Tougher Crops for a Warmer World

Trying to grow plants in Australian conditions is challenging – it always seems to be too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry, too salty, too infertile. And it is likely to get harder as the effects of climate change become increasingly apparent. The economic and social effects of our harsh environment are significant, reducing yield for farmers and making the sustainable use of land difficult.

We can see around us daily that some plants can survive difficult conditions better than others. I am interested to discover how these plants manage to do better in tough conditions. What genes are in the tough plants that are missing from the wimps? And can we move the ‘toughness’ genes into the wimps to make them tough? In this talk, I will describe how we are hunting down these genes, and how we are moving them into our crops, in a bid to enhance crop yield and sustainability for farmers both in Australia and internationally. A serendipitous benefit from the work is the chance to improve food quality. The techniques involve both conventional breeding and genetic modification – issues surrounding these approaches will also be discussed.

About the Speaker

Professor Mark Tester is a ARC Federation Fellow (Research Professor), member of the Executive Management Group of the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics and Chair of the Research Committee in the School of Agriculture, Food & Wine, University of Adelaide.

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