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PhD scholarship Unlocking the potential of crop resource use efficiencies

University of Queensland

Research Environment

UQ ranks in the top 50 as measured by the Performance Ranking of Scientific Papers for World Universities. The University also ranks 46 in the QS World University Rankings, 42 in the US News Best Global Universities Rankings, 66 in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings and 54 in the Academic Ranking of World Universities.

Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Plant Success in Nature and Agriculture

Prof Graeme Hammer conducts research on the physiology and genetics of complex adaptive traits in field crops with a focus on water productivity in cereals. His research underpins the development of mathematical models of crop growth, development and yield that enable simulation of consequences of genetic and management manipulation of crops in specific target environments.

Prof Hammer is a chief investigator in the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Plant Success in Nature and Agriculture which is developing innovative tools and strategies to improve the productivity of plants and their resilience to heat and drought.

The award

Supervisor – Professor Graeme Hammer

The efficiencies with which crop plants use sunlight and water to produce biomass are fundamental for plant growth and crop productivity. The crop-level traits are under intense indirect selection in plant breeding, while their underpinning mechanisms continue to be unravelled through physiological and modelling research (Wu et al., 2019; van Oosterom et al., 2021). The complementary approaches have the potential to generate integrated novel strategies for lifting whole-crop performance via trait understanding and modelling combined with advanced genomic technologies (Powell et al., 2021). However, this will require research to advance the understanding and quantification of physiological underpinnings of the resource use efficiency traits, plant-environment interactions, and genetic architecture of the traits to underpin such an integrated approach. This project aims to explore a prediction-based approach for crop improvement involving bridging an advanced crop growth model (CGM) with a whole-genome prediction (WGP) model for unlocking the potential of crop resource use efficiency using sorghum as a test bed. The CGM provides a framework for linking the resource use efficiency traits to their physiological underpinnings (Wu et al. 2019; Geetika et al., 2019), while allowing assessment of crop performance consequences of trait manipulation (van Oosterom et al,, 2021). The WGP connection, when implemented with training population phenotyping (e.g. Fu et al., 2020), provides genetic links for traits of interest and opportunities to widen the scope of crop productivity predictions (Powell et al., 2021). In searching for avenues to enhance crop resource use efficiency, a multitude of leaf-level traits such as photosynthesis, stomatal conductance, specific leaf area, and leaf width will be examined.

The postgraduate project will approach its broad aim via the following specific objectives:

  1. Conduct detailed physiological experiments with a selection of key genotypes to quantify variation in traits of interest and advance process understanding to support further development of physiological models
  2. Develop high-throughput phenotyping methods to quantify variation in traits of interest.
  3. Deploy the phenotyping methods on sorghum training populations for validation, phenotypic prediction, and genomic model development.
  4. Develop a CGM-WGP approach using genotyped and phenotyped sorghum populations The project will build potential links of genetic architecture with the component traits in a manner enabling prediction of whole-crop performance that could be utilised in sorghum breeding.

A working knowledge of crop/plant physiology and mathematical modelling would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

Job No: 516213
Area: Qld Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation
Salary (FTE): RTP Scholarship NON-BANDED ($28,597.00 – $28,597.00)
Work type: Full Time – Scholarship
Location: Brisbane, Other


Fu P, Meacham-Hensold K, Guan K, Wu J, Bernacchi C (2020) Estimating photosynthetic traits from reflectance spectra: A synthesis of spectral indices, numerical inversion, and partial least square regression. Plant Cell Environ Geetika G, van Oosterom EJ, George-Jaeggli B, Mortlock MY, Deifel KS, McLean G, Hammer GL (2019) Genotypic variation in whole-plant transpiration efficiency in sorghum only partly aligns with variation in stomatal conductance. Functional Plant Biology. 46 (12):1072-1089.

Powell OM, Voss-Fels KP, Jordan DR, Hammer G. Cooper M (2021) Perspectives on Applications of Hierarchical Gene-To-Phenotype (G2P) Maps to Capture Non-stationary Effects of Alleles in Genomic Prediction. Front. Plant Sci. 12:663565. doi: 10.3389/fpls.2021.663565

van Oosterom EJ, Kulathunga MRDL, Deifel KS, McLean GB, Barrasso C, Wu A, Messina C, Hammer GL (2021) Dissecting and modelling the comparative adaptation to water limitation of sorghum and maize: role of transpiration efficiency, transpiration rate and height. in silico Plants 3 (1).

Wu A, Hammer GL, Doherty A, von Caemmerer S, Farquhar GD (2019) Quantifying impacts of enhancing photosynthesis on crop yield. Nature Plants 5 (4):380-388.

Selection criteria

To be eligible to apply, you must also meet the entry requirements for Higher Degrees by Research at UQ.

This scholarship is open to Australian citizens, permanent residents and International students who are currently in Australia at the time of application and commencement.

Applications will be judged on a competitive basis taking into account the applicant’s previous academic record, publication record, honours and awards, and employment history.

The applicant will demonstrate academic achievement in the field/s of quantitative plant science and the potential for scholastic success.

A background or knowledge of genetics and plant breeding is highly desirable.

Fully Funded Scholarships for International Students to Work and Study Abroad


The 2022 Research Training Program (RTP) living allowance stipend rate is AUD$28,854 per annum (indexed annually), which is tax-free for 3.5 years, with the possibility of 1 extension in line with UQ and RTP Scholarship Policy (conditions apply).


For further information, please contact Professor Graeme Hammer at +61 7 3346 9463

How to apply

To apply for admission and scholarship, follow this link. There is no separate application for scholarship because you will have the opportunity to request scholarship consideration on the application for admission.

Before submitting an application you should:

When you apply, please ensure that under the scholarships and collaborative study section you:

  1. Select ‘My higher degree is not collaborative’
  2. Select ‘I am applying for, or have been awarded a scholarship or sponsorship’.
  3. Select ‘Other’, then ‘Research Project Scholarship’ and type in ‘CROP RESOURCE-HAMMER’ in the ‘Name of scholarship’ field.

See an example of what you have to do

Learn more about applying for a higher degree by research at UQ

Applications close: 11 October 2021 (11:00 PM) E. Australia Standard Time

Advertised: 09 Sep 2021
Applications close: 11 Oct 2021 (11:00 PM) E. Australia Standard Time

Apply now

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