LABORATORY OF PLANT PHYSIOLOGY AND BIOPHYSICS
Our research addresses fundamental questions relevant to the water and mineral relations of plants. Plant biomass is inextricably tied to mineral nutrients and water: increases in crop production depend fundamentally on increased nutrient and water use. On a global scale, agriculture accounts for roughly 70% of our water consumption, most of which is lost via transpiration from the leaves of crops. Over 60% of otherwise ‘fertile’ areas around the world, including parts of Australia, Southeast Asia, China, and the corn and wheat belts United States, are now fundamentally dependent on mineral fertilization and irrigation. Water and mineral stress, and toxic salinization of soils are the most important factors restricting vegetative plant growth and crop yield worldwide. Addressing these pressures on crop production will be an essential step to averting the pending crisis in food and water security we face over the next 20 years.
Ongoing interests of the Laboratory cover a range of topics, including stomatal guard cells, which serve as the primary defence of the plant against evaporative water loss, the biophysical and regulatory mechanisms controlling ion transport across cellular membranes, the coordination of membrane traffic and transport in cell expansion, and the genetics of nutrient-driven development. Next-generation sequencing technologies are used to investigate gene regulation in model plants, including those adapted to drought and salinity. In addition, we are exploring ways of developing synthetic biological engineering to find new solutions to related problems such as water desalinisation and photosynthetic carbon capture. Finally, the laboratory has generated over the years a number of computational tools, software and molecular biological resources. Many of these are available to the scientific community either free of charge or at the cost of handling and postage.