Robert Furbank

ARC CoE for Translational Photosynthesis

Robert heads the Furbank Lab – Improving photosynthesis and crop yield, and is the Centre Director of Translational Photosynthesis, and a Program Leader in the ARC COE for Translational Photosynthesis.

Robert was awarded a Bachelor of Science (first class Honours) from the University of Wollongong, in 1979. He completed his PhD at The Australian National University, in 1982.

Robert is internationally known for his research into aspects of photosynthesis and carbon allocation/transport in crop plants, and understanding and manipulating C4 photosynthesis. He is also part of the CIMMYT led International Wheat Yield Consortium and the IRRI Global Rice Initiative Science Partnership.

He was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II research fellowship in 1987 and two ACT ICT Innovation Awards in 2013 and the CSIRO Plant Industry Leadership Award in 2014.

Read more on Robert's ARC Centre of Excellence for Translational Photosynthesis profile

Research interests

Robert currently works on improving photosynthesis and yield potential using plant phenomics techniques and by genetic manipulation in crop plants; developing new tools for plant phenomics and imaging plant performance in the glasshouse and the field and mechanisms of abiotic stress tolerance in cereals. He uses high throughput phenotyping and molecular genetics to understand genetic variation and biochemical regulation of photosynthesis and carbon allocation between different plant organs and between different storage compounds in wheat and rice. In rice, he is using molecular techniques to install a CO2 concentrating mechanism in rice as part of the IRRI led Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation supported C4 Rice Consortium. In wheat he works closely with the Grains Research and Development Corporation to identify genetic variation in photosynthetic performance and develop new tools for high throughput measurement of photosynthesis. 

