Associate Professor Christopher Ford

Associate Professor Christopher Ford
 Position Associate Professor
 Org Unit School of Agriculture, Food and Wine
 Telephone +61 8 8313 7386
 Location Floor/Room 4.38 ,  Wine Innovation Central ,   Waite
  • Biography/ Background

    I have been lecturing in the area of Oenology since 2001; before that I held a number of post-doctoral research positions within Australia and the UK. My first degree was obtained in 1984 from Hatfield Polytechnic, and in 1988 I received a DPhil. from the University of Sussex for work in the biochemistry of nitrogen fixation. This led to a postdoctoral position at the National Institute for Medical Research at Mill Hill, in London, where I worked on the replication of influenza viruses. In 1990 I moved with my partner to Adelaide, where we have remained to this day, increasing our footprint on this wide brown land with two daughters and sundry mongrel dogs.
  • Teaching Interests

    In 2013 I was appointed to the position of Deputy Head of School (Learning and Teaching), with oversight of the three undergraduate and two postgraduate coursework programs offered by the School.

    I am presently the coordinator for the Level 2 course Animal and Plant Biochemistry, taught to all undergraduate students at Waite and Roseworthy campuses. My teaching emphasises the active nature of learning, and I have developed my teaching methods and the material presented to reflect this.


  • Research Interests

    Over the past 10 years we have been working largely in the following area: 

    • Developing an understanding of organic acid metabolism in plants. Within my laboratory, and in collaboration with Assoc. Prof. Kathleen Soole (The Flinders University of South Australia) and Dr Seth DeBolt, (University of Kentucky) we are investigating the mechanisms by which developing grape berries metabolise ascorbic, tartaric and malic acids. To achieve this we are using a range of biochemical, molecular and metabolic approaches in whole berries and cell suspension systems.

      I have had past reseach engagement with the characterisation of glucosyltransferase enzymes (GTases) involved in plant secondary metabolism. I started working in this area in 1995 when a post-doc with Prof. Peter Hoj; we identified and characterised the anthocyanidin Gtase from grapevines. In 2006, Prof. Gideon Davies at The University of York and his group successfully resolved the three-dimensional structure of this enzyme - the outcome of a huge amount of work over the previous three years. In 2014 I began co-supervising PhD student Lieke van der Hulst (principal supervisor Kerry Wilkinson) on a project to examine GTs associated with the formation of glycosides in grapes affected by smoking.

      We have also undertaken research aimed at unravelling the outcomes of extended maceration (EM) in the production of red wines. During red wine production, the period of contact between berry skins and juice, must or wine may be extended beyond the normal periods to provide additional properties to the finished wine. We hope to both understand the processes and be in a position to advise the wine industry on strategies for achieving desired wine outcomes.

      Research within my lab is currently funded by the Australian Grape and Wine Research and Development Corporation.

    Current CMF Lab members:

    David Contreras - PhD student

    Jenny Bellon - PhD student (based at AWRI)

    Yong Jia - PhD student

    Emily Higginson - PhD student (based at CSIRO)

    Lieke van der Hulst (co-supervised with Kerry Wilkinson)

    Past PhD students: Louise Robinson; Seth DeBolt; Susan Wheeler; Lin Lin Low, Iraj Tavassolian, Venetia Joscelyne, Vicky Harris, Vanessa Melino, Erminawati Wuriatmo, Alana Capaldo, Crystal Sweetman, Crista Burbidge, Cyd Yonker, Martin Mendez, Tony Ogbeide, Amy Koschella, Darren Wong.

    Past Honours students: Madeleine Griffith; Belinda Sinclair; Christobelle Anderson; Guy Lyons; Sam Gavan; Sam Hambour; Kelly Wellington, Katie Grieve, Greg Lane, Sid Pachare, Craig Turbull, Yue Cue.

    Past Masters students - Mario Mazza; Jayendra Patel; Chandra Rongala, Steve Hicks.

    Past post-docs: Matt Hayes, Crystal Sweetman.

  • Publications

    Ford, C.M. and Høj, P.B. (1998). Multiple glucosyltransferase activities in the grapevine Vitis vinifera. Aus. J. Grape and Wine Research 4, 10-20.


    Haselgrove, L., Botting, D., van Heeswijck, R., Høj, P.B., Dry, P.R., Ford, C.M. and Iland, P.G. (2000). Canopy microclimate and berry composition: The effect of bunch exposure on the phenolic composition of Vitis vinifera L cv. Shiraz grape berries. Aus. J Grape and Wine Research 6, 141-149.


    El-Kereamy, A., Chervin, C, Souquet, J.-M., Moutounet, M., Monje, M.C., Nepveu, F., Mondies, H., Ford, C.M., van Heeswijck, R. and Roustan, J.-P. (2002) Ethanol triggers grape gene expression leading to anthocyanin accumulation during berry ripening. Plant Science 163, 449-454.


