Dr Lee Hickey
Genetics and plant breeding
University of Queensland
We need more productive crops to feed a rapidly growing human population, and in the face of a changing climate and rapidly evolving pests and diseases. But traditional plant breeding is slow: it can take up to 20 years to develop an improved variety! Dr Hickey has developed ‘speed breeding’ technology which enables up to 6 generations of wheat and barley per year – slashing the time to develop improved varieties for farmers. He and his team has used speed breeding to develop wheat varieties with novel traits such as a high-protein milling wheat with tolerance to pre-harvest sprouting. They have also discovered a key gene directing root growth downwards, rather than sideways, taking a step closer to development of crop varieties with designer root systems and improved drought tolerance.
Lee is the producer and presenter of “Science Over Coffee” (SOC) – a fresh video series, tackling popular scientific topics in the media that are clouded by misconceptions and he was listed as a ‘Plant Science’ influencer on online blog Plant Science Today. His research outcomes have featured on ABC Radio, magazines and newspapers, and the popular “I Fucking Love Science”. He was recently appointed Social Media Editor for the international plant breeding and genetics journal “Theoretical and Applied Genetics”.