  • Giuliani, R, Karki, S, Covshoff, S et al 2019, 'Knockdown of glycine decarboxylase complex alters photorespiratory carbon isotope fractionation in Oryza sativa leaves', Journal of Experimental Botany, vol. 70, no. 10, pp. 2773-2786.
  • Danila, F, Quick, W, White, R et al 2019, 'Response of plasmodesmata formation in leaves of C4 grasses to growth irradiance', Plant Cell and Environment, vol. 42, no. 8, pp. 2482-2494.
  • Ermakova, M, Lopez-Calcagno, P, Raines, C et al 2019, 'Overexpression of the Rieske FeS protein of the Cytochrome b(6)f complex increases C-4 photosynthesis in Setaria viridis', Communications Biology, vol. 2, pp. 1-12.
  • Coast, O, Shah, S, Ivakov, A et al 2019, 'Predicting dark respiration rates of wheat leaves from hyperspectral reflectance', Plant Cell and Environment, vol. 42, no. 7, pp. 2133-2150.
  • Coe, R, Chatterjee, J, Acebron, K et al 2018, 'High-Throughput chlorophyll fluorescence screening of Setaria viridis for mutants with altered CO2 compensation points', Functional Plant Biology, vol. 45, no. 10, pp. 1017-1025pp.
  • Alonso Cantabrana, H, Cousins, A, Danila, F et al 2018, 'Diffusion of CO2 across the mesophyll-bundle sheath cell interface in a C4 plant with genetically reduced PEP carboxylase activity', Plant Physiology, vol. 178, no. 1, pp. 72-81pp.
  • Dillon, S, Quentin, A, Ivkovic, M et al 2018, 'Photosynthetic variation and responsiveness to CO2 in a widespread riparian tree', PLOS ONE (Public Library of Science), vol. 13, no. 1, pp. 1-21pp.
  • Danila, F, Quick, W, White, R et al 2018, 'Multiple mechanisms for enhanced plasmodesmata density in disparate subtypes of C4 grasses', Journal of Experimental Botany, vol. 69, no. 5, pp. 1135-1145.
  • Jimenez-Berni, J, Deery, D, Rozasâ Larraondo, P et al 2018, 'High throughput determination of plant height, ground cover, and above-ground biomass in wheat with LiDAR', Frontiers in Plant Science, vol. 9, no. 237, pp. 1-18.
  • Silva Perez, V, Molero, G, Serbin, S et al 2018, 'Hyperspectral reflectance as a tool to measure biochemical and physiological traits in wheat', Journal of Experimental Botany, vol. 69, no. 3, pp. 483-496.
  • Wang, P, Khoshravesh, R, Karki, S et al 2017, 'Re-creation of a Key Step in the Evolutionary Switch from C3 to C4 Leaf Anatomy', Current Biology, vol. 27, no. 21, pp. 3278-3287.e6.
  • Rizal, G, Karki, S, Thakur, V et al 2017, 'A sorghum (Sorghum bicolor) mutant with altered carbon isotope ratio', PLOS ONE (Public Library of Science), vol. 12, no. 6, pp. e0179567-e0179567.
  • Osborn, H, Alonso Cantabrana, H, Sharwood, R et al 2017, 'Effects of reduced carbonic anhydrase activity on CO2 assimilation rates in Setaria viridis: A transgenic analysis', Journal of Experimental Botany, vol. 68, no. 2, pp. 299-310pp.
  • Meacham, K, Sirault, X, Quick, P et al 2017, 'Diurnal solar energy conversion and photoprotection in rice canopies', Plant Physiology, vol. 173, no. 1, pp. 495-508pp.
  • von Caemmerer, S, Ghannoum, O & Furbank, R 2017, 'C4 photosynthesis: 50 years of discovery and innovation', Journal of Experimental Botany, vol. 68, no. 2, pp. 97-102pp.
  • Martin, A, Brown, C, Nguyen, D et al 2017, 'Cell Wall Development in an Elongating Internode of Setaria', in Andrew Doust and Xianmin Diao (ed.), Genetics and Genomics of Setaria, Springer, Switzerland, pp. 211-238.
  • Silva-Perez, V, Furbank, R, Condon, A et al 2017, 'Biochemical model of C3 photosynthesis applied to wheat at different temperatures', Plant Cell and Environment.
  • Nguyen, C, Fripp, J, Lovell, D et al 2016, '3D Scanning System for Automatic High-Resolution Plant Phenotyping', International Conference on Digital Image Computing: Techniques and Applications, DICTA 2016, ed. A W-C Liew and J G Zhou, IEEE, Online, pp. 8pp.
  • Frolov, K, Nguyen, C, Fripp, J et al 2016, 'Automated Plant and Leaf Separation: Application in 3D Meshes of Wheat Plants', International Conference on Digital Image Computing: Techniques and Applications, DICTA 2016, ed. A W-C Liew and J G Zhou, IEEE, Online, pp. 1-7pp.
  • Simko, I, Hayes, R & Furbank, R 2016, 'Non-destructive Phenotyping of Lettuce Plants in Early Stages of Development with optical sensors', Frontiers in Plant Science, vol. 7, no. 1, pp. 1985-1985.
  • Hibberd, J & Furbank, R 2016, 'In retrospect: Fifty years of C4 photosynthesis', Nature, vol. 538, no. 7624, pp. 177-179.
  • Deery, D, Rebetzke, G, Jimenez-Berni, J et al 2016, 'Methodology for high-throughput field phenotyping of canopy temperature using airborne thermography', Frontiers in Plant Science, vol. 7, pp. 1808-1808.
  • McGaughey, S, Osborn, H, Chen, L et al 2016, 'Roles of Aquaporins in Setaria Viridis stem development and sugar storage', Frontiers in Plant Science, vol. 7, no. 1815, pp. 13pp.
  • Furbank, R 2016, 'Walking the C-4 pathway: past, present, and future', Journal of Experimental Botany, vol. 67, no. 14, pp. 4057-4066.