    El-Kereamy, A., Chervin, C., Roustan, J.-P., Cheynier, V., Souquet, J.-M., Moutounet, M., Raynal, J., Ford, C., Latche, A., Pech, J.-C. and Bouzayen, M. (2003) Exogenous ethylene stimulates the long-term expression of genes related to anthocyanin biosynthesis in grape berries. Physiologia Plantarum 119, 175-182.


    DeBolt, S., Hardie, W.J., Tyerman, S.D. and Ford, C.M. (2004) Composition and synthesis of raphide crystals and druse crystals in berries of Vitis vinifera L. cv. Cabernet Sauvignon: Ascorbic acid as precursor for both oxalic and tartaric acids as revealed by radiolabelling studies. Aus. J. Grape and Wine Research 10, 134-142.


    Mookerjee, S., Guerin, J., Collins, G., Ford, C. and Sedgley, M. (2005) Paternity analysis using microsatellite markers to identify pollen donors in an olive grove. Theor. Appl. Genet. 111, 1174-1182.


    Offen, W., Martinez-Fleites, C., Yang, M., Kiat-Lim, E., Davis, B.G., Tarling, C.A., Ford, C.M., Bowles, D.J. and Davies, G.J. (2006) Structure of a flavonoid glucosyltransferase reveals the basis for plant natural product modification. The EMBO Journal 25, 1396–1405.


    DeBolt, S., Cook, D.R. and Ford, C.M. (2006) L-Tartaric acid synthesis from vitamin C in higher plants. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. (USA) 103, 5608-5613.


    Franks, T.K., Powell, K.S., Choimes, S., Marsh, E., Iocco, P., Sinclair, B.J., Ford, C.M., van Heeswijck, R.J. (2006) Consequences of transferring three sorgum genes for secondary metabolite (cyanogenic glucoside) biosynthesis to grapevine hairy roots. Transgenic Research 15, 181 -195.


    DeBolt, S., Melino, V.J. and Ford, C.M. (2007) Ascorbate as a biosynthetic precursor in plants. Ann. Bot. 99, 3-9.


    Robinson, L.H., Healy, P., Stewart, D.C., Eglinton, J.K., Ford, C.M. and Evans, D.E. (2007) The identification of a barley haze active protein that influences beer haze stability: The genetic basis of a barley malt haze active protein. J. Cereal Sci. 45, 335-342.


    Harris, V., Ford, C.M., Jiranek, V. and Grbin, P.R. Dekkera and Brettanomyces growth and utilisation of hydroxycinnamic acids in synthetic media. (2008) Appl. Microbiol. Biotech. 78, 997-1006.


    DeBolt, S., Ristic, R., Iland, P and Ford, C.M. (2008) Altered light interception reduces grape berry weight and modulates organic acid biosynthesis during development. Hort. Sci. 43, 957-961.


    Wirthensohn, M.G., Chin, W.L., Franks, T., Baldock, G., Ford, C.M. and Sedgley, M. Characterising the flavour phenotypes of almond (Prunus dulcis Mill.) kernels. J. Hort. Sci. Biotechnol. 83, 462-468.


    Franks, T.K., Yadollahi, A., Wirthensohn, M.G., Guerin, J.G., Kaiser, B.N., Sedgley, M. and Ford, C.M. (2008) A seed-coat cyanohydrin glucosyltransferase is associated with bitterness in almond (Prunus dulcis Mill) kernels. Functional Plant Biology 35, 236-246.


    Low, L.L. O’Neill, B., Ford, C., Godden, J., Gishen, M. and Colby, C. (2008) Economic evaluation of alternative technologies for tartrate stabilisation of wines. Int. J. Food Sci. Technol. 43, 1201-1216.


    Harris, V., Ford, C., Jiranek, V. and Grbin, P. (2009) Survey of enzyme activity responsible for phenolic off-flavour production by Dekkera  and Brettanomyces yeast. Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology. Appl. Microbiol. Biotech. 81, 1117-1127.


    Wheeler, S., Loveys, B., Ford, C. and Davies, C. The relationship between the expression of abscisic acid biosynthesis genes, accumulation of abscisic acid and the promotion of Vitis vinifera L. berry ripening by abscisic acid. Aus. J. Grape Wine Res. 15, 195-204.


