Award for research unlocking wheat gene pool

Dr Jason Able

Dr Jason Able
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Friday, 1 August 2008

University of Adelaide plant scientist Dr Jason Able has been recognised nationally for his research aimed at increasing genetic diversity in wheat to produce new and improved varieties.

Dr Able has been awarded this year's Peter Goldacre Award by the Australian Society of Plant Scientists, recognising important research by early career researchers (within 10 years of their PhD).

"Given that cereals account for about 70% of the world's food supply, it's imperative that continued improvements are made on today's varieties to be able to feed tomorrow's population," says Dr Able. "But the outcomes are limited by the narrow gene pool available to traditional plant breeding programs.

"We hope our research will lead to the development of specialised wheat seed collections that incorporate new genetic diversity and that, in the future, will support gene discovery, genomics and breeding programs for new higher-performing varieties."

Dr Able's research focuses on understanding the molecular mechanisms that control chromosome pairing and recombination during meiosis in wheat. Meiosis is part of the reproductive process at the cellular level, which is nature's mechanism for controlling genetic diversity within sexually reproducing organisms.

"We want to be able to shift genes of interest from wild relatives of wheat into more user friendly varieties that crop breeders could use in their traditional plant breeding programs," says Dr Able.

"In normal breeding, a cross between these distant relatives and wheat that is grown by farmers would never produce fertile hybrids. However, through understanding what genes and proteins are important during meiosis, we will be able to overcome these barriers and take advantage of this untapped genetic potential."

Dr Able was awarded his PhD in 2001 from the University of Queensland and has since won several research and innovation awards.

He joined the University of Adelaide's School of Agriculture, Food and Wine in 2002 and has attracted more than $1 million in research grants. He now leads a team of research students and a post-doctoral fellow at the Waite Campus and is a member of the Molecular Plant Breeding Cooperative Research Centre. Recently he has established national and international collaborations with the University of Delhi and the John Innes Centre in the UK.

As the Peter Goldacre Award winner, Dr Able will be presented with the medal and give the Goldacre Lecture on his research at the ComBio 2008 conference in Canberra, September 21-25. A paper from this research will be subsequently published in the journal Functional Plant Biology.


Contact Details

Associate Professor Jason Able
Head of Agricultural Science
School of Agriculture, Food and Wine
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 7075
Mobile: +61 459 841 586

Ms Robyn Mills
Media and Communications Officer
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 6341
Mobile: +61 410 689 084