Professor Peer Schenk

Professor

School of Agriculture and Food Sciences
Faculty of Science

Affiliated Professor

Centre for Crop Science
Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation
p.schenk@uq.edu.au
+61 7 336 58817

Overview

Plant and Microbial Biotechnology, Plant-Microbe Interactions, Environmental Transcriptomics, Algae Biotechnology, Sustainable Biofuel Production

The Plant-Microbe Interactions Group specialises in the discovery of interesting new genes from plants and microbes, including microalgae.

DISEASE RESISTANT PLANTS:

We use a Functional Genomics and Biodiscovery approach to study beneficial and parasitic interactions of plants with microorganisms. Arabidopsis is used as a model plant to study signalling pathways that enable plants to withstand pathogen attack or severe drought. The up- or down-regulation of specific key regulatory genes has led to disease resistance and drought tolerance, and this strategy is used to improve crop species. In our start-up company Nexgen Plants Pty Ltd, we are producing virus-resistant crops using a new molecular, non-GM approach (www.nexgenplants.com).

MICROBIAL COMMUNITIES ASSOCIATED WITH PLANTS:

We are using molecular profiling tools, such as functional gene microarrays and next generation sequencing, to characterise highly diverse microbial communities that are associated with plants to identify novel compounds for agricultural applications. This environmental transcriptomics (metatranscriptomics) approach captures microbial activity profiles with direct implications for crop cultivation (e.g. soil-borne diseases, greenhouse gas emmissions, yield increase or decline). This research has led to the development of new antimicrobial compounds to control plant diseases (www.plantsandmicrobes.com).

ALGAE FOR FOOD, FEED AND FUEL:

We house a collection of Australian microalgal strains that are highly efficient producers of oil, protein and nutraceuticals and use a special non-GM breeding technique to further improve their performance. At present we are developing microalgae for animal feed and as a source of omega-3-rich oil for human consumption to provide a sustainable and vegetarian replacement for fishoil. Microalgae are also likely the only renewable source of fuel that could match our current and future demand without competing for arable land and biodiverse landscapes. For this reason, we have built the UQ Algae Energy Farm, a 250,000 L large-scale, low-cost algae demonstration biorefinery at Pinjarra Hills (www.algaebiotech.org).

Research Interests

  • Algae for food, feed and fuel
    We use microalgal strains that are highly efficient producers of oil, protein or nutraceuticals and further optimise these by using cutting-edge molecular biology and metabolic engineering tools. Microalgae are likely the only renewable source of fuel that could match our current and future demand without competing for arable land and food production.
  • Microbial communities associated with plants
    We are using molecular profiling tools, such as functional gene microarrays and next generation sequencing, to characterise highly diverse microbial communities that are associated with plants to identify novel compounds for pharmaceutical and agricultural applications. This environmental transcriptomics (metatranscriptomics) approach captures microbial activity profiles with direct implications for crop cultivation (e.g. soil-borne diseases, greenhouse gas emissions, yield increase or decline).
  • Disease resistant plants
    We use a Functional Genomics and Biodiscovery approach to study beneficial and parasitic interactions of plants with microbes. Arabidopsis is used as a model plant to study signalling pathways that enable plants to withstand pathogen attack or severe drought. The up- or down-regulation of specific key regulatory genes has led to disease resistance and drought tolerance, and this strategy is used to improve crop species.
  • Affordable water filtration
    We have developed a low-cost filtration system that enables high-flow removal of microbial, colloidal and oil contaminants from water. For further information please contact us directly.

Research Impacts

Research with notable impact includes (1) plant- and microbial protein expression systems, (2) disease-resistant plants, (3) new commercial canola varieties, (4) large-scale, low-cost algae cultivation and harvesting technologies, and (5) a new water filtration system to remove dangerous microbial and oil contaminants. Collectively, our work has led to 7 patents, two start-up companies and other commercial partners that bring our technologies to the market. We always interested to partner with industry to apply our technologies in a commercial setting.

Qualifications

  • MPhil, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen
  • PhD, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen
  • Diploma in Biology, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen

Publications

View all Publications

Grants

View all Grants

Supervision

View all Supervision

Available Projects

View all Available Projects

Publications

Book Chapter

  • Fallath, Thorya, Rosli, Ahmad Bin, Kidd, Brendan, Carvalhais, Lilia C. and Schenk, Peer M. (2017). Toward plant defense mechanisms against root pathogens. In Agriculturally Important Microbes for Sustainable Agriculture (pp. 293-312) Gateway East, Singapore : Springer Singapore. doi:10.1007/978-981-10-5343-6_10

  • Rincon-Florez, Vivian A., Carvalhais, Lilia C., Dang, Yash P. and Schenk, Peer M. (2016). Soil microbial community interactions under tillage systems in Australia. In Khalid Rehman Hakeem, Mohd Sayeed Akhtar and Siti Nor Akmar Abdullah (Ed.), Plant, Soil and Microbes: Volume 1: Implications in Crop Science (pp. 93-102) Cham, Switzerland: Springer. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-27455-3_5