    Wu, S.-B., Tavassolian, I., Rabiei, G., Hunt, P., Wirthensohn, M., Gibson, J.P., Ford, C.M. and Sedgely, M. (2009) Mapping SNP-anchored genes using high-resolution melting analysis in almond. Mol. Genet. Genomics. Published online 14 June 2009. Doi: 10.1111/j.1755-0238.2009.00045.x


    Melino, V.J., Soole, K.L. and Ford, C.M. A method for determination of fruit-derived ascorbic, tartaric, oxalic and malic acids, and its application to the study of ascorbic acid catabolism in grapevines. Aus. J. Grape Wine Res. Published online 21 July 09. Doi: 10.1111/j.1755-0238.2009.00062.x


    Sweetman, C, Deluc, L.G., Cramer, G.R., Ford, C.M. and Soole, K.L. (2009) Regulation of Malate Metabolism in Grape Berry and Other Developing Fruits. Phytochemistry 70, 1329-1344.


    Melino, V.J., Soole, K.L. and Ford, C.M. (2009) Ascorbate metabolism and the developmental demand for tartaric and oxalic acids in ripening grape berries. BMC Plant Biology 9, 145.


    Harris, V., Jiranek, V., Ford, C.M. and Grbin, P.R. (2009) Inhibitory effect of hydroxycinnamic acids on Dekkera spp. Appl. Microbiol. Biotech. DOI 10.1007/s00253-009-2352-6 Published online 02 December 2009.


    Tavassolian, I, Rabiei, G., Gregory, D., Mnejja, M., Wirthensohn, M., Hunt, P.W., Gibson, J.P., Ford, C.M., Sedgley, M. and Wu, S. (2010) Constrction of an almond linkage map in an Australian population Nonpareil x Lauranne. BMC Genomics. 11, 551-561.

    Capaldo, A., Walker, M.E., Ford, C.M. and Jiranek V. (2010) b-Glucoside metabolism in Oenococcus oeni: Cloning and characterisation of the phospho-b-glucosidase bglD. Food Chemistry. 125, 476-482.


    Capaldo, A., Walker, M.E., Ford, C.M. and Jiranek V. (2011) b-Glucoside metabolism in Oenococcus oeni: Cloning and characterisation of the phospho-b-glucosidase CelD. J Mol. Catal. B 69, 27-34.


    Melino, V.J., Hayes, M.A., Soole, K.L. and Ford, C.M. (2011) The role of light in the regulation of ascorbate metabolism during berry development in the cultivated grapevine Vitis vinifera L. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture. 91(9), 1712-1721.


    Sweetman, C., Wong, D.C.J., Ford, C.M. and Drew, D.P. (2012) Transcriptome analysis at four developmental stages of grape berry (Vitis vinifera cv. Shiraz) provides insights into regulated and coordinated gene expression. BMC Genomics 13, 691.


    Mendez-Costabel, M.P., Wilkinson, K.L., Bastian, S.E.P., Jordans, C., McCarthy, M... Ford, C.M. and Dokoozlian, N. (2013) Seasonal and regional variation of green aroma compounds in commercial vineyards of Vitis vinifera L. Merlot in California. American Journal of Enology and Viticulture, 64:4, 430-436.


     Mendez-Costabel, M.P., Wilkinson, K.L., Bastian, S.E.P., Jordans, C., McCarthy, M... Ford, C.M. and Dokoozlian, N (2013) Effects of winter rainfall on yield components and fruit green aromas of Vitis vinifera L. Merlot in California.  Australian Journal of Grape and Wine Research doi: 10.1111/ajgw.12060.


    Mendez-Costabel, M.P., Wilkinson, K.L., Bastian, S.E.P., Jordans, C., McCarthy, M... Ford, C.M. and Dokoozlian, N (2014) Effect of increased irrigation and additional nitrogen fertilisation on the concentration of green aroma compounds in Vitis vinifera L. Merlot fruit and wine..  Australian Journal of Grape and Wine Research . doi: 10.1111/ajgw.12062


    Wong, D.C.J., Crystal Sweetman, C., Drew, D.P. and Ford, C.M. VTCdb: A gene co-expression database for the crop species Vitis vinifera (grapevine). BMC Genomics 14:882 DOI: 10.1186/10.1186/1471-2164-14-882


    Scott, E.; Wuryatmo, E.; Able, A. and Ford, C. Effect of volatile citral on the development of blue mould, green mould and sour rot on navel orange. Accepted by Australasian Plant Pathology, January 2014


    Ford, C.M.(2012) The biochemistry of organic acids in the grape. In: H. Geros, M. Chavez and S. Delrot (eds). The Biochemistry of the Grape Berry. Bentham eBooks, DOI: 10.2174/97816080536051120101.

  • Professional Interests

    In addition to teaching and research activities, I am a Postgraduate Coordinator for research students within the Wine Science and Business group. In May 2006 I was appointed Associate Dean (Postgraduate) for the Faculty of Sciences, with responsibility for postgraduate coursework programs and Higher Degree (Research) student matters within the faculty. Since 2009 this role has focussed exclusively on HDR. Between 2007 and 2012 I was an Associate Editor of the Australian Journal of Grape and Wine Research.


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Entry last updated: Thursday, 13 Feb 2020

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