Associate Professor Lee Hickey

Principal Research Fellow

Centre for Crop Science
Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation
+61 7 336 54805


Dr Lee Hickey is a plant breeder and crop geneticist within the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation at The University of Queensland, Australia. He leads an innovative team conducting discovery and applied research on Australia’s most important cereal crops, wheat and barley. This includes understanding the genetics of key traits like drought adaptation and disease resistance, plus the development of novel technologies to assist plant breeders. He has a strong interest in the integration of leading-edge breeding technologies, such as the rapid generation advance technology ‘speed breeding’ with genomic selection and genome editing. His advice for speed breeding crops is sought internationally and the technology is now adopted by plant breeding programs worldwide, which is fast-tracking development of improved crop varieties for farmers. His research outcomes have featured in 57 refereed publications, including articles in high profile journals Nature Plants, Nature Protocols and Nature Biotechnology. Lee is a prolific science communicator and his research outcomes have appeared in mainstream media such as BBC World News, National Geographic, and the New York Times. He is passionate about training the next generation of plant breeders and currently mentors 10 PhD students, while 9 of his previous graduates now work for leading plant breeding companies and high-profile research institutes around the globe.

Check out the Hickey Lab website here

Follow Dr Hickey on Twitter: @DrHikov

Research interests

  • Understanding genetic resistance to pathogens that attack wheat and barley
  • Speed breeding techniques to reduce the length of breeding cycles
  • Understanding the genetics of drought adaptive traits and their value in different environments
  • Integration of breeding technologies to accelerate genetic gain in breeding programs
  • Innovative genomic selection breeding methodologies

Research Impacts

Farming in 2030

Dr Lee Hickey's version of 2030 features robots, drones and intelligent machines as common place on farms, helping to reduce labour costs and chemical use. Listen to Dr Hickey discussing the future of farming.

Ancient genes to protect modern wheat

First genetic analysis of wheat landraces from the Vavilov seed bank in St Petersburg, Russia. Listen to the ABC Radio interview here.

Digging deep to drought-proof Australian barley

Discovery of a major gene influencing narrow root growth that may be useful for improving drought adaptation of barley crops. Full story here.

Barley Armed with Rust Defence

A three year international collaborative research project headed by the University of Queensland has led to the discovery of a gene to protect barley crops against the fungal disease, leaf rust, which will allow breedeers to arm barley with a genetic defence against the disease. Read more in this article from Queensland Country Life.

Speed Breeding to Develop Rust-Proof Wheat

Researchers at the University of Queensland used "speed breeding" techniques to dramatically reduce the time required to introduce new genes into an existing crop variety. The technique of growing plants under constant light was inspired by NASA who were intending to grow wheat on long space missions. Listen to the ABC radio interview.


  • Bachelor of Agricultural Science with Honours Clas, The University of Queensland
  • Graduate Certificate in Research Commercialisation, The University of Queensland
  • Doctor of Philosophy, The University of Queensland


  • Borrell, Andrew, George-Jaeggli, Barbara, Oosterom, Erik van, Hammer, Graeme, Mace, Emma, Godwin, Ian, Liu, Guoquan, Wong, Albert, Matiwos, Temesgen, Bantte, Kassahun, Christopher, Jack, Hickey, Lee, Richard, Cecile, Robinson, Hannah and Jordan, David (2020). How do crops balance water supply and demand when water is limiting?. Proceedings, 36 (1) doi:10.3390/proceedings2019036208

  • Adamski, Nikolai M., Borrill, Philippa, Brinton, Jemima, Harrington, Sophie A., Marchal, Clémence, Bentley, Alison R., Bovill, William D., Cattivelli, Luigi, Cockram, James, Contreras-Moreira, Bruno, Ford, Brett, Ghosh, Sreya, Harwood, Wendy, Hassani-Pak, Keywan, Hayta, Sadiye, Hickey, Lee T., Kanyuka, Kostya, King, Julie, Maccaferrri, Marco, Naamati, Guy, Pozniak, Curtis J., Ramirez-Gonzalez, Ricardo H., Sansaloni, Carolina, Trevaskis, Ben, Wingen, Luzie U., Wulff, Brande Bh and Uauy, Cristobal (2020). A roadmap for gene functional characterisation in crops with large genomes: lessons from polyploid wheat. eLife, 9e55646, doi:10.7554/eLife.55646

  • Mahajan, Gulshan, Hickey, Lee and Chauhan, Bhagirath Singh (2020). Response of barley genotypes to weed interference in Australia. Agronomy, 10 (1) x, doi:10.3390/agronomy10010099

View all Publications


  • Doctor Philosophy

  • Doctor Philosophy

  • Doctor Philosophy

View all Supervision


Book Chapter

  • Voss-Fels, Kai P., Herzog, Eva, Dreisigacker, Susanne, Sukumaran, Sivakumar, Watson, Amy, Frisch, Matthias, Hayes, Ben and Hickey, Lee T. (2019). “SpeedGS” to accelerate genetic gain in spring wheat. Applications of genetic and genomic research in cereals. (pp. 303-327) edited by Thomas Miedaner and Viktor Korzun.Amsterdam, Netherlands: Elsevier. doi:10.1016/b978-0-08-102163-7.00014-4

  • Riaz, Adnan and Hickey, Lee T. (2017). Rapid phenotyping adult plant resistance to stem rust in wheat grown under controlled conditions. Wheat rust diseases: methods and protocols. (pp. 183-196) edited by Sambasivam Periyannan.New York, NY, United States: Humana Press. doi:10.1007/978-1-4939-7249-4_16

  • Mackay, M. C., Street, K. A. and Hickey, L. T. (2016). Toward more effective discovery and deployment of novel plant genetic variation: reflection and future directions. Applied mathematics and omics to assess crop genetic resources for climate change adaptive traits. (pp. 139-150) edited by Abdallah Bari, Ardeshir B. Damania, Michael Mackay and Selvadurai Dayanandan.Boca Raton, FL, United States: Taylor & Francis Group. doi:10.1201/b19518-16

Journal Article

Conference Publication

Other Outputs

Grants (Administered at UQ)

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

Completed Supervision