Defining root exudates including signalling molecules released by plant roots for nitrogen acquisition in Australian crops


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This joint PhD project is based at the University of Melbourne with a 12-month stay at the Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

The key questions of this project are:

  • What are the key signalling molecules for N acquisition for the crops wheat and barley?
  • What are the key factors that drive the biochemical signals in root exudates of selected plant species?
  • How do signalling molecules for N acquisition change over the different growth stages of the crops?
  • How do signalling molecules for N acquisition impact the composition and functions of rhizosphere microbiomes?

The details

Plant-microbe interactions are intricate processes that involve underground signalling and communication, followed by modifications in the plant’s biological, morphological and biochemical components. Some proteins, lipids, small RNA’s, and metabolites which are exchanged between plants and microbes are considered signalling molecules for the ‘dialogue’ of plant-microbes.

Multiple microbes associated with host plants are known to positively influence plant growth through the production of growth-regulating hormones, enhancing plant nutrition, improving the root system architecture of host plants, and protecting plants from biotic or abiotic stresses.

Harnessing the new knowledge of the biochemical and genetic basis of plant-microbe interactions in the rhizosphere is a promising direction to innovate the design of new controlled-release fertilizer coatings for improved crop nitrogen (N) acquisition in agricultural ecosystems.

This project will define the biochemical signalling molecules released and sensed by selected crops (e.g. cotton, wheat or barley) for N acquisition and their roles in regulating soil N transformations. These signalling molecules (in particular, those relevant to N acquisition) can be used to inform the design of new fertilisers and inhibitors.

The graduate researcher of this project is: Heber Dias de Oliveira

Supervision team

University of Melbourne supervisors:
Professor Ute Roessner (primary contact for UoM-based student), Professor Deli Chen

Shanghai Jiao Tong University supervisor:
Professor Dabing Zhang (primary contact with SJTU-based student)

First published on 29 August 2022.

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