Roots, exudates and rhizospheres: novel traits for improving crop production


Tuesday 6 September 2016




CSIRO Black Mountain B1 Lecture Theatre


Peter Ryan, CSIRO Agriculture and Food


Roots, exudates and rhizospheres: novel traits for improving crop production


Our understanding of roots, the “hidden half” of plants, is more rudimentary than for shoots or flowers. Much of the biology controlling basic root functions in anchorage, storage, resource acquisition and communication remains a mystery. Apart from specific root crops, like carrot and cassava, below-ground traits are rarely considered by plant breeders because roots are so difficult to observe and study in situ. Enormous effort has been spent developing methods to describe root systems in situ – or as close as possible to in situ conditions. We know that the phenotypic variability of plants below-ground is as large as above-ground yet this variability remains to be fully characterized to benefit productivity. Some argue that by selecting for yield or other shoot-related phenotypes breeders will inadvertently select for beneficial root systems. However this view ignores the complex interactions that occur between genotype, environment and management. The pressing challenge for plant biologists is not only to improve our understanding of root structure and function and how these influence production, but to do so in the context of the surrounding soil – including soil microbiology. This seminar will cover some work from our group to characterize selected root traits and to test their influence on plant performance.

Brief Bio

Peter studied marine biology at Sydney University and stayed there to complete a PhD with Alan Walker on ammonium transport in the brackish alga Chara australis. He did a brief post-doc at the University of Tasmania with Ian Newman on nutrient transport in real plants before receiving a CSIRO Travelling Post-doctoral Scholarship to study aluminium toxicity and tolerance with Leon Kochian at the USDA/Cornell University. He returned to CSIRO Black Mountain in 1993 where he continued working on aluminium stress with Manny Delhaize and Peter Randall. Peter investigates root and rhizosphere traits for improving crop productivity.

 This is a public seminar.

No visitor pass is required for non-CSIRO attendees going to Lecture Theatre Building 1.