Is there a link between embryo size, root architecture and drought stress in barley?

Developing crops that can withstand hot and dry climates is becoming increasingly important worldwide.

A key component of drought stress tolerance is root architecture, meaning the density, size and overall structure of the plant’s root network. Variation in root architecture and the speed of root growth influences how plants access water and nutrients available in the soil, essential for the plant above ground to survive and thrive.

A recent study identified genetic associations between the yield of wheat in drought-stressed fields and the architecture of initial roots developed, as well as embryo size. This research project will explore whether the same associations exist in barley.

This project will develop your ability to design and run controlled experiments, undertake a population screen, perform tissue sampling and dissection, data analysis, RNA extraction and gene expression studies with qPCR, and integrate fundamental laboratory results with real-world agronomic data.

As a researcher on this project you will be part of the Australian Plant Breeding Academy, a new collaboration between the University of Adelaide and Australian Grain Technologies.

Recommended reading:
Rebetzke, G. J., et al. "Genotypic variation and covariation in wheat seedling seminal root architecture and grain yield under field conditions." Theoretical and Applied Genetics (2022): 1-18.

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


Dr. Laura Wilkinson – Plant Breeding Research Fellow in the School of Agriculture, Food and Wine and the Australian Plant Breeding Academy. Her area of expertise is flowering and grain development, and she works on novel crops and new traits of interest to the Australian grains industry.

Paul Telfer – Barley Breeder with Australian Grain Technologies. Paul’s knowledge spans grain yield, agronomics, disease performance, malting quality and application of the latest statistical and genomic tools. His farming background drives his passion for agriculture and delivering improved tools to the Australian agricultural sector.

Research areas: Agricultural Science

Tagged in Honours projects - Agricultural science, Honours projects - Laura Wilkinson, Honours projects - Paul Telfer