Hybrid Wheat Program Leader
School of Agriculture, Food and Wine
Faculty of Sciences
Eligible to supervise Masters and PhD - email supervisor to discuss availability.
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).
The 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:
- increased private sector investment in maize research
- early adoption and implementation of GM technologies
- 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
- Developing a robust male sterility and restoration system, and
- Improving wheat’s floral characteristics for out-crossing
Project 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.
- Positional cloning
- Molecular markers
- Genotyping by Sequencing (GbS)
- Genome Wide Association Study (GWAS)
- Quantitative PCR
- 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
- 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.
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 Country Amount 2015 Award Adelaide University Emerging Industry Research Partnership Award University of Adelaide Australia — 2001 Nomination Young Australian of the Year in the Science and Technology — Australia — 1998 Award National Farmers Federation Prize University of Western Australia Australia — 1997 Award Eva Sobotka Memorial Prize University of Western Australia Australia — 1997 Award Henry (Senior) Seeligson Memorial Prize University of Western Australia Australia —
Language Competency Dutch; Flemish Can read, speak and understand spoken
Date Institution name Country Title 1994 - 1997 University of Western Australia Australia Bachelor of Science Honours (1A)
Date Title Institution Country 1998 - 2002 PhD University of Adelaide Australia — Postdoctoral Fellow Ghent University Belgium
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.
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. In J. Piantadosi, R. Anderssen, & J. Boland (Eds.), 20TH INTERNATIONAL CONGRESS ON MODELLING AND SIMULATION (MODSIM2013) (pp. 496-502). Adelaide, AUSTRALIA: MODELLING & SIMULATION SOC AUSTRALIA & NEW ZEALAND INC.
2004 Sutton, T., Whitford, R., Baumann, U., Able, J., Lazo, G., & Langridge, P. (2004). Genomics approaches to identify meiotic genes in wheat. In Plant & Animal Genome XII : conference abstracts (pp. W143). San Diego, CA.
Year Citation 2014 Whitford, R., Nagahatenna, D., & Langridge, P. (2014). Overexpression of type I Ferrochelatase (FCI) enhances wilting avoidance in barley (Hordeum vulgare). Poster session presented at the meeting of International Association for Plant Biotechnology Congress 2014. Melbourne, Australia: http://www.iapb2014congress.com/. 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. Poster session presented at the meeting of Wheat Breeders Assembly. Brisbane, Australia: http://wheatbreedingassembly.com.au/. 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. Poster session presented at the meeting of 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. Poster session presented at the meeting of 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. Poster session presented at the meeting of 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. Poster session presented at the meeting of 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. Poster session presented at the meeting of Plant Biology 2006. Boston, Massachusetts, USA: http://abstracts.aspb.org/.
Year Citation 2001 Whitford, R. (2001). From intimate chromosome associations to wild sex in wheat. (PhD Thesis, The University of Adelaide).
Current Higher Degree by Research Supervision (University of Adelaide)
Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name 2016 Co-Supervisor PhD in Sciences - Hybrid Wheat Program Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Caterina Selva 2014 Principal Supervisor Implementation of Novel Genome Editing Tools For Revealing Functions of Wheat Genes Related To Drought Tolerance and Performance Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Taj Arndell
Past Higher Degree by Research Supervision (University of Adelaide)
Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name 2014 - 2018 Co-Supervisor Wheat non-specific Lipid Transfer Proteins: identification and characterisation of nuclear-encoded fertility restorer genes Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Allan Kouidri 2011 - 2015 Co-Supervisor Investigating the Role of Tetrapyrrole Biosynthesis under Drought Stress in Cereal Transgenics Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mrs Dilu Nagahatenna
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