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The Plant Accelerator
Helli Meinecke
Managing Director
The University of Adelaide
Adelaide SA 5005 Australia

Telephone: +61 8 8313 0808
Facsimile: +61 8 8313 0828

 

High Resolution Plant Phenomics Centre
Geoff Buckmaster
Business Operations Coordinator
CSIRO Agriculture
Canberra ACT 2601 Australia

Telephone: +61 2 6218 3430
Facsimile: +61 2 6246 4975

Alyssa Weirman
Operations Co-Ordinator
Australian National University
Canberra ACT 2601 Australia

Telephone: +61 2 6125 8319

About Us

Plant Scientists have gained vast knowledge about the genetics of various crop species during recent years. It has become increasingly easier and cheaper to sequence and map genomes, giving scientists access to information unimaginable just a few decades ago. However, a bottleneck has developed in capitalising on this information.

The APPF has been developed to relieve the 'phenotyping bottleneck' which has, until now, limited our ability to capitalise on substantial government and industry investments already made in plant functional genomics and modern breeding technologies.

The Vision - Feeding the World - Why Plant Phenomics - History

The Vision

field sensorsThe APPF is a national facility, available to all Australian plant scientists, offering access to infrastructure that is not available at this scale or breadth in the public sectors anywhere else in the world. The APPF is based around automated image analysis of the phenotypic characteristics of extensive germplasm collections and large breeding, mapping and mutant populations. It exploits recent advances in robotics, imaging and computing to enable sensitive, high throughput analyses to be made of plant growth and function. New technologies are being developed to ensure that the APPF remains at the international forefront of plant science. Research networks and established pathways to market ensure outcomes are delivered for the long-term benefit for Australian scientists and primary producers.

The APPF provides:

  • Sophisticated controlled environments for growing plants across a range if climatic conditions.
  • Glasshouse automation technologies to study large populations of plants rapidly and efficiently.
  • Leading-edge digital imaging technologies and sophisticated software to measure plant characteristics and their performance in real time.
  • The capacity to 'scale up' plant performance measurements from the glasshouse to the field.
  • A national focus for scientists to collaborate on key biological and agricultural research problems.
  • A unique and integrated system for the rapid capture of genetic resource information and its shared use for plant science and agriculture, both within Australia and internationally.

Applications include:

  • Functional genomics of model and crop species
  • Screening of mutant or mapping populations, screening for natural variation in diverse populations
  • Unravelling signal transduction and environmental interactions
  • Climate change research
  • Development of novel products for healthy foods
  • Development of sustainable practices in agriculture
  • Maintenance of biodiversity and the development of new strategies for the remediation of degraded landscapes
  • Using plants and biofactories to produce new pharmaceuticals and other products for industry

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Feeding the World

grainsWith the global population expected to exceed 9 billion by 2050, cereal grain production must double to meet projected global food demand.  Currently global grain production is only just meeting consumption and a transformational advance in yield is required. The global issues are even more pertinent to Australia which faces long periods of drought and increasing salinity undermining farm productivity.

Research at the Australian Plant Phenomics Facility is leading to the development of new and improved crops, healthier food, more sustainable agricultural practices, improved maintenance and regeneration of biodiversity and the use of crops to develop pharmaceuticals in the face of declining arable land area and the challenges of climate change.

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Why Plant Phenomics?

growth room imagingPlant phenomics is a science that has the power to transform our lives. By exploring how the genetic makeup of an organism determines its appearance, function and performance, phenomics can help us tackle the most pressing challenges of our time – including global food shortages, the demand for alternative fuels, and climate change.

Phenomics data captured at the APPF enables the more rapid discovery of molecular markers and faster germplasm development, aimed at improving crop yields including the tolerance of major crops and other agriculturally important plants to biotic and abiotic stresses such as drought, salinity and a broad spectrum of plant diseases; putting the APPF at the forefront of the race to meet global food demands in the future.

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History

Substantial government and industry investments in recent years have enabled Australia to make numerous advances in plant genomics and modern breeding technologies, but science had hit a bottleneck in its ability to understand and relate the performance of plant species and commercial varieties (the plant phenome) to their genetic make-up.

In 2007, the Australian Government, the ACT Government and the Government of South Australia joined forces with the University of Adelaide, CSIRO Agriculture and the Australian National University to invest in and drive the establishment of Australian Plant Phenomics Facility (APPF). The two nodes of the APPF are strategically located on the campuses of three renowned plant research organisations in Australia to benefit from a world class concentration of expertise in plant and soil science.

The $51M investment was a firm statement underlining a commitment to agricultural R&D in Australia and an acknowledgement of the need for a world-class plant research facility that would provide Australian scientists with a competitive advantage, drive cross-disciplinary research and international collaboration and contribute to bridging public research and agricultural business.

phenotypingThe July 2009 opening of the High Resolution Plant Phenomics Centre (HRPPC) in Canberra was followed by the official opening of The Plant Accelerator in Adelaide in January 2010. The two nodes of the APPF provide state-of-the-art plant phenotyping infrastructure and expertise to Australian and international publicly funded researchers and to commercial organisations enabling them to address and accelerate their research objectives.

We have attracted a superb cross-disciplinary team of experts who have commissioned and now efficiently operate this world-leading facility, whilst continuing to enhance our plant phenomics capabilities. We have developed effective business structures and processes to enable the efficient operation of the APPF and to deliver maximum user benefit.

Furthermore, the APPF team has established strong linkages to research and commercial organisations around the world as well as the European and International Plant Phenomics Networks. In our relatively short time of operation, we have facilitated numerous pilot and large scale plant phenomics experiments for renowned scientists from various Australian and international research organisations and industry, confirming Australia as a world leading plant phenomics hub.

 

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