Dr Ryan Whitford

Ryan Whitford
Hybrid Wheat Program Leader
School of Agriculture, Food and Wine
Faculty of Sciences

Ryan is a plant molecular biologist who's research interests are in floral developmental biology and the underlying molecular mechanisms behind plant responses to abiotic stress. He has previously worked on projects ranging from meiosis to extracellular peptide-based signalling in Arabidopsis and cereals. Ryan completed his PhD at the Co-operative Research Centre for Molecular Plant Breeding at the University of Adelaide, after which he worked as a Molecular Biologist for Bayer Cropscience GmbH (Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany) before a postdoctoral period within the Flemish Interuniversity Institute for Biotechnology (Ghent University, Belgium). He is now leading the hybrid wheat program at the Australian Centre of Plant Functional Genomics (Adelaide, South Australia).

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Dr Ryan Whitford

Ryan is a plant molecular biologist who's research interests are in floral developmental biology and the underlying molecular mechanisms behind plant responses to abiotic stress. He has previously worked on projects ranging from meiosis to extracellular peptide-based signalling in Arabidopsis and cereals. Ryan completed his PhD at the Co-operative Research Centre for Molecular Plant Breeding at the University of Adelaide, after which he worked as a Molecular Biologist for Bayer Cropscience GmbH (Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany) before a postdoctoral period within the Flemish Interuniversity Institute for Biotechnology (Ghent University, Belgium). He is now leading the hybrid wheat program at the Australian Centre of Plant Functional Genomics (Adelaide, South Australia).

SEMThe FAO predicts that major improvements in wheat yields will be critical to ensuring global food security (FAO, 2013). Over the past decade, wheat yield improvements from conventional crop breeding has tapered off. This stands in contrast to the situation in rice and maize where yield improvements have continued unabated. Several reasons have been proposed for this difference between maize and wheat:

  1. increased private sector investment in maize research
  2. early adoption and implementation of GM technologies
  3. increased opportunities provided by hybrid breeding.

Hybrid wheats hold the potential to increase yields and will open a range of new breeding opportunities. Although capturing heterosis in wheat has historically been intractable, a recent experimental survey of European winter wheat combining ability indicates yield gains of 10% can be achieved (HYWHEAT consortium, Longin et al., 2013). Commercial exploitation of this heterotic yield gain is likely to be difficult due to wheat’s strong inbreeding nature, a factor primarily governed by floral development and architecture, and the lack of a cost-effective and practicable fertility control system (Whitford et al., 2013). The aim of ACPFG’s Hybrid Wheat Research team is to reduce hybrid seed production costs by

  1. Developing a robust male sterility and restoration system, and
  2. Improving wheat’s floral characteristics for out-crossing

 

SectionProject Title: Developing a fertility restoration system for hybrid wheat seed production

Project Partner: DuPont-Pioneer

The fertility control team is responsible for identifying novel gene sequences necessary for wheat fertility. The program exploits mutant resources by next generation sequencing and the latest bioinformatic analyses in a forward genetics approach towards gene identification. Reverse genetics techniques including mutant complementation and genome editing (CRISPR/cas9) are used to validate which fine-mapped gene sequences are necessary for ensuring fertility. Fertility genes and their encoded proteins are typically characterised at the transcriptomic, proteomic and metabolomics levels relative to their specific roles in reproductive development.

Techniques 

  • Positional cloning
  • Molecular markers
  • Genotyping by Sequencing (GbS)
  • Genome Wide Association Study (GWAS)
  • RNAseq/qRT-PCR
  • Quantitative PCRFloral architecture for members of the Triticeae
  • Cloning/Vector construction
  • GC-MS-based metabolite profiling
  • Light and confocal microscopy
  • SEM, TEM
  • Phenotypic analyses on floral and reproductive development
  • Glasshouse and field work
  • Biolistic and Agrobacterium mediated transformation
  • Genome editing

References

  • FAOSTAT (2013) http://faostat3.fao.org/home/index.html
  • Longin CFH, Gowda M, Mühleisen J, Ebmeyer E, Kazman E, Schachschnieder R, Schacht J, Kirchhoff M, Zhao Y, Reif JC.(2013) Hybrid wheat: quantitative genetic parameters and consequences for the design of breeding programs. Theoretical and Applied Genetics doi 10.1007/s00122-013-2177-z.
  • Whitford, R., Fleury, D., Reif, J.C., Garcia, M., Okada, T., Korzun, V., and Langridge, P. (2013) Hybrid breeding in wheat: technologies to improve hybrid wheat seed production. Journal of Experimental Botany (Darwin Review) DOI: 10.1093/jxb/ert333.

Appointments

Date Position Institution name
2008 Research Scientist Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics
2002 - 2003 Molecular Biologist Bayer Cropscience

Awards and Achievements

Date Type Title Institution Name Amount
2015 Award Adelaide University Emerging Industry Research Partnership Award University of Adelaide
2001 Nomination Young Australian of the Year in the Science and Technology
1998 Award National Farmers Federation Prize University of Western Australia
1997 Award Henry (Senior) Seeligson Memorial Prize University of Western Australia
1997 Award Eva Sobotka Memorial Prize University of Western Australia

Language Competencies

Language Competency
Dutch; Flemish Can read, speak and understand spoken

Education

Date Institution name Country Title
1994 - 1997 University of Western Australia Australia Bachelor of Science Honours (1A)

Postgraduate Training

Date Title Institution Country
1998 - 2002 PhD University of Adelaide Australia
Postdoctoral Fellow Ghent University Belgium

Research Interests

Plant Cell and Molecular Biology, Plant Developmental and Reproductive Biology, Transgenesis

Journals

Year Citation
2017 Ferdous, J., Whitford, R., Nguyen, M., Brien, C., Langridge, P. & Tricker, P. (2017). Drought-inducible expression of Hv-miR827 enhances drought tolerance in transgenic barley. Functional and Integrative Genomics, 17, 2-3, 279-292.
10.1007/s10142-016-0526-8
2017 Tucker, E., Baumann, U., Kouidri, A., Suchecki, R., Baes, M., Garcia, M. ... Whitford, R. (2017). Molecular identification of the wheat male fertility gene Ms1 and its prospects for hybrid breeding. Nature Communications, 8, 1, 869-1-869-10.
10.1038/s41467-017-00945-2
2015 Nagahatenna, D., Langridge, P. & Whitford, R. (2015). Tetrapyrrole-based drought stress signalling. Plant Biotechnology Journal, 13, 4, 447-459.
10.1111/pbi.12356
2013 Whitford, R., Fleury, D., Reif, J., Garcia, M., Okada, T., Korzun, V. & Langridge, P. (2013). Hybrid breeding in wheat: technologies to improve hybrid wheat seed production. Journal of Experimental Botany, 64, 18, 5411-5428.
10.1093/jxb/ert333
2012 Whitford, R., Fernandez, A., Tejos, R., Perez, A., Kleine-Vehn, J., Vanneste, S. ... Hilson, P. (2012). GOLVEN secretory peptides regulate auxin carrier turnover during plant gravitropic responses. Developmental Cell, 22, 3, 678-685.
10.1016/j.devcel.2012.02.002
2010 Mortier, V., Den Herder, G., Whitford, R., Van de Velde, W., Rombauts, S., D'haeseleer, K. ... Goormachtig, S. (2010). CLE peptides control medicago truncatula nodulation locally and systemically. Plant Physiology, 153, 1, 222-237.
10.1104/pp.110.153718
2008 Whitford, R., Fernandez, A., De Groodt, R., Ortega, E. & Hilson, P. (2008). Plant CLE peptides from two distinct functional classes synergistically induce division of vascular cells. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 105, 47, 18625-18630.
10.1073/pnas.0809395105
2007 Whitford, R., Baumann, U., Sutton, T., Gumaelius, L., Wolters, P., Tingey, S. ... Langridge, P. (2007). Identification of transposons, retroelements, and a gene family predominantly expressed in floral tissues in chromosome 3DS of the hexaploid wheat progenitor Aegilops tauschii. Functional & Integrative Genomics, 7, 1, 37-52.
10.1007/s10142-006-0026-3
2006 Underwood, B., Vanderhaeghen, R., Whitford, R., Town, C. & Hilson, P. (2006). Simultaneous high-throughput recombinational cloning of open reading frames in closed and open configurations. Plant Biotechnology Journal, 4, 3, 317-324.
10.1111/j.1467-7652.2006.00183.x
2005 Dong, C., Thomas, S., Becker, D., Lorz, H., Whitford, R., Sutton, T. ... Langridge, P. (2005). WM5: Isolation and characterisation of a gene expressed during early meiosis and shoot meristem development in wheat. Functional Plant Biology, 32, 3, 249-258.
10.1071/FP04198
2003 Sutton, T., Whitford, R., Baumann, U., Dong, C., Able, J. & Langridge, P. (2003). The Ph2 pairing homoeologous locus of wheat (Triticum aestivum): identification of candidate meiotic genes using a comparative genetics approach. Plant Journal, 36, 4, 443-456.
10.1046/j.1365-313X.2003.01891.x
2002 Dong, C., Whitford, R. & Langridge, P. (2002). A DNA mismatch repair gene links to the Ph2 locus in wheat. Genome, 45, 1, 116-124.
10.1139/g01-126

Books

Year Citation
2014 D. Fleury & R. Whitford (Eds.) (2014). Crop breeding: methods and protocols. New York: Springer.
10.1007/978-1-4939-0446-4

Book Chapters

Year Citation
2017 Okada, T. & Whitford, R. (2017). Hybrid Wheat and Abiotic Stress. In V. R. Rajpal, D. Sehgal, A. Kumar & S. N. Raina (Eds.), Abiotic Stress Tolerance related Genomics-assisted Breeding for Crop Improvement
2010 Whitford, R., Gilbert, M. & Langridge, P. (2010). Biotechnology in Agriculture. In M. Reynolds (Ed.), Climate Change and Crop Production (pp. 219-244). United Kingdom: CABI Publishing.