  • Alsenani, Faisal, Ahmed, Faruq and Schenk, Peer M. (2015). Nutraceuticals from microalgae. In Debasis Bagchi, Harry G. Preuss and Anand Swaroop (Ed.), Nutraceuticals and functional foods in human health and disease prevention (pp. 673-684) Boca Raton, FL, United States: CRC Press. doi:10.1201/b19308

  • Mirzaee, Hooman, Shuey, Louise and Schenk, Peer M. (2015). Transcriptomics of plants interacting with pathogens and beneficial microbes. In Debasis Bagchi, Anand Swaroop and Manashi Bagchi (Ed.), Genomics, proteomics and metabolomics in nutraceuticals and functional foods Second edition ed. (pp. 527-536) Chichester, West Sussex, United Kingdom: John Wiley & Sons. doi:10.1002/9781118930458.ch41

  • Schenk, Peer M. (2014). Rapid cloning of genes and promoters for functional analyses. In Agnelo Furtado and Robert J. Henry (Ed.), Cereal Genomics: Methods and Protocols (pp. 123-132) New York, United States: Humana Press. doi:10.1007/978-1-62703-715-0_11

  • Carvalhais, Lilia C., Rincon-Florez, Vivian and Schenk, Peer M. (2014). Soil functional gene microarrays and applications in plant-microbe interactions. In Zhili He (Ed.), Microarrays: current technology, innovations and applications (pp. 169-180) Norfolk, United Kingdom: Caister Academic Press.

  • Kidd, Brendan, Kazan, Kemal and Schenk, Peer M. (2014). Transcriptome analysis of induced resistance. In Dale R. Walters, Adrian C. Newton and Gary D. Lyon (Ed.), Induced Resistance for Plant Defense: A Sustainable Approach to Crop Protection 2nd ed. (pp. 41-57) Chichester, West Sussex, United Kingdom: John Wiley & Sons. doi:10.1002/9781118371848.ch3

  • Duong, Van Thang, Li, Yan, Nowak, Ekaterina and Schenk, Peer M. (2013). Microalgae isolation and selection for prospective biodiesel production. In Barnabas Gikonyo (Ed.), Advances in Biofuel Production: Algae and Aquatic Plants (pp. 257-276) Toronto, ON, Canada: Apple Academic Press. doi:10.1201/b16341

  • Ahmed, Faruq, Fanning, Kent, Schuhmann, Holger, Netzel, Michael and Schenk, Peer M. (2013). Microalgae: a valuable source of natural carotenoids with potential health benefits. In Masayoshi Yamaguchi (Ed.), Carotenoids: Food Sources, Production and Health Benefits (pp. 143-164) Hauppauge, NY, USA: Nova Science Publishers.

  • Schuhmann, Holger and Schenk, Peer M. (2013). Physiology, biochemistry and genetics of microalgal growth and lipid production. In Bharat P. Singh (Ed.), Biofuel crops: production, physiology and genetics (pp. 54-83) Wallingford, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom: CABI Publishing. doi:10.1079/9781845938857.0054

  • Carvalhais, Lilia C., Dennis, Paul G., Tyson, Gene W. and Schenk, Peer M. (2013). Rhizosphere Metatranscriptomics: Challenges and Opportunities. In Frans J. de Bruijn (Ed.), Molecular Microbial Ecology of the Rhizosphere (pp. 1137-1144) Hoboken, NJ United States: Wiley-Blackwell. doi:10.1002/9781118297674.ch109

  • Rahaie, Mahdi, Xue, Gang-Ping and Schenk, Peer M. (2013). The role of transcription factors in wheat under different abiotic stresses. In Kourosh Vahdati and Charles Leslie (Ed.), Abiotic stress - plant responses and applications in agriculture (pp. 367-385) Rijeka, Croatia: InTech. doi:10.5772/54795

  • Dinh, Hoang Lan Chi and Schenk, Peer M. (2012). Proteomics and metabolomics of Musa. In Genetics, genomics, and breeding of bananas (pp. 181-193) Boca Raton, FL, United States: CRC Press. doi:10.1201/b11776

  • Schenk, Peer M. (2011). Isolation of mRNA from environmental microbial communities for metatranscriptomic analyses. In Frans J. de Bruijn (Ed.), Metagenomics and Complementary Approaches (pp. 569-574) Hoboken, NJ, U.S.A.: John Wiley & Sons. doi:10.1002/9781118010518.ch62

  • Schenk, Peer M. (2011). Isolation of mRNA from environmental microbial communities for metatranscriptomic analyses. In Frans J.de Bruijn (Ed.), Handbook of molecular microbial ecology I: Metagenomics and complementary approaches (pp. 569-574) Hoboken, NJ, United States: Wiley-Blackwell.

  • Kazan, K. and Schenk, P. M. (2007). Genomics in induced resistance. In Walters, D., Newton, A. and Lyon, G. (Ed.), Induced Resistance for Plant Defence (pp. 31-64) Oxford, United Kingdom: Blackwell Publishing.

Journal Article

Conference Publication

Grants (Administered at UQ)

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

  • Master Philosophy — Principal Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

  • 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 — Principal Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

Completed 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.