Research

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


1. Crop/Disease Solutions

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

BOTRYTIS–STRAWBERRY

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.

  • A/Prof Kim Plummer (CI)
  • Lindy Coates (CI)
  • Apollo Gomez (CI)

BOTRYTIS – GRAPES

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.

  • Prof Kathy Evans (CI)
  • Dr Cathy Todd (PI)
  • Dr Markus Herderich (PI)
  • Dr Anthony Borneman

BOTRYTIS – CHICKPEA

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.

  • Prof Rebecca Ford (CI)
  • Dr Sam Sambasivam (PostDoc)

SCLEROTINIA – CANOLA

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.

  • Dr Lars Kamphuis (CI)
  • A/Prof Kim Plummer (CI)

VERTICILLIUM – COTTON

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.

  • Prof Eliazbeth Aitken (CI)
  • Dr Linda Smith (PI)

2. Mechanistic Insights

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 pathogensTeam

  • Prof Neena Mitter (Director)
  • Prof Hailing Jin (PI)
  • Prof Bernard Caroll

3. Formulation & Commercialisation

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

  • Prof Gordon Xu (CI)
  • Mr Mike Pointon (PI)

4. Policy And Engagement

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

  • Prof Peta Ashworth (CI)
  • Dr Pedro Fidelman (CI)

CI = Chief Investigator
PI = Partner Investigator