Trevor Garnett

Dr Trevor Garnett

Director - Technology Development

School of Agriculture, Food and Wine

Faculty of Sciences

In January 2014 I joined the Plant Accelerator, the lead node of the Australian Plant Phenomics Facility. In my role as Director of Technology Development I identify phenotyping needs within the Australian plant science community, determine gaps in infrastructure and initiate and implement strategies to address these. I consult with scientists in the design and running of phenotyping experiments and I am also involved in the development and introduction of new tools to phenotype traits of interest. A recent focus of this research is the use of hyperspectral imaging in plant phenotyping.

I am a chief investigator of the ARC Industrial Transformation Research Hub for Wheat in a Hot and Dry Climate and am the phenomics program leader. This program is developing and adapting high throughput phenotyping tools based on the use of UAVs.

I continue to research nitrogen use efficiency in cereals and am lead chief investigator on an ARC linkage project collaborating with DuPont-Pioneer and Australian Grain Technologies.

Following undergraduate studies at the University of Adelaide I traveled to Tasmania where I obtained a PhD in Plant Physiology from the University of Tasmania, graduating in 1996 (Thesis: Ammonium and nitrate uptake by Eucalyptus nitens). In 1997 I returned to Adelaide as a post-doc in Plant Science at the University of Adelaide investigating iron transport into wheat grains with ultimate aim of addressing human iron deficiency through cereal grains with high iron availability. At the beginning of 2001 I lectured in plant nutrition in the Faculty of Agriculture at the University of Adelaide. From March 2001 until January 2006 I held a position with the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) where I managed an Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) funded project collaborating with China and Laos. The main aim of this project was to increase livestock production through finding and developing lucerne (alfalfa) with tolerance to abiotic stress. From January 2006 until the end of 2013 I was a Research Fellow at the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics (ACPFG) located at the Waite Research Institute where I led a collaboration with DuPont-Pioneer (US) focussed on increasing the nitrogen use efficiency of cereals.


Plant Scientists have gained vast knowledge about the genetics of various crop species during recent years. It has become increasingly easier and cheaper to sequence and map genomes, giving scientists access to information unimaginable just a few decades ago. However, a bottleneck has developed in capitalising on this information.

The Australian Plant Phenomics Facility was established to relieve the 'phenotyping bottleneck' which has, until now, limited our ability to capitalise on substantial government and industry investments already made in plant functional genomics and modern breeding technologies.

At the Plant Accelerator in Adelaide we are using high throughput phenotyping platforms to carry out large scale experiments with high resolution non-destructive measurements of plant growth.

I lead the phenomics program at the Australian Research Council/GRDC funded Industrial Transformation Research Hub for Wheat in a Hot and Dry Climate. The program is focussed on the use of UAVs to measure the performance of field trials.

Nitrogen Use Efficiency

Nitrogen is one of the biggest input costs for farmers and the price is increasing because of the power used to industrially fix nitrogen from the atmosphere. Approximately 4 % of the world’s energy is used to produced nitrogen fertiliser; this causes a considerable greenhouse gas contribution. Over 100 million tonnes of nitrogen fertiliser is applied to crops each year and 60% of this on cereals. Given the costs and environmental effects associated with production and usage of nitrogen fertilisers, plants with increased nitrogen use efficiency are of great importance to future food security. Nitrogen is the fertiliser that plants require the most, but only 40-50% of the applied fertiliser is taken up by the cereal crops. The nitrogen not taken up leads to pollution of waterways and oceans, one consequence being algal blooms at river deltas causing dead zones that lead to mass fish kills. Unused nitrogen fertiliser has a further environmental impact in that it is broken down in the soil by microbes and released into the atmosphere as nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Our research is improving the nitrogen use efficiency of cereal plants by increasing the efficiency of mechanisms that allow plants to accumulate and use nitrogen. Focusing on corn, wheat and barley the project is characterising nitrogen related processes as the physiological, biochemical and molecular level across plant lifecycles.

  • Education

    Date Institution name Country Title
    1993 - 1996 University of Tasmania Australia PhD

Grant Description




High throughput wheat spike phenotyping with Xray CT (GRDC)

Lead investigator


$930 k

Enhancing the infrastructure for grains research at the University of Adelaide (GRDC)

Lead investigator Other Investigators:



Wheat Quality Australia: ate Maturity Alpha-amylase (LMA) phenotyping for the Australian wheat breeding industry - validation

Lead CI Other CI: Mackay (SARDI)



ARC Research Hub for genetic diversity and molecular breeding for wheat in a hot and dry climate IH130200027


Other CIs: Dr Delphine Fleury ; Dr Ute Baumann ; Dr Nicholas Collins ; Dr Stephan Haefele ; Prof Brent Kaiser ; Prof Peter Langridge ; Prof Stanley Miklavcic ; Dr Juan Juttner ; Dr Haydn Kuchel ; Dr Daniel Mullan ; A/Prof Sigrid Heuer ; Dr Sandra Dunckel


$4.31M ARC

$3.750M GRDC

DVCR Infrastructure Grant for Hyperspectral Phenotyping Capability

Sole Investigator





2013-2017 onwards






Service Fee Income of all phenotyping projects run at The Plant Accelerator


2015 onwards

$ 350k per annum

ARC Linkage Grant

LP130101055 Control points in nitrogen uptake: enhancing the response of cereals to nitrogen supply and demand

Lead CI

Other CIs: Roessner (UM); Small (UWA); Heuer (UA); Rafalski (DuPont); Dhugga (DuPont); Kuchel (AGT)


$ 524k (ARC)

$ 295k (Industry)

Waite Research Institute

Purchase of LI-COR 6400XT Infra-red Gas Analyser (IRGA).

Co CI with: Pagay, Gilliham; Wilkinson; Collins; Tyerman; Habili; Cavagnaro



  • Current Higher Degree by Research Supervision (University of Adelaide)

    Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name
    2019 Co-Supervisor Combined Drought and Heat Tolerance of Wheat Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Abdeljalil El Habti
    2017 Principal Supervisor Field -Based Phenotyping Tools for NUE Characterisation and Breeding Applications in Wheat Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Vahid Rahimi-Eichi
    2016 Co-Supervisor A 3-D Hyperspectral Imaging System For Measuring Plant Properties and Phenotypic Traits Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mrs Brooke Bruning
  • Past Higher Degree by Research Supervision (University of Adelaide)

    Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name
    2015 - 2019 Principal Supervisor Quantifying Nitrogen Use Efficiency in Wheat Using High-Precision Phenotyping Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Nicholas John Sitlington Hansen
    2011 - 2014 Co-Supervisor Nitrate and Ammonium Interactions in Maize Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Dr Jessey George
    2011 - 2014 Co-Supervisor The Responses of Maize Roots to Nitrogen Supply Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Kasra Sabermanesh
    2011 - 2015 Co-Supervisor Long- and short-term nitrate uptake regulation in maize Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Luke Reid Holtham
  • Committee Memberships

    Date Role Committee Institution Country
    2015 - ongoing Member Expert working group on Nutrient Use Efficiency The Wheat Initiative
  • Memberships

    Date Role Membership Country
    2015 - ongoing Wheat Initiative Expert Working Group on Nutrient Use Efficiency
    1991 - ongoing Member The Australian Society of Plant Scientists Australia
  • Position: Director - Technology Development
  • Phone: 83131134
  • Email:
  • Campus: Waite
  • Building: Plant Accelerator Building, floor 1
  • Room: 1 37
  • Org Unit: School of Agriculture, Food and Wine

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