Professor Anna Koltunow

Professorial Research Fellow

Centre for Crop Science
Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation

Professorial Research Fellow

Centre for Crop Science
Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation


Professor Anna Koltunow has a formidable record of accomplishment in plant reproduction research and translating that research into gains in agricultural sectors.

Her research focus is on the molecular and genetic mechanisms that regulate development of plant reproductive cell types and, therefore, seed and fruit formation. Accomplishments include developing seedless fruit, a sought-after commodity in the horticultural sector.

She was selected by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to head an international collaborative research venture between six research organisations and a multinational seed company to develop technologies so smallholder African farmers could economically save seed from cowpea and sorghum hybrids. Professor Koltunow led the first five-year phase of this project, called Capturing Heterosis, while at CSIRO. This project finished in July 2019. The second phase, also funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation – Hy-Gain for smallholders – commenced in March 2020, at The University of Queensland.

The Hy-Gain project is a multi-party international research project comprising seven world leading teams aiming to develop a novel technology to increase seed yield and productivity in sorghum and cowpea crops for smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa. This exciting 5-year project, is led by Professor Koltunow in QAAFI’s Centre for Crop Science. Hy-Gain aims to ensure the technology is compatible with plant breeding to support the future, rapid delivery of new high yielding sorghum and cowpea hybrids and improved varieties. The project has some fundamental discovery work, however its key aim is building and testing the utility of the technology in plants. The research objectives span molecular work in the laboratory to field work involving genetic, genomic and transgenic technologies and testing reproductive productivity of sorghum and cowpea plants in glasshouse and in the field.

Together, the Hy-Gain project team is developing new ways to breed sorghum and cowpea varieties that make it possible to achieve large gains in yields, while increasing resilience to diseases and environmental stress.

Professor Koltunow’s collaborations have had an international focus and she has consistently obtained external research funding from several sources (ARC, Australian rural development corporations, and bilateral funding involving CSIRO and India, China, Japan and Brazil and philanthropic funds). She has participated in EU consortia, trained international researchers and national and international students in plant reproduction research in partnership with national and international University collaborators. She has Professorial Affiliations with the University of Adelaide, La Trobe University and works with Huazhong Agricultural University in China.

Whilst maintaining an international profile in plant reproduction research, Professor Koltunow has also held senior leadership roles at CSIRO (including Program leader and Deputy Chief). She served on the Premier’s science council in South Australia, ARC College of Experts, as President and Past President of the International Association of Plant Reproduction Research and on various scientific boards including a CRC and two New Zealand Crown Research Institutes. She has been involved in the organization of 9 international conferences, works on advisory panels, editorial boards. She is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science and the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering.

Research Impacts

Academic achievements:

  • Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (2018)
  • Elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science (2016)
  • Member of the Australian Research Council College of Experts, Biology and Biotechnology (2010-2012)
  • President and Past-President of the International Society for Plant Reproduction Society (2002-2006;2006-10)
  • Director of two New Zealand Crown Research institutes, CRC for Viticulture and Provisor, a research companies (2003-2009)
  • Served terms as Program Leader and two terms as Deputy Chief at CSIRO Plant Industry (2001-2006 and 2013-2014)
  • Board of the IPMB society (elected, 1997-2000)
  • Australian Research Council 5-year Fellow (1991-1995).
  • Postdoctoral studies: CSIRO Horticulture (1986-1988), UCLA, USA (1989-1990).
  • PhD University of Adelaide, 1987.


  • Doctor of Philosophy, University of Adelaide


  • Pinto, Sara C., Leong, Weng Herng, Tan, Hweiting, McKee, Lauren, Prevost, Amelie, Ma, Chao, Shirley, Neil. J., Petrella, Rosanna, Yang, Xiujuan, Koltunow, Anna M., Bulone, Vincent, Kanaoka, Masahiro M., Higashyiama, Tetsuya, Coimbra, Sílvia and Tucker, Matthew R. (2024). Germline β−1,3-glucan deposits are required for female gametogenesis in Arabidopsis thaliana. Nature Communications, 15 (1) 5875. doi: 10.1038/s41467-024-50143-0

  • Otwani, Daniel, Hunt, Colleen, Cruickshank, Alan, Powell, Owen, Koltunow, Anna, Mace, Emma and Jordan, David (2024). Adaptation and plasticity of yield in hybrid and inbred sorghum. Crop Science, 64 (2), 560-570. doi: 10.1002/csc2.21160

  • Wang, Nan, Song, Xietian, Ye, Junli, Zhang, Siqi, Cao, Zhen, Zhu, Chenqiao, Hu, Jianbing, Zhou, Yin, Huang, Yue, Cao, Shuo, Liu, Zhongjie, Wu, Xiaomeng, Chai, Lijun, Guo, Wenwu, Xu, Qiang, Gaut, Brandon S, Koltunow, Anna M. G., Zhou, Yongfeng and Deng, Xiuxin (2022). Structural variation and parallel evolution of apomixis in citrus during domestication and diversification. National Science Review, 9 (10) nwac114, 1-16. doi: 10.1093/nsr/nwac114

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  • Doctor Philosophy

  • Doctor Philosophy

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Book Chapter

  • Koltunow, Anna M., Vivian-Smith, Adam, Tucker, Matthew R. and Paech, Nicholas (2018). The central role of the ovule in apomixis and parthenocarpy. Annual Plant Reviews online. (pp. 234-270) Chichester, United Kingdom: John Wiley & Sons. doi: 10.1002/9781119312994.apr0053

  • Hand, Melanie L., de Vries, Sacco and Koltunow, Anna M. G. (2016). A comparison of in vitro and in vivo asexual embryogenesis. In vitro embryogenesis in higher plants. (pp. 3-23) edited by Maria Antonietta Germanà and Maurizio Lambardi. New York, NY United States: Humana Press . doi: 10.1007/978-1-4939-3061-6_1

  • Koltunow, Anna M.G., Ozias-Akins, Peggy and Siddiqi, Imran (2013). Apomixis. Seed Genomics. (pp. 83-110) Oxford, UK: Wiley-Blackwell. doi: 10.1002/9781118525524.ch5

  • Koltunow, Anna (2012). Apomixis. eLS. (pp. ---) Chichester, United Kingdom: John Wiley & Sons. doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0002035.pub2

  • Koltunow, Anna M. G. and Tucker, Matthew R. (2003). Advances in apomixis research: can we fix heterosis?. Plant biotechnology 2002 and beyond. (pp. 38-46) Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer Netherlands. doi: 10.1007/978-94-017-2679-5_7

  • Koltunow, Anna M. (1994). Apomixis — other pathways for reproductive development in angiosperms. Genetic control of self-incompatibility and reproductive development in flowering plants. (pp. 486-512) edited by Elizabeth G. Williams, Adrienne E. Clarke and R. Bruce Knox. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer. doi: 10.1007/978-94-017-1669-7_23

Journal Article

Conference Publication

Grants (Administered at UQ)

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision