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Plant Breeding Institute

Plant breeding for profitable and sustainable agriculture
Plant breeding contributes to our food supply and the beauty of the world around us. The Plant Breeding Institute is committed to improving our crop and horticultural species using the best that technology has to offer.

The Plant Breeding Institute (PBI) was established in 1973 to ensure a continuing University commitment to crop breeding and research.

The grains and horticultural industries require a continuum of new cultivars that maximize profitability and sustainability in a dynamic production and market environment.

This requires a continuous flow of new genetic materials, knowledge, technologies and trained people; the core business of the PBI.

Our research largely focuses on the genetic improvement of cereal, legume and horticultural crops, as well as cross-cutting themes on food quality, farming systems and digital agriculture in recognition of the changing nature of Australian agriculture.

Our research also forms part of the Plant Breeding and Production theme of the Sydney Institute of Agriculture.

The PBI aims to:

  • develop the new genetic materials required by industry and the technologies that allow these materials and genes to be easily adopted,
  • generate knowledge that furthers our understanding of plant biology and farming systems, and 
  • train the next generation of plant breeders/geneticists and scientists in related disciplines.

Our facilities

The PBI comprises established and complementary research facilities at Cobbitty and Narrabri.

The Cobbitty facility is part of the Camden campus located in southwestern Sydney and features laboratory, greenhouse and field facilities. The greenhouses incorporate the latest technology in design and environment control. There are laboratories for molecular genetics, cytogenetics and tissue culture as well as long-term seed storage rooms. Read more about our Camden campus.

facilities at PBI Cobbitty

Our Narrabri campus, located 600km from Sydney on the northwestern plains of NSW, has fertile, irrigable land which is available for plant breeding research, including the conduct of yield and quality testing and pure seed production. The station is strategically positioned in the northern NSW cropping area and comprises 430 ha of land of which 300 ha are irrigable. This is complemented by laboratories, storage and workspace for the conduct of the routine operations of breeding programs. The station is owned by the farmers of NSW and governed by a board of trustees; the Wheat Research Foundation. The property has been leased to the University since 1960 to conduct grains research. Read more about the Narrabri campus and farm and the Wheat Research Foundation.

Ariel photo of Narrabri farm


Our people

  • Professor Richard Trethowan, Director, The Plant Breeding Institute, School of Life and Environmental Sciences






  • Dr Nizam Ahmed, Principal Wheat Breeder
  • James Bell, Manager Farm Operations (Faculty Technical Services)
  • Markham Bishop, Farm Hand (Faculty Technical Services)
  • Dorian Friendship, Technical Assistant
  • Jo-Ann Geist, ACRCP Research Hub Coordinator
  • Dr Muhammad Gill, Research Assistant
  • Dr Sami Hoxha, Research Assistant
  • Dr James Hull, Facilities and Resources Coordinator (PBI)
  • Paul Lipscombe, Senior Technical Officer, Farms (Faculty Technical Services)
  • Jeanette Lipscombe, Farm Hand (Faculty Technical Services)
  • Dr Hanif Miah, Research Assistant
  • Dr Sandra Micallef, Research Officer
  • Margerita Pietilainen, Technical Officer
  • Hasan Pradhan, Research Officer
  • Jeremy Roake, Professional Officer (Oat Rust Research)
  • Dr Smriti Singh, Research Assistant
  • Matthew Williams, Operations and Technical Officer
  • Dr Sareh Yousefirad, Technical Officer


  • John Bateman, Technical Officer
  • Kristy Faris, Administration Officer
  • Linda Heuke, Technical Officer
  • Nichola Onus, Technical Assistant
  • Annette Tredrea, Technical Officer (Trials)
  • Antony Vuragu, Technical Officer (Glasshouses)
  • Emma Whitton, Technical Assistant
  • Amanda Graff, Technical Assistant
  • Isobella Revell, Technical Assistant
  • Robert Freebairn, agricultural consultant and WRF member
  • Ray Hare, plant breeding consultant and WRF member
  • Rob Long, Delta Ag and Chair, Wheat Research Foundation (WRF)
  • Mark McKay, grains industry expertise and WRF member
  • John Sheppard, cereal rust and plant breeding consultant
  • Adam Steel, Chairman Green Camel, horticultural industry expertise
  • Jim Watson, grains industry expertise and WRF member
  • Mr Charles Brett, Moree
  • Mr Bob Freebairn, Coonanarabran
  • Dr Ray Hare, Tamworth     
  • Mr Rob Long (Chairman), Pallamallawa
  • Mr Mark McKay, Trangie
  • Mr James Nalder, Coonamble  
  • Katrina Swift, Executive Assistant of the Foundation
  • Mr Jim Watson, Parkes              


Plant Breeding Institute offers postgraduate research and training opportunities across all of our research areas. Find out more about undertaking a postgraduate research degree.

Projects are available in the following areas:

Barley genetics and pre-breeding
Contact: Dr Davinder Singh

Cereal rust research
Contact: Professor Robert Park

Crop breeding and genetics
Contact: Professor Richard Trethowan

Grassland based food ecosystems
Contact: Dr Angela Pattison

Contact: Professor Richard Trethowan

Farming systems research
Contact: Associate Professor Guy Roth

Molecular biology
Contact: Dr Urmil Bansal

Molecular cytogenetics
Contact: Dr Peng Zhang

Plant physiology
Contact: Dr Rebecca Thistlethwaite

Weeds research
Contact: Associate Professor Michael Walsh

Wheat rust genetics and pre-breeding
Contact: Professor Harbans Bariana

Contact us

Plant Breeding Institute, Cobbitty

Dr James Hull
  • +61 2 9351 8875
  • 107 Cobbitty Road Cobbitty NSW 2570

Plant Breeding Institute, Narrabri

Kristy Faris
  • +61 2 6799 2205 (Reception)
  • I A Watson Grains Research Centre 12656 Newell Highway Narrabri NSW 2390

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