Mengge Zhang

Position: MPhil Student
Place of birth: China
Language: Chinese, English
Advisors: Dr Lee Hickey, Professor Ian Godwin, Professor Andrew Borrell

Barley (Hordeum vulgare), a member of the grass family, is a major cereal grain grown in temperate climates globally. It was one of the first cultivated grains, particularly in Eurasia as early as 10,000 years ago. Barley has been used as animal fodder, as a source of fermentable material for beer and certain distilled beverages, and as a component of various health foods. It is used in soups and stews, and in barley bread of various cultures. Furthermore, barley grain is also important for the malting industry for making alcoholic beverages like beer and whisky.        
Barley is a widely cultivated crop around the world, where total production is ranked just behind maize, rice and wheat. Barley is widely adaptable-popular in temperate areas where it is grown as a summer crop and tropical areas where it is sown as a winter crop. Barley prefers cool conditions and is more tolerant of soil salinity than wheat. However, barley is not as cold tolerant as the winter wheats and it can be sown as a winter crop in warmer areas of Australia. Barley has a short growing season and is also relatively drought tolerant, which makes it suitable for agricultural production in Australia. However, rainfall is extremely variable in Australian barley production regions and there is scope to improve the drought adaptation of current barley cultivars through deployment of adaptive traits. This could improve yield stability in seasons where rainfall is low or sporadic.
By examining characteristics of the root system such as total root biomass and root angle, my project aims to improve our knowledge of the genetics controlling root development in order to deploy such traits in new barley cultivars. This could lead to development of new barley cultivars with improve drought adaptation and yield stability. My research on barley roots includes both genetic and phenotypic aspects, by collecting and co-analysing data from glasshouse and field experiments. 

·      Investigate the phenotypic and genetic relationship between root biomass, root angle and flowering time.
·      Determine the value of high and low root biomass traits in different environment types.
·      Investigate the effect of root biomass on crop performance under different management practices including nitrogen treatments and seeding rates.