Plant biotechnology tools are used to support various research programmes focusing on tropical and subtropical crops and indigenous plant species. As such, the Biotechnology unit supports not only the campus breeding programmes but also a range of horticulture and crop protection studies to gain a deeper understanding of plant growth and development as well as pest and disease tolerance. Plant biotechnology is constantly evolving allowing researchers to have access to an increasing number of tools to address challenges experienced in tropical and subtropical crop production.
Molecular markers are routinely used to characterise germplasm arising from the breeding programme resulting in the creation of molecular genotype reference databases capturing the genetic diversity present in commercially important crops such as litchi, citrus, macadamia, mango and coffee as well as indigenous fruit such as the Kei-apple. In addition, DNA fingerprinting services for these crops have also been developed.
To ensure sustainable crop production into the future, new avenues of investigation are in progress such as determining the kinetics of nutrient uptake using in vitro systems towards understanding how plants take up and use supplied nitrogen. Another research area focuses on graft incompatibility which impacts negatively on sustainable crop production. Studies into anatomical, biochemical, physiological and genetic factors related to incompatibility are conducted on crops such as litchi and macadamia.
In vitro (tissue culture) and ex vitro plant improvement and propagation methods for several tropical and subtropical crops and indigenous plant species are used for the improvement of a variety of horticultural traits as well as for germplasm conservation. Efforts to improve the in vitro propagation of tropical and subtropical crops using novel bioreactors are also in progress.
Services and training courses we offer:
Micropropagation of a range of plant and crop species (on request)
Acclimatisation of imported tissue cultures of a range of plant and crop species (on request)
Flow cytometry analytical services
Estimated DNA content determination
Estimated chromosome number determination
Pollen viability services
Practical tissue culture training courses (on request and tailored to client needs)
Graft incompatibility (left) poses a huge challenge to the sustainability of litchi cultivation. Scion and rootstock cultivars must be compatible to ensure proper nutrient and water uptake.