Roots of change, tricking plants to reduce fertiliser needs—3 July 2017

Australian researchers have overcome a critical hurdle in boosting plant performance with limited fertilisation.

Based at the ARC Centre for Excellence in Plant Energy Biology and the Centre for AgriBioscience at La Trobe University, the researchers have boosted plant performance under limited phosphate by targeting genes that regulate phosphate transport in plant roots, resulting in increased phosphate uptake while sidestepping negative effects on plant growth and yield.

The approach overcomes a hurdle encountered by previous attempts to increase plant phosphate uptake, where reduced growth and yield were observed as a result of plants not being able to process the extra phosphate.

By manipulating gene networks to ‘trick’ plants into thinking phosphate is scarce they are able to use this essential nutrient more efficiently, by up to 50 per cent. If translated to crop plants, the findings could save Australian farmers $300 million per year and reduce run-off phosphorous in waterways by 20 per cent.

Professor Jim Whelan, a Chief investigator and Super Science Fellowship recipient at the ARC Centre of Excellence, who led the study, said: “Crops that lacked these negative regulators would require fewer fertiliser applications due to more efficient nutrient acquisition, reducing fertiliser run-off and water pollution. A win-win for farmers’ budgets and the environment.”

The team from the ARC Centre of Excellence and La Trobe University is now collaborating with researchers at China’s Zhejiang University to apply their findings to rice plants.


Media issued by the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology and La Trobe University.


Image: Plant performance is boosted by targeting genes that regulate phosphate transport in the plant root.
Credit: Plant Energy Biology

Original Published Date: 
Monday, July 3, 2017