ARC Centre of Excellence for Plant Success
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My research covers aspects of plant physiology, genetics, molecular biology, genomics, computational biology and biochemistry. I have made two fundamental discoveries that have transformed and grown the field. The first is the discovery of strigolactones as a new plant hormone – one of only a handful of ten or so hormones discovered in plants to date. We have shown that strigolactones affect shoot architecture, lateral rooting, adventitious rooting (producing roots from cuttings) and secondary growth (wood production). Strigolactones also enhance nutrient uptake and, where nutrients are poor, often stimulate parasitic weeds that can destroy crops reducing yield close to zero. My findings on the genetics and biology of strigolactones have therefore led to new directions of major research and outcomes in agriculture and breeding. Our second major discovery revealed aspects of how sugar signalling circuitry is used in controlling plant growth switches such as in the decision of whether a bud will form a branch or not. This overturned decades of thinking on the plant hormone auxin. These discoveries influence the tailoring of shoot branching for improving yield, productivity and ornamental value of crops, trees and shrubs. I am currently Centre Director of ARC Centre of Excellence for Plant Success in Nature and Agriculture. We are developing innovative tools and strategies to improve the productivity and resilience of plants. In partnership with industry, mathematicians and evolutionary biologists, we are discovering the adaptive strategies that may be used for crop improvement and diversification. Leveraging this knowledge through new mathematical and computer-based technologies, we are developing predictive tools for plant breeding that will be transformative for food supply. We are also modernising outdated legal and social frameworks, advancing evolutionary systems biology, and transforming plant science for the next generation.