""Discovering the genes needed for developing crops with enhanced salt tolerance will be the focus of research of one promising early-career researcher to commence in 2017.

The Australian Research Council (ARC) will be providing $71.7 million for 200 new research projects under the Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) scheme, announced on 1 November 2016 as part of the ARC Major Grants Announcement.

Dr Jayakumar Bose from The University of Adelaide will receive $372,000 to lead a project that aims to discover novel mechanisms for plant salt tolerance.

Yield losses in crop plants are linked to the effects of salt stress on their chloroplasts—the photosynthetic organelle within plant tissue—but some plants maintain growth and yield irrespective of high soil salinity. This project will use biophysics to characterise mutants deficient in targeted chloroplast transporters, comparing a model salt-sensitive glycophyte and closely related salt-loving halophyte.

The expected outcome of the new research is to discover novel targets for improving crop plant salt tolerance, which would have enormous potential impact on Australian agriculture.

“Soil salinity is a major threat to agriculture throughout the world,” says Dr Bose. “Given the narrow nature of genetic diversity for salt tolerance within crops, salt-tolerant genes from naturally salt-loving plants introduced into traditional crops have major potential as a profitable source.”

“In particular, the chloroplasts may be the source of salt tolerance. I intend to use a model salt-sensitive plant and a closely related salt-loving plant to discover ion-transport genes that allow chloroplasts to maintain light utilisation and CO2 into food during salt stress.”

“It is an absolute honour to receive this DECRA. The extensive research and mentoring support available within The University of Adelaide and the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology will allow me to pin down the genes that confer salt tolerance to the photosynthetic machinery of plants—which will lead to benefits for farmers and plant breeders through the development of crop plants with enhanced salt tolerance.”

Dr Bose’s work to date has focused on the field of plant stress physiology—understanding how ion transport mechanisms govern plant adaptive responses to salt and aluminium stresses by combining state-of-the-art biophysical, molecular, intracellular ion, and reactive oxygen species imaging techniques. 

The Discovery Early Career Researcher Award scheme is a separate element of the Discovery Program. The DECRA scheme provides more focused support for researchers and creates more opportunities for early-career researchers in both teaching and research, and research-only positions.

The objectives of the DECRA scheme are to:

  • support excellent basic and applied research by early-career researchers
  • advance promising early career researchers and promote enhanced opportunities for diverse career pathways
  • enable research and research training in high quality and supportive environments
  • expand Australia’s knowledge base and research capability
  • enhance the scale and focus of research in the Science and Research Priorities.

 

Image: Dr Jayakumar Bose.
Image courtesy: The University of Adelaide.