Improving chickpea productivity by enhancing nodulation under acidic and low N conditions

This project will be awarded through ANU, in partnership with the NSW Department of Primary Industries. This project aims to is to increase chickpea nitrogen fixation by understanding the major fixation restricting factors at low pH and enhancing tolerance to acid soils through genetic engineering of chickpea.

More about the project

Chickpea productivity under acid soils is partly limited by poor nodulation and nitrogen fixation under acid soil conditions. This is due to the reduced survival and infection of rhizobia but also by plant-mediated mechanisms.

The objective of this project is to increase chickpea nitrogen fixation and soil N legacy in acid soils by understanding the major factors restricting chickpea nodulation at low pH and enhancing tolerance to acid soils through selection and directed evolution of rhizobia and through genetic engineering of chickpea. We will investigate the mechanism of acid tolerance of nodulation and aim to improve nodulation by targeted gene editing in chickpea. Directed evolution of rhizobia under acid soil conditions will be used to accelerate the selection of strains with better acid tolerance at the same time as improved ability to fix nitrogen for the host. The long term aim of the project is to increase nitrogen fixation and nitrogen use efficiency of chickpea under challenging and low N soil conditions to allow reduction of N fertiliser use.

Project focus areas will include

  • Assessment and development of multiplex gene editing
  • Determination of the efficiency of multiplex gene editing and testing approaches to maximise efficiency
  • Characterisation of gene edited plants for alterations in the trait of interest and testing for any unintended effects
  • The student will learn modern biotechnology techniques and work with gene edited plants in greenhouse and field conditions.

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Project supervisor

Ulrike Mathesius the heads up the Division of Plant Sciences at the Australian National University and leads the Mathesius Group. She is also a Chief Investigator in the ARC Training Centre for Future Crop Development.

Ulli’s research focuses on root microbe interactions and symbionts to parasites. Ulli won the 2013 Fenner Medal awarded by the ARC for research in biology (excluding the biomedical sciences) for outstanding early-career researchers under the age of 40.

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