Table of contents school of plant biology introduction

The Centre for Legumes in Mediterranean Agriculture

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The Centre for Legumes in Mediterranean Agriculture

CLIMA is a Research Centre at The University of Western Australia and has collaborative links with the Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia, CSIRO, Murdoch University and also international organisations. It addresses problems and priorities of the Australian legume industries which it achieves through strategic scientific research and development, linked to an applied base. CLIMA’s research focus includes grain and annual pasture legumes in the following areas:

  • Germplasm development (wide-crosses to introgress desirable traits, pre-emptive breeding and screening for physiological traits, exotic pests and diseases, germplasm collection and characterisation using agronomic, morphological and molecular data, development of core collections and agro-ecological evaluation of crop germplasm).

  • Breeding technologies such as development of double haploids and pollen selection methods.

  • New crop development.

  • Developing varieties with improved adaptation to abiotic (climatic and edaphic) stress.

  • Increasing the value of grain legume products (traditional food and feed markets and special nutritional food and health products).

  • Developing new pasture species for a wide range of soil types and environments.

  • Nitrogen fixation, global warming potential and sustainability of production systems with legumes.

International Linkages

The Centre has built a network of international linkages with standing agreements for research cooperation and exchange of germplasm with several countries and specific project-based linkages with many others (including international agricultural research centres). The Centre intends to further strengthen international linkages with financial support from the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), Australian Research Council (ARC), Council of Grain Grower Organisations (COGGO Ltd) and others.

What can CLIMA offer to Undergraduate and Post-graduate training in legume science?

  • Collaborative partners and associates with diverse skills in basic and applied aspects of legume research and development.

  • Legume related projects in partnership with the industry.

  • Scientists with wide experience and strong linkages with international agricultural centres and national agricultural system (Indian sub-continent, West Asia and North Africa, Central Asian Republic, South America and China).

A selection of the many project ideas developed by CLIMA scientists and associates and available for students to consider as honours or fourth-year projects is presented on the following pages.

For further information contact individual researchers directly or:

Centre for Legumes in Mediterranean Agriculture (CLIMA),

Faculty of Natural & Agricultural Sciences, The University of Western Australia (M080),

35 Stirling Highway, Crawley WA 6009

Phone: 61 8 6488 2505 Fax: 61 8 6488 1140




Room 1.144 CRC Wing; Ph 6488 1903; Email:


My interests are in the variation, genetics and breeding of food, forage and pasture legumes. In a changing climate and with fertilizer costs spiralling, legumes will increasingly return into grain production systems to underpin long-term sustainability through nitrogen fixation in association with rhizobium reducing the need for synthetic fertilizer produced from fossil fuel, and through their action as a disease and weed break for cereals. I am happy to supervise students in aspects of legume improvement, often co-supervised with others, in aspects of the reliability of production. These include, for example, legume variability in response to major biotic and abiotic stresses, seed quality and nitrogen fixation efficiency and all aspects of broadening the genetic base of legume improvement.

Res. AssT. Prof. Janine Croser

Room 1.141 CLIMA wing; Ph: 6488 7951 Email:

Biotech & BioFuels
Research topics currently available for Honours/4th year projects in 2011:

  • Be part of the solution to the peak oil crisis - Camelina sativa is an alternative oilseed with very high levels of Omega-3 and promise as a low-input biofuel feedstock. We have imported a range of exciting lines from Russia which need to be further characterized. We can offer projects in C. sativa related to genetics (molecular mapping; genome size determination), plant breeding (crossing and mutation for improving oil qualities), agronomy (classical field trials to determine performance of lines under diverse growing conditions) and biotechnology (development of doubled haploids). We also need to further explore its application in industry, cosmetics and healthfoods and can provide targeted projects in these areas.

NB. Camelina was the research subject of the WA regional finalist of the BioGENEius competition for 2010.

  • Help us apply our research to the farmgate– we have recently developed world-first protocols for doubled haploid development in chickpea. We now need your help to improve the application of the protocol to a wide range of genotypes in order to deliver the technology to the breeding program. Training will be provided in genetics, molecular biology, tissue culture, microscopy and flow cytometry. Excellent opportunities for publication.

  • Speeding the breeding’ - Developing biotechnology techniques for the exciting new perennial pasture species tedera - this project provides the opportunity to build upon our current research endeavours in tedera and publish your research in a high quality journal. Training will be provided in genetics, molecular biology, tissue culture, microscopy and flow cytometry. In collaboration with Assoc. Prof. Megan Ryan and Dr Daniel Real (DAFWA)

  • Test tube breeding…In vitro flowering of a range of legumes – flowering and seed set can be induced in vitro from stem cuttings without rooting. This enables us to fast-track breeding by reducing generation time. Factors such as temperature, light spectrum and length of exposure and culture medium are all important in protocol development. An excellent opportunity to develop a protocol with significant industry outcomes within the timeframe of a fourth year project. In collaboration with legume breeders at DAFWA and DPI Victoria.

