P and Zn Use Efficiency

Most soils in Australia are low in available phosphate (P), and soils low in Zn is also widespread. Crop production is largely dependent on P fertiliser application. P is a non-renewable resource like fossil fuels, and P deposits are expected to be depleted within this century.

Australia uses a million tons of P fertilisers per annum, and costs Australia farmers approximately $AUD2 billion dollars. The increase of Zn content in grains of staple food such as wheat becomes an important strategy to reduce Zn deficiency in humans, especially for those in developing countries. Root system architecture plays a significant role in nutrient and water uptake. Genetic variation in root system architecture is important not only for improvement of P and Zn efficiency but also for drought tolerance.

Our objectives include:

  • To characterise physiological and molecular mechanisms underlying P and Zn efficiency
  • To map quantitative trait loci (QTL) controlling P and Zn efficiency, and root system architecture
  • To isolate genes controlling P and Zn efficiency, and root system architecture
  • To produce tools for improvement of P and Zn in wheat and barley, and barley and wheat lines with improved P or Zn efficiency

Experiment Strategies

At ACPFG we explore genetic variation in P and Zn efficiency, and root system architecture among cereals, and develop screening techniques and mapping populations for identification of quantitative trait loci (QTL). We apply map-based cloning for isolation of the genes responsible for the QTLs. Transgenic approaches will be used to characterise functions of candidate genes in rice, barley and wheat.

Current research activities

  • Characterisation of barley Pht1 transporter genes in collaboration (with Professor Stephen Tyerman, the University of Adelaide)
  • Identification of genetic variation in P efficiency in barley and wheat cultivars (Dr Glenn McDonald, the University of Adelaide)
  • Identification of genetic variation in root system architecture of wheat and barley in collaboration with Dr. Alan McKay (SARDI)
  • Characterisation of the putative Zn transporter gene (HvZIP7) in barley in collaboration with Dr. Glenn McDonald


Professor Peter Langridge
Dr Chun Y Huang

Selected Publications

  • Tiong JW, McDonald GK, Genc Y, Pedas P, Hayes JE, Toubia J, Langridge P, Huang CY (2013) HvZIP7 mediates Zn accumulation in barley (Hordeum vulgare) at moderately high Zn supply. New Phytol. (in press)
  • Huang CY, Shirley N, Genc Y, Shi B and Langridge P (2011). Phosphate utilization efficiency correlates with expression of low-affinity phosphate transporters and non-coding RNA, IPS1 in barley (Hordeum vulgare L.). Plant Physiol. 156:1217-1229
  • Preuss CP, Huang CY, Gilliham M, Tyerman SD (2010) Channel-like characteristics of the low-affinity barley phosphate transporter PHT1;6 when expressed in Xenopus oocytes. Plant Physiol. 152: 1431-1441
  • Huang CY, Roessner U, Eickmeier I, Genc Y, Callahan DL, Shirley N, Langridge P, Bacic A (2008) Metabolite profiling reveals distinct changes in carbon and nitrogen metabolism in phosphate-deficient barley plants (Hordeum vulgare). Plant Cell Physiol. 49: 691-703.
  • McKay A, Riley IT, Hartley D, Wiebkin S, Herdina, Li G, Coventry S, Hall S, Huang CY (2008) Studying root development in soil using DNA technology: Idea to impact. In: Proceedings of the 14th Australian Agronomy Conference. Edited by MJ Unkovich, September 2008, Adelaide, South Australia
  • Genc Y, Huang CY, Langridge P (2007) A study of the role of root morphological traits in growth of barley in zinc-deficient soil. J. Exp. Bot. 58, 2775-2784.
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