TCU Place 35 -22nd St. East, Saskatoon, SK    

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Prof. Geoffrey Fincher
Deputy CEO,
Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics,
Abiotic Stress Tolerance in Cereals
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
1:30 - 2:00 pm

Abstract: Abiotic stresses such as extreme temperature, low water availability, high light intensity, high salt, and mineral deficiencies or toxicities can severely reduce crop plant productivity. In many cases, several types of abiotic stress challenge crop plants simultaneously. High temperatures, high irradiance, scarcity of water and nutrient deficiencies are commonly encountered under Australian growing conditions but may not be amenable to management through traditional farm practices. Higher plants have evolved multiple, interconnected strategies that enable them to survive unpredictable environmental fluctuations. However, these strategies are not always well developed in the cereal cultivars grown by grain producers and typically they focus on plant survival at the expense of yield.

In 2006, Australia experienced one of its most severe droughts on record. In addition, Australian soils are geologically ancient and degraded, with depleted levels of essential nutrients such as zinc, manganese and copper. Moreover, large parts of Australia were flooded with seawater during past interglacial periods and this resulted in the deposition of high soil and subsoil concentration of boron (B), aluminium (Al) and sodium (Na). Growing cereal crops under these harsh and hostile soil conditions adds an additional level of complexity to water limited environments. Crops grown over most areas of southern Australia are also subject to radiation frost damage during flowering. At the ACPFG we have developed a program based on emerging functional genomics technologies, which include both forward and reverse genetics approaches, to increase drought and salinity tolerance in wheat and barley. Analyses of tolerant germplasm, the preparation of mapping populations from germplasm that shows segregation in grain yield under stress conditions, and the characterization of stress responsive genes have allowed both GM and non-GM approaches to be taken to the identification of stress tolerant genetic material.
photo of Geoffery Fincher
Geoff Fincher is the Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the ACPFG, where he chairs the Executive Management Group and takes specific responsibility for new projects and initiatives. Geoff’s research interests are in the enzymology, molecular biology, structural biology, genetics and biochemistry of plant cell wall metabolism. In 2007, he and other colleagues around Australia received a CSIRO Food Futures Flagship program grant for work on the role of wall polysaccharides in human health and nutrition. He also developed a cell wall microarray in a collaborative project between the ACPFG and the DuPont-Pioneer company and commenced experiments in which the microarray will be applied to defining changes in wall-related genes during a range of abiotic stress treatments. Geoff is also the Director of the Waite Campus of the University of Adelaide and has been the Director of a GRDC-funded program on the functional genomics of growth and end-use quality in cereals for seven years. He serves as an editor for the Journal of Cereal Science and the BioEnergy Journal, and is also a long-serving member of the editorial board of Planta. He chairs the Scientific Advisory Committee of Biomime, the Swedish centre for wood functional genomics. In 2007-2009, Geoff and Mark Tester, together with colleagues at the ANU and the CSIRO Division of Plant Industry, have secured more than $30 million in funding from the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy, the State Government of South Australia and the University of Adelaide for the construction of an automated, high throughput phenotyping glasshouse on the Waite Campus. This ‘Plant Accelerator’ glasshouse will represent a major component of the national Australian Plant Phenomics Facility and will constitute an important facility for forwards genetics projects within the ACPFG and elsewhere across Australia.

Click to view Geoffrey Fincher's ABIC 2010 presentation