  • Why use exotics when the locals may be just as good? Tissue culture of native legumes – investigate the potential for using biotechnology tools for plant improvement in some of Australia’s native pasture legumes – especially those with promise for adaptation to broad acre farming systems (spp. Cullen, Kennedia, etc.). In collaboration with Dr Megan Ryan and Mr Richard Bennett (CSIRO).

If you are interested in any of these topics, or have suggestions related to these areas, please send me an email or drop by my office for a chat.

Dr Ping Si

Room 1.159 CLIMA wing; Ph: 6488 1233; Email:

Herbicides are one of very important elements of modern agriculture. Herbicide tolerant crops have been widely grown in the world since 1990s. Improving herbicide tolerance in grain legumes is of paramount importance for the inclusion of legumes in the crop rotations for a sustainable agriculture. I have used two methods of induced mutation and germplasm screening to successfully improve herbicide tolerance in lupins (Si et al., 2009 and Si et al., 2006). I have a number of project ideas for students who are interested in developing knowledge and skills in plant breeding and plant physiology, in particular the understanding of herbicide tolerance in plants.

  • Variation in tolerance to carfentrazone-ethyl, a potential new herbicide for lupins

This project determines the magnitude of genotypic variation on carfentrazone-ethyl tolerance in lupin germplasm.

  • Cross tolerance to common herbicides in two chickpea lines

Chickpea tolerant to metribuzin have been identified. This project aims to assess whether these chickpea have tolerance to other herbicides.

  • Physiological basis of 3 lupin genotypes with three different tolerance to metribuzin

Metribuzin affects photosynthesis of plants. Lupin genotypes (mutants and wild types) with different levels of tolerance may have different photosynthetic rates when metribuzin is applied.

  • Environmental impact on herbicide tolerance in grain legumes

Tolerance to herbicides is affected by environmental conditions. This project examines how temperature affects the level of tolerance in grain legumes.
Si P. Buirchell, B. and Sweetingham, MW. (2009) Improved metribuzin tolerance in narrow-leafed lupin (Lupinus angustifolius L.) by induced mutation and field selection. Field Crops Research, 113, 282-286
Si, P. Sweetingham, MW. Buirchell, B. Bowran, D. and Piper T. (2006) Genotypic variation on metribuzin tolerance in narrow-leafed lupin (Lupinus angustifolius L.). Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture, 46, 85-91
Dr Jon Clements

Room 1.149 CLIMA wing; Ph: 6488 1342; Email:

Lupin germplasm development, breeding and wide crossing

Lupins are a major grain legume crop grown in Australia because they are a valuable grain export and the crop contributes to farming systems as a nitrogen fixing species and for other benefits such as providing a disease break for cereals. You can use lupins as a model crop to explore plant physiological and breeding-related honours projects. Here are some ideas.

Specific project ideas:

  • Physiology of high early vigour in L. angustifolius. Germplasm and breeding lines have been selected in L. angustifolius with more rapid growth rates compared with current cultivars. There may advantages conferred by this characteristic in terms of weed competition, better use of soil moisture, more reliable harvest height and higher yields. This project will help determine why early vigour occurs and will incorporate glasshouse studies and plant physiological data.

  • Water use efficiency of L. mutabilis compared to narrow-leafed lupin. Pod set in L. mutabilis has been variable and this is possibly because the species, which comes from the Andean regions of South America, may have different water use sensitivities compared to the other crop lupin species. This project will contribute valuable knowledge to the crop improvement program in this species. It will use gravimetric water use experiments using instruments that measure gas exchange and leaf water potential. Several genotypes of L. mutabilis will be screened to investigate if variation exists within the species.

  • Heterosis in L. mutabilis. L. mutabilis has been shown to be a moderately outcrossing lupin species. It is likely that heterosis exists and this project will investigate the level of heterosis in F1 plants of crosses of L. mutabilis genotypes. Exploitation of heterosis for this potential crop plant could be investigated as part of the research and literature reviewing components of the thesis.

  • Lupins as cut flowers. There are many beautiful flower colours among the lupin species and some with good fragrance. This project would investigate vase life in one or more lupin species and could conduct a preliminary survey of market potential.

  • Nodulation and nitrogen fixation in L. mutabilis compared to other crop lupin species. This project will investigate whether nodulation and nitrogen fixation in L. mutabilis is equivalent to other crop lupin species. Experiments using different rhizobial strains and different temperatures could test this hypothesis. Skills developed will include nodulation scoring, nitrogen fixation assays, plus overall knowledge of the nitrogen fixation process in legumes.

  • Can soybean with cold tolerance be grown in the northern wheat belt as a winter crop? Soybean is a warm season crop typically grown in summer temperatures and often under irrigation. We would like to explore whether soybean lines with some cold tolerance could be grown in a winter season in Western Australia under rain-fed conditions. A project of this nature would look at controlled environment growth studies of selected soybean lines and include a field trial.

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