Doctor of Philosophy (UQ)
Study of Self-Fertility in Macadamia Breeding: Variation and Mechanism
Macadamia- a nut tree crop exhibits partial self-incompatibility. Some cultivars can set variable amount of seeds with self-pollination while some cultivars are self-infertile. My objective is to look the variability present in the macadamia germplasm in self-fertility to find out which cultivars are self-fertile and self-infertile. By which I can do Genome Wide Association Studies (GWAS) to find out the molecular markers associated with self-fertility. And exploring the mechanism regulating self-incompatibility in macadamia using the biological and molecular approaches. To find out the genes controlling the mechanism, and investigate the morphological and biological differences in the self-fertile and self-infertile cultivars.
Macadamia is the first indigenous Australian crop that gets commercialised and holds an important part in the agricultural economy. It is also known as Australian nut or Queensland nut. Macadamia crop is highly dependent on pollinators and efficient pollinisers for the nut setting. As in most of the research works, it has been found that cross-pollination gives higher yield than self-pollination. But CSIRO made elite and high yielding selections from the regional macadamia trials and found that most of the high yielding varieties were self-fertile means while selecting for the high yield, self-fertility was picked up coincidentally. This makes self-fertility a significant trait to work on for breeders to find out if there is any association between self-fertility and high-yield. Secondly, identification of the self-fertile cultivars and establishment of an orchard with cultivars having self-fertiliy is worth in case if there is scarcity of the pollinators. As it has happened that due to climatic changes, environmental degradation, and human interference pollinators population is declining. For instance, in an article by Prof. Johanne Brunet at University of Wisconsin, found that bee species had reduced by 40% in the United Kingdom and 60% in the Netherlands. Third, for a farmer it is easier to manage a monoculture orchard as all the agricultural operations like fertilisation, irrigation, harvesting, pruning etc. can take place at same time. Fourth, benefit from an industrial point of view, as nuts harvested from the monoculure field will be of same quality, so no sorting and grading of nuts is needed which can save labour costs and time. Furthermore, GWAS studies for self-fertility not only helps in the identification of the self-compatible cultivars but a way to find out the cross-compatible cultivars as well which is the foremost requirement in the cross-pollinated orchards. If in the macadamia farm, cross-incompatible cultivars are planted then it will give poor yields and huge economic losses. This tragic loss can be prevented by discerning the mechanism operating self-incompatibility and the genes controlling it. So, the cultivars expressing particular (incompatible) genes will belong to one group and those cultivars that are not expressing the genes are compatible one and can cross-pollinate with each other.
To began with, I am born and nurtured in an agrarian family of India. I lived in a very small town in countryside and was deprived of many facilities. But to satisfy my urge to acquire knowledge and excel in my field I cleared one of the competitive exam in India and got admission on one of the premier institute of India. Afterwards, I applied for my masters in Australia, get admitted and later applied for my high degree education (Ph.D.) and right now I am pursuing it. People near my home town (backward areas of India) do not care much about the girls (daughters); boys (sons) are their first preference. Study is my passion and while doing this I want to those people know that girls are not less than boys. If given opportunities they can excel and can do far better than them. My Ph.D. research project involves field work as well as lab work. The balance between these two is very important as I am working on the self-fertility for which I am more focussed on the macadamia flowering. Flowering occurs once a year and I am having very short window period to carry out all the activities. For which I need to be very specific and thinking a lot before actual doing. I am the leader of my project so all the activities I'll be planning and any loss is mine. Time management and self-confidence are the keys to success. My project and my work can be a motivation to any women and girls who is having short time period to work and can learn various skills.
During my Bachelors in agricultural science, a group of 8 students were sent to a rural area (village) for 20 days where students were interacting with the people (farmers), discussing their problems and telling their problems to the agricultural scientists at the University to find out the proper solutions. The flow of information was both ways where we (students) were middle man or extension agents between the farmers and scientists. The objective was to enhance students communication skills so that they can transfer scientific information to the farmers in a manner they can understand it and implement it.
While doing this activity, we came to know that agricultural income was not enough for the family and we also came across some women in the village who were willing to work and earn but due to the lack of facilities and educational qualification they were unable to do so and were involved in the household chores only. Then, our team guided them that they can earn while sitting at home only by doing the activities that they are doing everyday. For example, by knitting, sewing, making pickles, pappadums, opening tiffin service (in which they have to prepare daily meals and their husbands can deliver them). By doing so, both men and women can make a new source of their income. And, in any how if yields are poor from the fields due to climatic changes still they can survive. All this gave me a confidence that with my efforts I can bring a change in the lives of people, I can motivate them for something good, I can inspire them to attain the goals and their desires as life is one time opportunity, one shouldn't miss it and should enjoy this priceless god's gift.