Plant breeding and production

Food for the future

Plant breeding and production is key to the quest to meet the global challenge of providing enough quality food for a growing population.

Plant Breeding and Production in the Sydney Institute of Agriculture is a research collective focussing on the sustainable production of food and fibre for Australia’s domestic and international agricultural markets.

Our research has traditionally focussed on grain (wheat, barley, pulses) and fibre (cotton) commodities across the production cycle.

Research predominantly looks to identify solutions to production problems caused by environmental variability, the presence of disease and pests as well as meeting end-point quality requirements of industry and consumers.

Our research breadth also extends to horticultural (turf grass, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, ornamental flowering crops) and domestic forestry industries. 

Our research expertise is captured across the production pipeline with strengths in soil based investigation intimately linked to plant, microbe and atmospheric interactions.

We specialise in advanced trait discovery for translatable genetic solutions to current and future issues facing agriculture.

Translatable traits are further developed using our expansive collection of controlled and field-based research facilities (Camden/Cobbitty, Narrabri, Nowley, John Pie) operated to deliver pre-breeding outcomes to breeding pipelines.

Production expertise includes smart-farm agriculture to capture ‘paddock to plate’ digital and robotic technologies that aid plant growth, harvest and quality.

The Plant Breeding and Production theme is represented by the researchers located across the University of Sydney encompassing activities overseen by:

  • the Plant Breeding Institute, 
  • the Australian Cereal Rust Control Program, 
  • the I.A. Watson Grains Research Institute, 
  • NuFlora International
  • the ARC Industrial Transformation Research Hub – Legumes for Sustainable Agriculture, 
  • the Australian Centre for Field Robotics, and 
  • the ARC Industrial Training Centre - Fresh Produce Safety.

Our plant breeding and production research has a long history focused on plant genetics and breeding. Our research and development is concentrated on:

  • small grain cereals, especially wheat and barley
  • grain legumes
  • ornamental plants
  • crops for protected agriculture, especially tomato and cucumber.


The technology of plant breeding and production relies on basic knowledge of the genetic control of plant characteristics. It also seeks to produce varieties of crops suitable for both the environments and management systems where they will grow.

Plant scientists based at our research facility, the Plant Breeding Institute (PBI), therefore conduct their research and develop technologies and products in the GxExM space: Genotype x Environment x Management.

On the genetic aspects of GxExM, our plant breeding researchers have demonstrated expertise in the development and use of molecular genomics to uncover the genetics of plant characteristics, and in using the knowledge and tools to undertake breeding that is quicker and more certain to produce plants containing the desired genotype. We also develop genetic variation and source it from our global partners, providing the raw material for breeding.

Both the biotic and abiotic aspects of the changing environments and management in GxExM are covered by plant production research.


We have close links with domestic and international partner organisations including:

To facilitate global collaboration, we have very strong ties with research groups concentrating on the same areas of plant genetics and breeding, and in countries with areas of similar climates, such as the United Kingdom, United States, China, India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.

We have particularly strong interactions with three centres of the Consultative Group of International Agricultural Research (CGIAR):

Watch Theme Leader Richard Trethowan's Poggendorff Lecture

Royal Society of NSW Poggendorff Lecture: A Plant Breeder's Perspective on Food Security and Climate Change

Professor Richard Trethowan Director, The Plant Breeding Institute, University of Sydney

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