Postgraduate Profiles

Karen Frick

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Thesis: Genomic research for the improvement of Narrow-leafed lupin (Lupinus angustifolius L.) grain.

Narrow-leafed lupin (Lupinus angustifolius L.) (NLL) is a major grain legume crop in Western Australia that has traditionally been used in crop rotations with cereals and as an animal feed. Recently, NLL grain has gained recognition as a higher value human health food, although toxic alkaloids in the grain complicate this use. Grain alkaloid levels must remain below industry food and feed thresholds, however levels can vary considerably from year to year, often exceeding these thresholds. Both the alkaloid biosynthetic pathway and the response of this pathway to environmental conditions is not well understood. This project aims to utilise newly available NLL genomic and transcriptomic data sets, as well as a TILLING breeding population to identify and characterise genes involved in the alkaloid biosynthetic pathway and transport, and investigate how these genes respond to environmental stressors. Such genes may then be targeted in future lupin breeding projects to maintain alkaloid levels within industry requirements.

Why my research is important

There is currently good potential to improve NLL as a grain crop; the recent availability of genomic and transcriptomic data sets for NLL means there is great scope to identify and characterise genes controlling agriculturally important traits. This project will also make use of the first reverse genetic platform implemented in lupin, which has the ability to rapidly generate novel genetic variation without transgenic technologies. As such, this research will be directly applicable to current NLL breeding programs. The improvement of NLL grain for human consumption will protect the value of a major Western Australian grain crop for which Australia is the main worldwide producer, and encourage its use in human nutrition and in sustainable agricultural practices.


Mar 2014

Mar 2017