Dr Millicent Smith

Lecturer Crop Physiology

School of Agriculture and Food Sciences
Faculty of Science

Affiliate Lecturer

Centre for Crop Science
Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation

Overview

Millicent is a plant physiologist with expertise in legume crops. Typically working at the whole plant or crop level, her research is focused on understanding the above- and below-ground mechanisms that underpin adaptation to abiotic stress and the impacts of changing resource availability on yield and seed nutrient content. Millicent has extensive experience developing and applying novel chemical, isotopic and physiological phenotyping techniques and technologies across scales from lab to field.

Research Interests

  • Abiotic stress in tropical pulses
  • Optimising root and canopy architecture for drought adaptation
  • Understanding source-sink dynamics in legume crops
  • Impact of water availability on yield and grain nutrient content

Qualifications

  • Bachelor of Environmental Systems, University of Sydney
  • Doctor of Philosophy, University of Sydney

Publications

  • Bhatta, Madhav, Sandro, Pablo, Smith, Millicent R., Delaney, Oscar, Voss-Fels, Kai P., Gutierrez, Lucia and Hickey, Lee T. (2021). Need for speed: manipulating plant growth to accelerate breeding cycles. Current Opinion in Plant Biology, 60 101986, 101986. doi: 10.1016/j.pbi.2020.101986

  • Smith, Millicent R. and Rao, Idupulapati M. (2021). Common bean. Crop physiology case histories for major crops. (pp. 384-406) London, United Kingdom: Elsevier. doi: 10.1016/b978-0-12-819194-1.00012-8

  • Smith, Millicent R., Fuentes, David and Merchant, Andrew (2019). Chemical and isotopic markers detect water deficit and its influence on nutrient allocation in Phaseolus vulgaris. Physiologia Plantarum, 167 (3), 391-403. doi: 10.1111/ppl.12899

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Grants

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Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy

  • Doctor Philosophy

  • Doctor Philosophy

View all Supervision

Available Projects

  • Mungbean is a high protein pulse crop grown in Queensland. Mungbean has a long flowering window that results in staggered maturity, complicating harvest and often reducing yield. The physiological and genetic mechanisms that control flowering along with any trade-offs associated with variation in flowering are not well understood. This project aims to provide new insights into the flowering behaviour of a diverse set of mungbean varieties. You will:

    • Develop new insight into the physiology of flowering behaviour in mungbean
    • Identify the yield potential and trade-offs associated with different flowering windows
    • Identify genomic regions associated with determine, synchronous flowering and yield component traits
    • Undertake controlled environment and field experiments at UQ St Lucia and Gatton campus
    • Develop skills in phenotyping technology, data analysis and interpretation
  • Tropical pulses such as mungbean, pigeonpea and chickpea, are an important source of alternative protein and play a critical role in agronomic systems. Despite this, yield remains low and extremely vulnerable to abiotic stress. Genome editing technology provides an opportunity to fast-track crop improvement in neglected tropical pulses. Combining crop physiology and biotechnology, this project seeks to develop a transformation pipeline for pulse crops at UQ that can be utilised to improve protein quality.

    You will:

    • Establish a transformation protocol for tropical pulses at UQ
    • Develop skills in tissue culture, plant phenotyping and data analysis
  • A major threat to the Pacific region is the risk of rising sea levels causing tidal inundations. Toxic levels of salt can impact on the cultivation of major food crops in the region such as taro (Colocasia spp.). Wild relatives of taro may hold the key to developing salinity tolerant taro for the Pacific region. In collaboration with the Pacific Community, SPC, this project aims to use a cost-effective throughput phenotyping technique to evaluate Australian and Pacific Island taro germplasm for salinity tolerance.

    You will:

    • Identify the key sources of salinity tolerance in taro wild relatives
    • Undertake DNA fingerprinting of taro wild relatives
    • Be involved in the development of a new salinity phenotyping pipeline for taro
    • Undertake controlled environment phenotyping experiments in Queensland
    • Facilitate the implementation of phenotyping pipeline in the Pacific

View all Available Projects

Publications

Book Chapter

  • Smith, Millicent R. and Rao, Idupulapati M. (2021). Common bean. Crop physiology case histories for major crops. (pp. 384-406) London, United Kingdom: Elsevier. doi: 10.1016/b978-0-12-819194-1.00012-8

  • Dumschott, Kathryn, Merchant, Andrew and Smith, Millicent (2018). Metabolic adaptation and allocation of metabolites to phloem transport and regulation under stress. Metabolic adaptations in plants during abiotic stress. (pp. 21-26) edited by Akula Ramakrishna and Sarvajeet Singh Gill. Boca Raton, FL, United States: CRC Press. doi: 10.1201/b22206-2

Journal Article

Grants (Administered at UQ)

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

Possible Research Projects

Note for students: The possible research projects listed on this page may not be comprehensive or up to date. Always feel free to contact the staff for more information, and also with your own research ideas.

  • Mungbean is a high protein pulse crop grown in Queensland. Mungbean has a long flowering window that results in staggered maturity, complicating harvest and often reducing yield. The physiological and genetic mechanisms that control flowering along with any trade-offs associated with variation in flowering are not well understood. This project aims to provide new insights into the flowering behaviour of a diverse set of mungbean varieties. You will:

    • Develop new insight into the physiology of flowering behaviour in mungbean
    • Identify the yield potential and trade-offs associated with different flowering windows
    • Identify genomic regions associated with determine, synchronous flowering and yield component traits
    • Undertake controlled environment and field experiments at UQ St Lucia and Gatton campus
    • Develop skills in phenotyping technology, data analysis and interpretation
  • Tropical pulses such as mungbean, pigeonpea and chickpea, are an important source of alternative protein and play a critical role in agronomic systems. Despite this, yield remains low and extremely vulnerable to abiotic stress. Genome editing technology provides an opportunity to fast-track crop improvement in neglected tropical pulses. Combining crop physiology and biotechnology, this project seeks to develop a transformation pipeline for pulse crops at UQ that can be utilised to improve protein quality.

    You will:

    • Establish a transformation protocol for tropical pulses at UQ
    • Develop skills in tissue culture, plant phenotyping and data analysis
  • A major threat to the Pacific region is the risk of rising sea levels causing tidal inundations. Toxic levels of salt can impact on the cultivation of major food crops in the region such as taro (Colocasia spp.). Wild relatives of taro may hold the key to developing salinity tolerant taro for the Pacific region. In collaboration with the Pacific Community, SPC, this project aims to use a cost-effective throughput phenotyping technique to evaluate Australian and Pacific Island taro germplasm for salinity tolerance.

    You will:

    • Identify the key sources of salinity tolerance in taro wild relatives
    • Undertake DNA fingerprinting of taro wild relatives
    • Be involved in the development of a new salinity phenotyping pipeline for taro
    • Undertake controlled environment phenotyping experiments in Queensland
    • Facilitate the implementation of phenotyping pipeline in the Pacific
  • Mungbean is an important tropical pulse for Queensland. Current production is at risk of yield reduction from increased temperatures, and this is expected to worsen in the future. To breed new mungbean varieties with increased heat tolerance, the physiological responses of traits related to heat stress need to be understood. This project aims to identify the physiological basis of heat tolerance in mungbean. You will:

    • Learn about the physiological mechanisms that underlie heat tolerance in tropical pulses.
    • Be involved in the development of new heat screening protocols for mungbean using field-based heat chambers.
    • Develop skills in data analysis and using phenotyping tools in controlled and field environments.