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Cambridge Global Food Security

An Interdisciplinary Research Centre at the University of Cambridge

Sigrid Heuer has been Head of the Pre-Breeding Department at NIAB in Cambridge since October 2021.

She is a molecular crop physiologist with twenty years of international experience (Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia) working towards enhancing abiotic stress tolerance and nutrient use efficiency in rice and wheat, and more recently beans.

Her work in wheat at the University of Adelaide and subsequently at Rothamsted Research focussed mainly on nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) and high temperature stress tolerance, partly conducted within the Designing Future Wheat program. In Adelaide, Sigrid won and was director of the “Wheat in a Hot and Dry Climate” Industrial Transformation Research hub, involving five Australian universities and three major wheat breeding companies. She also led the NUE program within a commercial collaborative project.

Prior to Australia, Sigrid worked at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines for ten years, where she was involved with the land-mark project on submergence-tolerant “scuba” rice (SUB1A) and her team cloned the phosphorus starvation tolerance gene OsPSTOL1.


Developing climate resilient crops, with emphasis on high temperature stress and drought (wheat, rice, legumes)

Enhancing nutrient (nitrogen and phosphorus) use efficiency in crops to reduce fertiliser use (related to root growth, and gene and pathway dissection) 


Key publications: 

Rose T, Lowe C, Ward J, O’Sullivan D, Urban M, Beebe S, Heuer S (2022). Dissecting the mechanisms underlying reproductive heat tolerance in bean (Phaseolus vulgaris). Manuscript in preparation.

Rose T, Wilkinson M, Lowe C, Xu J, Hughes D, Hassall KL, Amberkar S, Ward J, Heuer S (2020). Novel molecules and target genes for vegetative heat tolerance in bread wheat. Manuscript submjitted.

Xu J, Lowe C, Hernandez-Leon SG, Dreisigacker S, Reynolds MP, Valenzuela-Soto EM, Ward J, Heuer S (2022). Novel candidate genes for maintenance of seed set under heat stress in bread wheat (Triticum aestivum L). Manuscript in preparation.

Kettenburg AK, Lopez MA, Kalenahall Y, Prior M, Bemson S, Heuer S, Roy SJ, Bailey-Serres L (2022). OsPSTOL1 prevalent in upland rice enhances root growth and phosphate sufficiency in wheat. Under review.

Oszvald M, Hassall KL, Hughes D, Torres-Ballesteros A, Clark I, Riche AB, Heuer S (2022). Genetic diversity in nitrogen fertilizer responses and N gas emission in modern wheat. Frontiers Plant Sci, Plant Nutrition

Xu J, Lowe C, Hernandez-Leon SG, Dreisigacker S, Reynolds MP, Valenzuela-Soto EM, Paul MJ, Heuer S (2022). Identifying novel sources of heat tolerance in bread wheat (Triticum aestivum L.). Frontiers Plant Sci,

Tiong J, Sharma N, Sampath R, MacKenzie N, Watanabe S, Metot C, Lu Z, Skinner W, Lu Y, Kridl J, Baumann U, Heuer S, Kaiser B, Okamoto M (2021). Improving Nitrogen Use Efficiency Through Overexpression of Alanine Aminotransferase in Rice, Wheat, and Barley. Front Plant Sci 12: Article 628521; doi: 10.3389/fpls.2021.628521.

Casartelli A, Melino V, Baumann U, Riboni M, Suchecki R, Jayasinghe NS, Mendis H, Hoefgen R, Roessner U, Okamoto M, Heuer S (2019). Opposite fates of the purine metabolite allantoin under water and nitrogen restrictions in bread wheat. