Research Fellow

Contact Details

Office 212, Level 2 John Hines Building (62)
P +61 (0)7 3346 9951
F +61 (0)7 3365 3556


PhD, University of Tasmania (Australia)
MSc, University of Waterloo (Canada)
BSc (Hon), University of Waterloo (Canada)

Short Biography

Dr Brett Ferguson is 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). He is currently investigating the signalling interactions in legume nodulation. His 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.

Dr Ferguson 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.

Dr Ferguson has 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). He has 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.

Research Interests

  • Legumes, legume nodulation and nitrogen fixation
  • Plant biochemistry and molecular biology
  • Plant physiology, signalling and development
  • Plant functional genomics (genetics, transcriptomics)
  • Plant-microbe interactions (symbioses)

Current Projects

  • Discovery of the shoot-derived inhibitor of legume nodulation.
  • Identification and functional characterization of novel CLE-peptide hormones acting as early regulatory signals for legume nodule development.
  • Discovery and functional characterization of novel genes and signals required for early legume nodule development.
  • Unearthing the molecular mechanisms responsible for the inhibition of legume nodule development in acid soils.
  • Discovery of the soybean CLAVATA1A receptor and its role in stem cell maintenance in the shoot apical meristem.

Academic Awards and Achievements

  • 2013: ARC Discovery Grant (Functional Characterization of Nodulation CLE Peptides)
  • 2013: ARC Discovery Grant (Discovery of SDI)
  • 2011: UQ Early Career Researcher Grant
  • 2010: Peter Doherty Science Education Partnership and Community Science Award (co-winner as a main contributor to the CILR STEP In Labs outreach program)
  • 2010: The Plant Nutrition Trust Alf Anderson Award
  • 2009: Australian Institute of Policy and Science Young Tall Poppy Scientist of the Year Award for Queensland
  • 2009: UniQuest Research Commercialization Workshop Award
  • 2007: UTAS Dean's Commendation Award for Outstanding Doctoral Thesis
  • 2003-2005: Thomas Crawford Memorial Scholarship
  • 2003-2005: Tasmanian International Research Scholarship
  • 2003-2005: Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Post Graduate Scholarship


  • One of three named on a provisional patent (USA) based on 3 genes identified in soybean that encode CLE peptides. These peptides act to regulate legume nodule numbers following the perception of either soil microbes (rhizobia) or soil nitrogen.

Associations and Boards

  • Elected Plant-Microbe Interactions Represntative for Australian Society of Plant Scientists
  • Review Editorial Board: Frontiers in Plant Physiology
  • Member: Australian Society of Plant Scientists
  • Member: Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions
  • Member: Scientists in Schools

Invited Peer Reviewer

  • Plant Physiology
  • Functional Plant Biology
  • Frontiers in Plant Physiology
  • Journal of Experimental Botany
  • African Journal of Biotechnology
  • The USA-Israel Binational Agricultural Research & Development (BARD) Fund granting scheme

Conference Presentations

Dr Ferguson's work has been presented at numerous leading national and international conferences, symposia and events. A selection of recent invitations for Dr Ferguson to speak includes:

  • ComBio 2011
  • 17th International Congress on Nitrogen Fixation 2011
  • Illumina Agrigenomic South East Asia Seminar Series 2011
  • OzBio 2010
  • National Science Week 2010
  • Australian Genome Research Facility Next-Generation Special Interest Group 2010
  • Illumina Agrigenomic Seminar Series 2009
  • ABC radio 2009
  • ComBio 2009

PhD Students

Satomi Hayashi (PhD)
Saeid Mirzaei (PhD)
April Hastwell (PhD)
Bethany van Hameren (PhD)
Meng-Han Lin (PhD)
Yu-Hsiang Lin (PhD)
Dugald Reid (PhD)


Dr Ferguson has designed legume nodulation and apical dominance lectures and workshops that have been presented to >100 high school teachers through EDUC6770 (UQ Biological Sciences: Science Teaching Area) and the ARC CILR STEP-In-Labs outreach program. The program and its contributors were granted the 2010 Peter Doherty Science Education Partnership and Community Science Award. The workshops continue to be implemented in classrooms across the state and are promoted through the CILR Seeds for Schools outreach program. Dr Ferguson is a Blue Card holder and a Scientists in Schools member.

Other links

UQ Experts profile
UQ School of Agriculture and Food Sciences profile

Key Publications

(a) Scholarly Book Chapters

1. Ferguson BJ (2012) The development and regulation of soybean nodules. In: Soybean: A Review. Ed: Board J. InTech - Open Access, Shanghai, China, invited review chapter.
2. Hayashi S, Ferguson BJ, Gresshoff PM (2012) Long-distance signalling in symbiosis. In: Signalling and Communication in Plants. Ed: Baluska F. Springer Verlag, invited review chapter.
3. Ferguson BJ (2012) Rhizobia and legume nodulation genes. In: Brenner's Online Encyclopedia of Genetics. Eds: Maloy S, Hughes K. Elsevier/Academic Press, Waltham, Massachusetts, USA, accepted November 1, 2011
4. Ferguson BJ, Indrasumunar A (2011) Soybean nodulation and nitrogen fixation. In: Agricultural Research Updates Volume 1. Ed: Hendriks, BP. Nova Publishers, Hauppauge, NY, USA, pp 103-119

(b) Refereed Journal Articles

5. Hayashi S, Reid DE, Lorenc M, Stiller J, Edwards D, Gresshoff PM, Ferguson BJ (2012) Transient Nod-factor dependent gene expression in the nodulation competent zone of soybean (Glycine max L. Merr.) roots. Submitted.
6. Reid DE, Hayashi S, Lorenc M, Stiller J, Edwards D, Gresshoff PM, Ferguson BJ (2012) Identification of systemic responses in soybean nodulation by xylem sap feeding and complete transcriptome sequencing reveal a novel component of the autoregulation pathway. Submitted
7. Renton M, Hanan J, Ferguson BJ, Beveridge CA (2012) Models of long-distance transport: How is carrier-dependent auxin transport regulated in the stem? New Phytologist, accepted Jan 23, 2012
8. Reid DE, Ferguson BJ, Hayashi S, Lin Y-H, Gresshoff PM (2011) Molecular mechanisms controlling legume autoregulation of nodulation. Annals of Botany 108: 789-795
9. Ferguson BJ, Foo E, Reid JB, Ross JJ (2011) Relationship between gibberellin, ethylene and nodulation in Pisum sativum. New Phytologist 189: 829-842
10. Reid DE, Ferguson BJ, Gresshoff PM (2011) Inoculation- and nitrate-induced CLE peptides of soybean control NARK-dependent nodule formation. Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions 24: 606-618
11. Lin M-H, Gresshoff PM, Ferguson BJ (2011) pHairyRed: a novel binary vector containing the DsRed2 reporter for visual selection of transgenic hairy roots. Molecular Plant 4: 537-545 12. Lin Y-H, Lin M-H, Gresshoff PM, Ferguson BJ (2011) Petiole Feeding as a technique to introduce exogenous solutions into the plant. Nature Protocols 6: 36-45
13. * Ferguson BJ (2010) Regulation of the soybean-rhizobium nodule symbiosis by shoot and root factors - Commentary. Plant Physiology 154: doi/10.1104/pp.110.156208 (
14. Lin Y-H, Ferguson BJ, Kereszt A, Gresshoff PM (2010) Suppression of supernodulation in soybean by a leaf-extracted, NARK- and inoculation-dependent small molecular fraction. New Phytologist 185: 1074-1086
15. Ferguson BJ, Indrasumunar A, Hayashi S, Lin Y-H, Lin M-H, Reid D, Gresshoff PM (2010) Molecular analysis of legume nodule development and autoregulation. Journal of Integrative Plant Biology 52: 61-76
16. Rispail N, Kaló P, Kiss GB, Ellis THN, Gallardo K, Thompson RD, Prats E, Larrainzar E, Ladrera R, González EM, Arrese-Igor C, Ferguson BJ, Gresshoff PM, Rubiales D (2010) Model legumes contribute to Faba bean breeding. Field Crops Research 115: 253-269