  • Hibberd, J & Furbank, R 2016, 'SEEDS OF C 4 PHOTOSYNTHESIS', Nature Plants, vol. 2, no. 11, pp. 16172-16172.
  • McGaughey, S, Osborn, H, Chen, L et al 2016, 'Roles of aquaporins in setaria viridis stem development and sugar storage', Frontiers in Plant Science, vol. 7, no. 1815, pp. 13pp.
  • Rungrat, T, Awlia, M, Brown, T et al 2016, 'Using Phenomic Analysis of Photosynthetic Function for Abiotic Stress Response Gene Discovery', The Arabidopsis Book, vol. 14, no. e0185, pp. 14pp..
  • von Caemmerer, S & Furbank, R 2016, 'Strategies for improving C-4 photosynthesis', Current Opinion in Plant Biology, vol. 31, pp. 125 -134.
  • Lin, H, Karki, S, Coe, R et al 2016, 'Targeted Knockdown of GDCH in Rice Leads to a Photorespiratory-Deficient Phenotype Useful as a Building Block for C-4 Rice', Plant and Cell Physiology, vol. 57, no. 5, pp. 919-932.
  • Furbank, R & Sage, R, eds, 2016, Editorial overview: Physiology and metabolism: CO2 concentrating mechanisms in photosynthetic organisms: evolution, efficiency and significance for crop improvement.
  • Martin, A, Palmer, W, Brown, C et al 2016, 'A developing Setaria viridis internode: an experimental system for the study of biomass generation in a C-4 model species', Biotechnology for Biofuels, vol. 9, pp. 1-12.
  • Danila, F, Quick, W, White, R, Furbank, R T and von Caemmerer S 2016, 'The metabolite pathway between bundle sheath and mesophyll: quantification of plasmodesmata in leaves of C3 and C4 monocots.', The Plant Cell, vol. Advance Publication. Published on June 10, 2016.
  • Tan, X, Sun, C, Sirault, X et al 2014, 'Stereo matching using cost volume watershed and region merging', Signal Processing: Image Communication, vol. 29, no. 10, pp. 1232-1244.
  • Tan, X, Sun, C, Sirault, X et al 2013, 'Cross image inference scheme for stereo matching', 11th Asian Conference on Computer Vision, ACCV 2012, Springer International Publishing AG, Daejeon, pp. 217-230.
  • Martin, A, Palmer, W, Byrt, C et al 2013, 'A holistic high-throughput screening framework for biofuel feedstock assessment that characterises variations in soluble sugars and cell wall composition in Sorghum bicolor', Biotechnology for Biofuels, vol. 6, no. 1, pp. 186-186.
  • Ansell, P, Furbank, R, Gunasekera, K et al 2013, 'Flexible scientific data management for plant phenomics research', International Workshop on Semantics for Biodiversity, S4BioDiv 2013, ed. P. Larmande, E. Arnaud, I. Mougenot, CEUR-WS.ORG, Montpellier, France.
  • Reynolds, M, FOULKES, J, Furbank, R et al 2012, 'Achieving yield gains in wheat', Plant Cell and Environment, vol. 35, no. 10, pp. 1799-1823.
  • Furbank, R, Quick, P & Sirault, X 2015, 'Improving photosynthesis and yield potential in cereal crops by targeted genetic manipulation: Prospects, progress and challenges', Field Crops Research, vol. 182, pp. 19-29.
  • Palmer, W, Martin, A, Flynn, J et al 2015, 'PEA-CLARITY: 3D molecular imaging of whole plant organs', Scientific Reports, vol. 5, no. 5:13492.
  • Nagel, K, Bonnett, D, Furbank, R et al 2015, 'Simultaneous effects of leaf irradiance and soil moisture on growth and root system architecture of novel wheat genotypes: Implications for phenotyping', Journal of Experimental Botany, vol. 66, no. 18, pp. 5441-5452.
  • Salehi, A, Palmer, D, Georgakopoulos, D et al 2015, 'SensorDB: A virtual laboratory for the integration, visualization and analysis of varied biological sensor data', Plant Methods, vol. 11, no. 53, pp. 1-14pp.
  • Simko, I, Jimenez-Berni, J & Furbank, R 2015, 'Detection of decay in fresh-cut lettuce using hyperspectral imaging and chlorophyll fluorescence imaging', Postharvest Biology and Technology, vol. 106, pp. 44-52.
  • Li, X, Zaragoza, J, Kuffner, P et al 2015, 'Growth Measurement of Arabidopsis in 2.5D from a High Throughput Phenotyping Platform', 21st International Congress on Modelling and Simulation (MODSIM2015), ed. Weber, T., McPhee, M.J. and Anderssen, R.S., The Modelling and Simulation Society of Australia and New Zealand Inc., Australia.
  • Tan, X, Sun, C, Sirault, X et al 2015, 'Feature matching in stereo images encouraging uniform spatial distribution', Pattern Recognition, vol. 48, no. 8, pp. 2530-2542pp.
  • Poire-Lassus, R, Chochois, V, Sirault, X et al 2014, 'Digital imaging approaches for phenotyping whole plant nitrogen and phosphorus response in Brachypodium distachyon', Journal of Integrative Plant Biology, vol. 56, no. 8, pp. 781-796.
  • Deery, D, Jimenez-Berni, J, Jones, H et al 2014, 'Proximal Remote Sensing Buggies and Potential Applications for Field-Based Phenotyping', Agronomy, vol. 4, no. 3, pp. 349-379.
  • Brown, T, Cheng, R, Sirault, X et al 2014, 'TraitCapture: genomic and environment modelling of plant phenomic data', Current Opinion in Plant Biology, vol. 18, pp. 73-79.
  • Covshoff, S, Furbank, R, Leegood, R et al 2013, 'Leaf rolling allows quantification of mRNA abundance in mesophyll cells of sorghum', Journal of Experimental Botany, vol. 64, no. 3, pp. 807-813.