Major Research Themes

  • Micronutrients in the food chain;
  • Anti-nutrients and Promoter substances of iron and zinc absorption in staple food crops;
  • Cultivar differences among staple-food crops in ability to extract micronutrients from soils, especially soils of low general fertility, and the genetics and molecular biology of such traits;
  • Cultivar differences in ability to load micronutrients into food grains, and the genetics and molecular biology of such traits;
  • The role of adequate micronutrient nutrition in resistance to disease, product quality in general and in the sustainability of cropping systems;
  • Nutrients of particular interest include iron, zinc, copper, manganese, iodine, selenium and boron, as well as pro-vitamin A carotenoids, phytate, fructans and resistant starch.

Group Members

  • Group Leader:  Associate Professor James Stangoulis
  • Professor Robin Graham
  • Ms Marija Knez
  • Ms Vivienne Le



  • Philippa Cook (Pip) Cook
  • Bao-Lam Huynh
  • Ahmad Humayan Kabir
  • Bianca Kyriacou
  • Lachlan Palmer
  • Zarina Yasmin


  • Nadia Mohd Fadzli
  • Thi Thanh Tra Duong - The University of Adelaide

Current Research

We have a mixture of projects ranging from capacity building analytical labs to improve analytical quality and providing technical assistance to the CGIAR and NARS researchers working in HarvestPlus, through to plant physiology and molecular biology. Ultimately, our aim is to improve our knowledge of the processes involved in delivering Fe and Zn to the edible portion of the plant, with links to staff and students on this web-page giving greater detail on our current work in this area.

Associate Professor James Stangoulis

  • Mechanisms of short and long distance transport of micronutrients in plants.
  • Plant nutrition expertise to HarvestPlus and it’s collaborators.
  • Capacity building in analytical labs associated with HarvestPlus.
  • Mapping nutritional traits in staple food crops.
  • Studying the effects of staple food nutrient QTL on iron bioavailability .

Professor Robin Graham

  • Research to develop food systems that deliver adequate nutrients in balance to subsistence farming families in poor countries.
  • Nutrient-genotype interactions, nutrient-disease interactions, nutrient-water interactions.
  • Analysis of staple food crops for nutritional traits.
  • Iron-zinc interactions in humans.

Dr Eun Young Choi

  • Purification and isolation of Zn binding protein in milled rice endosperm.
  • Identify characteristics of the major grain tissues of Zn-dense wheat.
  • Development of rapid- and semi-quantitative analysis for selecting Fe and Zn-dense genotypes of staple food crops using colour image analyses and colour reagents.
  • Identify the tolerance and toxicity mechanisms of B (boron) for maintenance of root growth in barley.
  • Environmental Horticulture (Effects of integrated solar radiation system and plant factory system on photosynthesis, respiration and mineral nutrients/water uptake in vegetable plants grown in hydroponics)

Lachlan Palmer

  • Method development for the analysis of fructans, phytate, carbohydrates, nicotianamine and amino acids using Ion-exchange Chromatography.
  • Collection and analysis of phloem sap by aphid stylectomy.

 Bianca Kyriacou

  • Investigation of genes involved in iron uptake from soils and transport across the plant, with particular emphasis on those belonging to the nicotianamine gene family, using the following methods:
  • GFP detection
  • Southern analysis
  • PPB staining
  • T1 plant growth
  • Generate new plant lines overexpressing endosperm specific ion transporter genes and NAS genes
  • Iron Tracking  ie: phloem→xylem→shoot→grain
  • Radiolabelled Fe2 /3 real-time tracking across plant
  • Protein analysis at endosperm level

 Philippa (Pip) Cook

  • Investigation of strategies to enhance transport of nutrients into the grain, with a focus on zinc, initially focusing on a candidate zinc protein in rice identified in the Stangoulis laboratory. Methods to be used include;
  • The use of RNAi for gene suppression, and over-expression vector constructs to alter the gene expression of the candidate proteins in planta.

 Bao-Lam Huynh

  • Development of an improved method for fructan measurement,
  • Surveys of genetic variation in wheat grain fructan level
  • Mapping quantitative trait loci affecting wheat grain fructan level

    Results have show:
  • Wheat grain fructan level varies widely
  • Is highly heritable, and
  • Can be improved using both phenotypic and molecular selection.
  • The fructan-assay method can be adopted in plant breeding.

    Follow-up research
  • Development of gene-based markers for grain fructan
  • Expression of fructan candidate genes
  • Grain fructan chain-length variation
  • Retention of fructan in wheat products
  • Effects of high-fructan wheat on human/animal gut health
  • Mapping for bioavailability in humans/animals

Thi Thanh Tra Duong – Adelaide University

  • Investigating how high and low C/N plant residues affect the microbial communities and chemical properties of poor nutrient soils when being added repeatedly.
  • Effects of plant roots on the plant residue decomposition in the presence of wheat
  • Action of N release in the presence of high and/or low C/N residues and when the N mineralisation occurs will be determined.

    Major methods to be used in this project include:
  • The Cadmium reduction method: Used for available nitrogen analysis
  • PLFA analysis: Microbial community structure
  • Gas Analyser Servomex 1450: Respiration rate
  • TOC analyser: Microbial C&N measurement

Group Publications

See publications