Investigating the nitrogen and phosphorus requirements of psyllium (Plantago ovata), an emerging food and pharmaceutical crop

Plantago ovata or psyllium, is an emerging crop species in Australia. It is the source of psyllium husk, a dietary fibre-rich material used as health supplements and in the production of gluten-free food. 

Almost all psyllium is grown in India, however, production beyond small-holder producers is rare and little is known about its nutrient requirements which are needed to expand to larger scale production, with almost no research into growth performance related to Australian soils. 

In this project you will conduct greenhouse experiments to learn about the nitrogen and phosphorus requirements of P. ovata. A dose-response experiment of a range of nitrogen concentrations will help guide us in identifying the optimal N application for farmers. You will also test the response of P. ovata to soil phosphorus with and without arbuscular mycorrhizae (AMF) present. AMF are symbiotic fungi that supply difficult-to-capture nutrients like phosphorus to the plant, but little is known about their importance for P. ovata. You will determine the effect that these treatments have on biomass production, photosynthesis, seed yield, seed quality, and psyllium husk quality.

Project supervisors

For this project you will work with Dr James Cowley and Dr Matthias Salomon, two postdoctoral researchers who have expertise in the food and health aspects of Plantago and soil nutrition and AMF, respectively, as well as Professor Rachel Burton, Head of the Department of Food Science. The work will also be conducted in collaboration with the Frank Wise Institute for Tropical Agriculture in Kununurra, Western Australia and there is scope to visit the institute during the project.

*This project may be eligible for a $5000 student scholarship. Please contact the project supervisors for details and to express your interest.

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