormant in ﬂoral tissues. Dormant infections resume activity on the berry later in the season anytime before or after harvest when sugars increase and conditions become favorable to disease development.
Botrytis cinerea is one of number of different fungi that can cause bunch rot in grapevines.
Botrytis infects grapevine tissue via wounds and natural openings, including micro ﬁssures in the berry skin and wounds made by insects, powdery mildew, berry splitting, loose pedicels or other physical damage. Spore germination is stimulated by sugars and amino acids exuded from ripening berries.
Botrytis grey mould (BGM) is the second most important disease of chickpea and can infect plants at any stage of development.
This disease is caused by the fungus Botrytis cinerea. Under favourable conditions, the disease can develop rapidly, spread widely and cause complete yield loss. Chickpea genotypes with vigorous seedling growth, early canopy closure and early flowering are more likely to develop disease than other varieties.
Sclerotinia infects over 400 plant species, and causes direct damage to the canola plant by girdling the stem, leading to lodging.
Sclerotinia stem rot is a disease that attacks canola as well as many broadleaf plants. Sunflowers, soybeans, lupins, chickpeas and lentils are also susceptible; faba beans and field peas less so. Cereal crops and grass weeds are not affected. Broadleaf weeds such as capeweed and wild radish are also known hosts.
Verticillium dahliae is a widespread soil-borne fungal plant pathogen that causes wilt disease on many important crops and trees, including cotton.
Verticillium wilt is one of the most damaging diseases of cotton worldwide. On cotton, strains of V. dahliae have been classified into two pathotypes: defoliating strains, which are highly virulent and can completely defoliate the plant, and non-defoliating strains, which are mildly virulent and cause wilt and partial or no defoliation.
Fusarium-incited diseases are a major production constraint for cereals globally.
There are two major diseases; Fusarium Head Blight which prevails during flowering in warm and humid conditions, and Fusarium Crown Rot which occurs in more arid climatic zones. In addition to yield losses, Fusarium diseases can result in grain contamination with harmful mycotoxins that have health consequences for humans and other mammals that eat in infected products.
These researchers are generating new knowledge about the mechanisms of BioClay™, fungi and crop interactions.
Aim 1: To investigate the uptake, processing and systemic movement of dsRNA and its sRNA derivatives in plants
Aim 2: To investigate the mechanism of dsRNA and sRNA uptake by fungal pathogens
This team are working on the formulation of BioClay™, to industry speciﬁcations and standards.
Aim 1: Large-scale synthesis of BioClay™ components
Aim 2: Formulation chemistryof BioClay™
Aim 3: Regulatory and product development pathways
The focus for these research team members is on social licence, policy and consumer acceptance for the BioClay™ system.
Aim 1: Social License to Operate
Aim 2: Policy Landscape
CI = Chief Investigator
PI = Partner Investigator