Associate Professor Brett Ferguson

Associate Professor Legume Biotech

School of Agriculture and Food Sciences
Faculty of Science
+61 7 334 69951


Discovery and functional characterization of novel genes and signals required for legume nodule development and the regulation of legume nodule numbers.

I am currently a member of the Centre for Integrative Legume Research (CILR) in the School of Agriculture and Food Sciences (SAFS) at the University of Queensland (UQ). I investigate the signalling interactions in legume nodulation. My work has contributed to the discovery of many new genes and signals, including novel CLE-peptide hormones having roles in regulating nodule numbers. Additional discoveries, including genes involved in nodule formation, nitrogen signalling or the regulation of nodule numbers, are also having a significant impact in the nodulation field.

I previously established the novel approach of using well-characterised mutant plants to investigate legume nodulation. This provided the first demonstration of a requirement for brassinosteroid hormones in nodulation and it established a central role for gibberellins in nodule development. It also provided important new insight into developmental overlaps existing between roots and nodules.

I have also made important contributions to the understanding of a completely new class of plant hormones, the strigolactones. This includes producing some of the initial articles reporting a role for strigolatones in shoot branching, with one article awarded the cover issue of Plant Physiology (Ferguson and Beveridge 2009). I also demonstrated that plants can transport quantities of auxin far in excess of their endogenous levels, which has significant implications as auxin and auxin transport are critical for all aspects of plant development.


  • Doctor of Philosophy, University of Tasmania


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Book Chapter

  • Zhang, M. B., Chu, X. T., Su, H. N., Hastwell, A. H., Gresshoff, P. M. and Ferguson, B. J. (2018). Advances in understanding soybean physiology and growth. In Henry T. Nguyen (Ed.), Achieving sustainable cultivation of soybeans: volume 1 breeding and cultivation techniques (pp. 3-22) Sawston, Cambridge, United Kingdom: Burleigh Dodds Science Publishing. doi:10.19103/as.2017.0034.01

  • Ferguson, Brett J. and Gresshoff, Peter M. (2015). Physiological implications of legume nodules associated with soil acidity. In Saad Sulieman and Lam-Son Phan Tran (Ed.), Legume nitrogen fixation in a changing environment: achievements and challenges (pp. 113-125) Cham, Switzerland: Springer. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-06212-9_6

  • Ferguson, B. J. (2013). Rhizobia and legume nodulation genes. In Stanley Maloy and Kelly Hughes (Ed.), Brenner’s encyclopedia of genetics 2nd ed. (pp. 236-239) New York, NY, United States: Academic Press Elsevier. doi:10.1016/B978-0-12-374984-0.01046-9

  • Hayashi, Satomi, Gresshoff, Peter M. and Ferguson, Brett J. (2013). Systemic signalling in legume nodulation: nodule formation and its regulation. In František Baluška (Ed.), Long-distance systemic signaling and communication in plants (pp. 219-229) Heidelberg, Germany: Springer-Verlag. doi:10.1007/978-3-642-36470-9_11

  • Ferguson, Brett (2013). The development and regulation of soybean nodules. In James E. Board (Ed.), A comprehensive survey of international soybean research - genetics, physiology, agronomy and nitrogen relationships (pp. 31-47) Rijeka, Croatia: InTech - Open Access Publisher. doi:10.5772/52573

  • Ferguson, Brett J. and Indrasumunar, Arief (2011). Soybean nodulation and nitrogen fixation. In Barbara P. Hendriks (Ed.), Agricultural research updates (pp. 103-119) Hauppauge, N.Y., United States: Nova Publishers.

Journal Article

Conference Publication

  • Hastwell, April, Li, Dongxue, Tollenaere, Alina, Gresshoff, Peter M. and Ferguson, Brett J. (2014). Negative regulation of legume nodules by inducible signal peptides. In: 17th Australian Nitrogen Fixation Conference, Adelaide, SA, Australia, (44-45). 28 September - 2 October 2014.

  • Indrasumunar, Arief, Reid , Dugald, Ferguson, Brett and Gresshoff, Peter M. (2011). Nitrate sensing and signaling during soybean nodulation. In: Plant & Animal Genome XIX Conference Abstracts. Plant and Animal Genomes XIX Conference, San Diago, CA, USA, (). 15-19 January 2011.

  • Gresshoff, Peter M., Indrasumunar, Ariel, Lin, Yu-Hsiang, Reid, Dugald, Lin, Meng-Han, Hayashi, Satomi, Batley, Jacqui, Li, Dongxue and Ferguson, Brett (2010). Genetic and biochemical components of local and systemic long-distance signalling during nodule regulation in legumes. In: The Commemorative International Symposium for the 50th Anniversary of KSABC : Applied Biological Chemistry Toward Centennial : Program. 2010 Symposium & Workshop: Plant cell-to-cell and long distance signaling, Gyeongsang National University, Korea, (26-26). 25-27 August 2010.

  • Ferguson, B. J., Lin, Y. -H., Reid, D. E., Hayashi, S., Lin, M. -H., Zhang, H., Capon, R. and Gresshoff, P. M. (2010). Identifying novel factors required for legume nodule development and autoregulation.. In: OzBio2010 symposium abstracts. OzBio2010 combined conference, Melbourne, Australia, (43-43). 26 September - 1 October 2010.

  • Gresshoff, P. M., Indrasumunar, A., Miyahara, A., Nontachaiyapoom, S., Biswas, B., Lin, Y-H., Lin, M-H, Reid, D., Callahan, D., Capon, R., Zhang, H., Jiang, Q., Hirani, T., Kobe, B., Men, A., Scott, P., Kereszt, A., Miyagi, M., Li, D., Chan, P-K., Roessner, U., Djordjevic, M. A., Kinkema, M. and Ferguson, B. (2009). Functional genomic analysis of systemic cell division regulation in legumes. In: Q. Y. Shu, Induced Plant Mutations in the Genomics Era: Proceedings of an International Joint FAO/IAEA Symposium, 2008. International Symposium on Induced Mutations in Plants, Vienna, Austria, (399-402). 2–15 August 2008.

  • Djordjevic, M., Ferguson, B,, Gresshoff, P. M., Hayashi, S., Indrasumunar, A., Lin, M. H., Lin, Y. H., Oakes, M. and Reid, D. (2009). Functional genomics of soybean nodulation control: Plant stem cell biology biotechnology. In: Proceedings, World Soybean Research Conference VIII: Developing a global soy blueprint for a safe secure and sustainable supply. World Soybean Research Conference VIII, Beijing, China, (). 10-15 August 2009.

Other Outputs

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

  • Master Philosophy — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

Completed Supervision