Abstract - The world has to produce 60-80% more food to feed 9 billion people by 2050, however traditional plant breeding is slow and the current rate of genetic improvement is insufficient to meet this demand. NASA experiments to grow wheat in space were the inspiration for scientists at UQ to develop the world’s first ‘speed breeding’ procedures here on planet Earth. The technology enables up to 6 generations per year for major crops, compared to just one or two in the field. The powerful tool is fast-tracking development of more productive crops in the face of climate change and rapidly evolving pests and diseases.
Biography - Dr Lee Hickey is a geneticist working on Australia’s most important cereal crops, wheat and barley, situated within the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation at The University of Queensland. His research team investigates the genetics of disease and drought resistance in order to design more robust crops for farmers. For his ‘speed breeding’ innovation and science communication, he was named the ‘2017 QLD Young Tall Poppy Scientist of the Year’ and currently holds a prestigious ARC DECRA Fellowship.