17. Ferguson BJ, Gresshoff PM (2009) Soybean as a model legume. Grain Legumes 53: 7
18. Ferguson BJ, Beveridge CA (2009) Roles for auxin, cytokinin, and strigolactone in regulating shoot branching. Plant Physiology 149: 1929-1944
19. Brewer P, Dun EA, Ferguson BJ, Rameau C, Beveridge CA (2009) Strigolactone acts downstream of auxin to regulate bud outgrowth in pea and Arabidopsis. Plant Physiology 150: 482-493
20. Gresshoff PM, Lohar D, Chan P-K, Biswas B, Jiang Q, Reid D, Ferguson BJ, Stacey G (2009) Genetic analysis of ethylene regulation of legume nodulation. Plant Signalling and Behaviour 4: 818-823
21. Gresshoff PM, Ferguson BJ, Indrasumunar A, Jiang Q (2009) Modern genetics and biotechnology of soybean: nitrogen fixation and nodulation. Chinese Journal of Nature 31: 320-326
22. Dodd IC, Ferguson BJ, Beveridge CA (2008) Apical wilting and petiole xylem vessel diameter of the rms2 branching mutant of pea are shoot controlled and independent of a long-distance signal regulating branching. Plant and Cell Physiology 49: 791-800
23. Dun EA1, Ferguson BJ1, Beveridge CA (2006) Apical dominance and shoot branching. Divergent opinions or divergent mechanisms? Plant Physiology 142: 812-819
24. O'Rourke TA, Ferguson BJ, Reid JB, Foo E (2006) Role of brassinosteroids in autoregulation of nodulation. Phytopathology 96: S88
25. Ferguson BJ, Reid JB (2005) cochleata: getting to the root of legume nodules. Plant and Cell Physiology 46: 1583-1589
26. Ferguson BJ, Reid JB, Ross JJ (2005) Nodulation phenotypes of gibberellin and brassinosteroid mutants of Pisum sativum. Plant Physiology 138: 2396-2405
27. Ferguson BJ, Wiebe EM, Emery RJN, Guinel FC (2005) Cytokinin accumulation and an altered ethylene response mediate the pleiotropic phenotype of the pea nodulation mutant R50 (sym16). Canadian Journal of Botany 83: 989-1000
28. Ferguson BJ, Mathesius U (2003) Signaling interactions during nodule development. Journal of Plant Growth Regulation 22: 47-72
29. Lorteau MA, Ferguson BJ, Guinel FC (2001) Effects of cytokinin on ethylene production and nodulation in pea (Pisum sativum) cv. Sparkle. Physiologia Plantarum 112: 421-428

(c) Refereed Conference Papers

30. Gresshoff PM, 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 MA, Kinkema M, Ferguson BJ (2009) Functional genomic analysis of systemic cell division regulation in legumes. In: Shu QY (ed.) Induced Mutations in the Genomics Era. International Symposium on Induced Mutations in Plants. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)/International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Vienna, Austria, 399-402

(e) Other Publications

31. Reid D, Ferguson BJ, Gresshoff PM (2009) Regulation of soybean nodulation induced by CLE peptides. Grain Legumes 53: 32
32. Hayashi S, Ferguson BJ, Gresshoff PM (2009) Tissue and cell type analysis of molecular events during the early stages of soybean nodulation. Grain Legumes 53: 33
33. Lin M-H, Ferguson BJ, Indrasumunar A, Gresshoff PM (2009) Characterising the inhibition of legume nodulation by low pH conditions. Grain Legumes 53: 33
34. Lin Y-H, Ferguson BJ, Zhang H, Capon RJ, Gresshoff PM (2009) Development of a bioassay for the characterisation and identification of the soybean nodulation inhibitory factor SDI. Grain Legumes 53: 34

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