PS Seminar Series - Biofortified rice and wheat to alleviate global malnutrition

Abstract: More than two billion people worldwide are negatively impacted by micronutrient deficiencies. Rice and wheat are major sources of dietary energy yet people who consume large quantities can suffer from “hidden hunger” due to low concentrations of bioavailable iron, zinc and provitamin A in the grain. The development of iron enriched “biofortified” crops is a sustainable way of increasing iron intakes at no additional cost to growers and food manufacturers. We have used genetic engineering to produce rice and wheat plants that are more effective at mining soil for iron and transporting iron to grain. These iron biofortified plants contain significantly increased iron concentrations in edible grain tissues, yield normally in multi-location field trials, and have increased iron bioavailability as indicated by cell culture assays and animal feeding trials. This presentation will describe our biotech strategies to produce iron biofortified rice and wheat crops for human and livestock consumption.

Biography: Professor Alex Johnson heads a research laboratory focused on plant nutrition and biofortification in the School of BioSciences at the University of Melbourne. He uses metabolic profiling, gene editing and genetic engineering to enhance nutrient bioavailability in edible parts of plants and develop biofortified crops. Alex also serves as Associate Dean (International) in the Faculty of Science and sits on the board of the University of Melbourne Botany Foundation. He has a MSc and PhD from Virginia Tech in the USA. Prior to coming to Melbourne, he held postdoctoral positions at the University of Cambridge (Cambridge, UK) and the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics (Adelaide, Australia).