Pollination is a critical process in gene flow and plant reproduction, not to mention food production. Recent developments in pollination ecology involve pollen metabarcoding, as well as detailed experimental and observational work. However, more powerful molecular approaches are needed to understand pollen movements among closely-related cultivars and among plant species with low levels of differentiation, such as eucalypts.
Eucalyptus pollination dynamics
Dr Jasmine Janes (UNE Postdoctoral Fellow) is leading a project investigating the species fidelity of “generalist” pollinators in mixed eucalypt woodlands. Focusing on endangered species with common and widespread relatives, the project will assess the risk of genome swamping in these rare and restricted species. It will address the pollination mechanisms involved in interspecific gene flow, using genomic approaches to detect heterospecific pollen deposition and understand its consequences. One goal is to develop a digital PCR-based method to quantify both conspecific and heterospecific pollen after deposition on the stigma.
Pollination genomics in apple cultivars
Cultivars of outcrossing crops rely on pollinators to deliver compatible pollen. In crops that are clonally propagated, such as apples, compatible “polliniser” genotypes must be planted within the crop. In collaboration with Dr Romina Rader (UNE) we are using transcriptome sequencing to understand the molecular interactions between pollen and pistil after natural and artificial pollination treatments. This work will also use genome sequencing to quantify apple and heterospecific pollen, aiming to develop new metabarcoding markers for use in apple orchard management.