Conference Papers

Year Citation
2013 Anbalagan, R., Kovalchuk, N., Parent, B., Kovalchuk, A., Okamoto, M., Whitford, R. & Haefele, S. M. (2013). A phenotyping platform for transgenic wheat: method and initial results. 20th International Congress on Modelling and Simulation (MODSIM). J. Piantadosi, R. Anderssen & J. Boland (Eds.) Adelaide, AUSTRALIA.
2004 Sutton, T., Whitford, R., Baumann, U., Able, J., Lazo, G. & Langridge, P. (2004). Genomics approaches to identify meiotic genes in wheat. Plant & Animal Genomes Conference. San Diego, CA.

Conference Items

Year Citation
2017 Okada, T., Nausamba, M., Baes, M., Warner, P., Kouidri, A., Correia, D. ... Baumann, U. (2017). Unfertilized ovary pushes wheat flower open for cross-pollination. The 13th International Wheat Genetics Symposium.
2014 Whitford, R., Nagahatenna, D. & Langridge, P. (2014). Overexpression of type I Ferrochelatase (FCI) enhances wilting avoidance in barley (Hordeum vulgare). International Association for Plant Biotechnology Congress 2014. Melbourne.
2013 Tucker, E., Okada, T., Warner, P., Manning, S., Baes, M., Kouidri, A. ... Whitford, R. (2013). Towards the development of a fertility control system for hybrid wheat breeding. Wheat Breeders Assembly. Brisbane.
2009 Whitford, R., Fernandez, A., Cuellar, A., Kleine-Vehn, J., De Groodt, R., Vanneste, S. ... Hilson, P. (2009). Local action of GOLVEN secretory peptides stabilizes an auxin efflux carrier during plant gravitropic responses. 20th International Conference on Arabidopsis Research. Edinburgh, Scotland.
2008 Mortier, V., Den Herder, G., Van de Velde, W., Whitford, R., Holsters, M. & Goormachtig, S. (2008). CLE peptide signaling during nodulation on Medicago truncatula. 8th European Nitrogen Fixation Conference. Gent, Belgium.
2008 Whitford, R., Fernandez, A., Kleine-Vehn, J., De Groodt, R., Vanneste, S., Beeckman, T. ... Hilson, P. (2008). GOLVEN secretory peptides control plant gravitropism. 19th International Conference on Arabidopsis Research. Montreal, Canada.
2008 Mortier, V., Den Herder, G., Van de Velde, W., Whitford, R., Holsters, M. & Goormachtig, S. (2008). CLE peptide signaling during nodulation on Medicago truncatula. 4th EPSO Conference. Toulon (Côte d’Azur), France.
2006 Underwood, B. A., Xiao, Y. -. L., Wu, H. C., Moskal, W. A., Wang, W., Monaghan, E. L. ... Town, C. D. (2006). High throughput full-length cDNA cloning of low-expressing genes in Arabidopsis. Plant Biology 2006. Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

Patents

Year Citation
2016 Whitford, R., Baumann, U., Tucker, E., Cigan, M. & Albertsen, M. C.; (2016); Wheat Ms1 Polynucleotides, Polypeptides, and Methods of Use;
2014 Whitford, R. & Nagahatenna, D.; (2014); Ferrochelatase compositions and methods to increase agronomic performance of plants;
2005 Bastiaans, H., Donn, G., Knittel, N., Martelletti, A., Rees, R., Schwall, M. & Whitford, R.; (2005); “PLANT GROWTH REGULATION - 3,4-disubstituted maleimideals as phytoregulators”;
2005 Bastiaans, H., Donn, G., Knittel, N., Martelletti, A., Rees, R., Schwall, M. & Whitford, R.; (2005); "PLANT GROWTH REGULATION - Substituierte 2-amino-6-oxy-purine as phytoregulators";
2005 Bastiaans, H., Donn, G., Knittel, N., Martelletti, A., Rees, R., Schwall, M. & Whitford, R.; (2005); “PLANT GROWTH REGULATION - indolinone derivatives as phytoregulators”;
2005 Bastiaans, H., Donn, G., Knittel, N., Martelletti, A., Rees, R., Schwall, M. & Whitford, R.; (2005); Plant growth regulation (2,4-diamino-5-substituted-thiazole derivatives as phytoregulators);
2005 Bastiaans, H., Donn, G., Knittel, N., Martelletti, A., Rees, R., Schwall, M. & Whitford, R.; (2005); "PLANT GROWTH REGULATION - azepinone derivative as phytoregulators";

Theses

Year Citation
2001 Whitford, R.; (2001); From intimate chromosome associations to wild sex in wheat;
Position
Hybrid Wheat Program Leader
Phone
83137280
Fax
8313 7102
Campus
Waite
Building
Plant Genomics Centre
Room Number
2 36
Org Unit
Plant Science

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