The Cereal Cytogenetics research group consists of Dr Ian Dundas, Dr Rafiqul Islam and Ms Dawn Verlin. We are located in the Waite Main Building (Lab GS03). Our research is funded by the Grains Research and Development Corporation.
Major Research Themes
- Cytogenetics is the study of the origin and behaviour of chromosomes in relation to inheritance of genes. In particular, we focus on the valuable and abundant genetic resources that exist in uncultivated relatives of major crop species. We are applying this classical science to real-life problems affecting agriculture which are of worldwide significance to food security.
- Our principal research objective is to provide new improved genetic material for incorporation in commercial cultivars. We are targeting two significant challenges to the cereal industry, namely, attack by rusts (stem, leaf and stripe) and tolerance to high salinity. Our success is measured in practical outputs to breeding programmes and use of our genetic stocks by other researchers.
Current Members: Research Programme Highlights
Dr Ian Dundas – Post-Doctoral Research Fellow
Ian is originally an agricultural science graduate of the University of Queensland and investigated the Cytogenetics and crossability of the pigeonpea (Cajanus cajan) with its wild Australian relatives in Atylosia for his PhD. He then spent 2 years as a post-doctoral fellow at ICRISAT in India.
Since the early 1990s he has been producing rust resistant wheat lines with shortened alien chromosome fragments by non-GM methods and providing them to wheat breeding programmes. Together with Dawn Verlin, he is searching the wild relatives of wheat in the genera Triticum, Thinopyrum and Amblyopyrum for new resistance genes against stem, leaf and stripe rusts and providing them in suitable forms to wheat breeding programmes around Australia and the World. This research involves assessing genetic stocks generously provided by overseas donors, isolating the resistance gene to an alien chromosome, and transferring the alien chromosome segment carrying the resistance gene to a wheat chromosome by chromosome engineering.
Ms Dawn Verlin
Dawn is the Higher Education Officer on the GRDC-funded project transferring rust resistance genes into wheat. She has worked previously at the University of Sydney and at the North Terrace Campus. Her cytological expertise extends to genomic in situ hybridization.
Dr Rafiqul Islam
Salinity and water logging tolerance
Rafiqul is the senior member of the lab. He is originally a graduate of the University of Dacca, Bangladesh and achieved international standing for his pioneering work on wheat-barley addition lines for his Ph.D. at the Waite Institute. He has developed a system for haploid wheat production using maize crosses.
Rafiqul is producing amphiploids and addition lines involving Hordeum marinum in the search for genes conferring salinity and water logging tolerance.
History: The Waite Cytogenetics Laboratory
The Cytogenetics Laboratory at the Waite Campus has a long and productive history which started in the 1960s. Former research leaders were Dr Kenneth W. Shepherd (left), who retired from active research in 2000, and the late Professor Colin J. Driscoll (right) (former Head of Department of Agronomy, 1976-1986). The lab maintains an extensive collection of genetic stocks produced by these researchers and from many other laboratories around the world.
Notable Laboratory Achievements
- Wheat-barley addition lines. These valuable genetic stocks are unique in the World. The first and only existing set of wheat lines carrying whole barley chromosomes and telocentric arms was produced by Dr Rafiqul Islam in the 1970s and 1980s. They have been invaluable for mapping molecular-based markers to the Triticeae chromosome groups and have been sent to over 200 laboratories in 30 countries around the World.
- Sticky dough problem and the 1RS chromosome. For many years Dr Ken Shepherd and his team worked on solving the problem of low dough resistance and extensibility associated with the 1BL.1RS translocation chromosome which is used in many wheat cultivars throughout the World. The Cytogenetics Lab has successfully produced a new rust resistant line carrying the SrR gene which has improved dough-mixing qualities. SrR is resistant to all known TTKS (Ug99) stem rust pathotypes.
- Rust resistant wheat lines. New stem rust resistant wheat lines carrying modified chromosome segments with genes Sr26 (Thinopyrum ponticum) (first developed in Canada), Sr32 (first developed in USA) and Sr39 (first developed in Canada) (Triticum speltoides), Sr37, Sr40 (developed in Canada) (Triticum timopheevii) have been produced. Some are being incorporated into wheat breeding programs around Australia. These genes are resistant to all known TTKS (Ug99) pathotypes.
- International: Rust Research
The Cereal Cytogenetics Laboratory has been privileged to be invited to participate in the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative. The BGRI is currently undertaking a World-wide project to produce durable resistant wheat cultivars against pathotypes of the stem rust originally known as Ug99 (now TTKS). Our stem rust resistant lines are being shared with International researchers with the goal of protecting the food supply of the World’s poorest people.
- National: Rust Research in Wheat and Oats
- Professor Robert Park, University of Sydney, Plant Breeding Institute, Cobbitty
- Dr Peng Zhang, University of Sydney, Plant Breeding Institute, Cobbitty
- Dr Harbans Bariana, University of Sydney, Plant Breeding Institute, Cobbitty
- Drs Rohit Mago and Jeff Ellis, F.R.S., CSIRO Plant Industry, Canberra
- Dr Hugh Wallwork and team, SARDI, Waite Campus
- Dr Michael Francki, Dept of Agriculture, Western Australia
- Drs Pamela Zwer, Taing Aung, Phil Davies and Parminder Sidhu, SARDI, Waite Campus
- National: Salinity and water logging tolerance
- Dr Tim Colmer, Imran Malik and Sharmin Islam, University of Western Australia
Past Members/Students: Where are they now?
- Dr Robert Koebner, CropGen International
- Dr Ratna Anugrahwati, Faculty of Agriculture, Mataram, Lombok, Indonesia
- Dr Richard Leach, Urrbrae Agricultural High School, Adelaide
- Dr Imtiaz Khan, University of Peshawar, Pakistan
For information about studying in this field please visit our Student Services page.