Abstract & Bio
 Title: “Can we breed for efficient root system for water and nutrient uptake in crops?"


Kadambot Siddique
Hackett Professor of Agriculture Chair and Director,
The University of Western Australia Institute of Agriculture,
The University of Western Australia


Plant survival and fitness are dependent on root system architecture (RSA). In Australia, root systems of major agricultural crops are poorly adapted to soils that mostly have poor water holding capacity and nutrient deficiencies. Decreasing water availability due to drying and variable climate in the Australia’s grain-belt exacerbates these soil-related stresses. Development of future crop genotypes with efficient root system for enhanced abiotic stress tolerance is essential for improved crop adaptation. Root traits that overcome abiotic constraints are critical to maintaining structural and functional properties, and are considered first order targets in breeding programmes for rainfed environments. Root traits, such as deep root systems, increased root density in subsoil, increased root hair length and density and / or xylem diameters, may contribute to enhanced water and nutrient uptake. Narrow-leafed lupin genotypes with increased capacity to take up water from deep soil horizons were linked to increased yield potential; similar relationship exists in wheat, soybean and upland rice. Modification of RSA could contribute to improvements of desirable agronomic traits such as yield, drought tolerance, and resistance to nutrient deficiencies. Wide-scale use of root-related genetic information in breeding programs relies on accurate phenotyping of relatively large mapping populations. Such large-scale phenotyping of root-related traits remain the most important issue in translating recent physiological and genetic advances in understanding the role of root systems in improved adaptation to abiotic stress and enhanced productivity of agricultural crops.



Professor Kadambot Siddique has 30 years’ experience in agricultural research, teaching and management in both Australia and overseas. He has developed a national and international reputation in agricultural science especially in the fields of crop physiology, production agronomy, farming systems, genetic resources, breeding research in cereal, grain and pasture legumes and oilseed crops. Professor Siddique’s publications are considered as key papers in the above fields and are widely cited. These publications include numerous highly cited papers on adaptation, physiology and genetics of crops to dryland environments. Professor Siddique has conducted research on adaptation of crops to water deficits and the phenological, morphological, physiological, biochemical and genetic traits that enable crops to cope with various abiotic stresses. As a result of Professor Siddique’s personal research and with others with whom he collaborates, Australia has become one of the major grain legume exporting nations in the world. His pioneering research on chickpea has contributed enormously to the Australian chickpea industry which is currently valued at more than $300 million per annum.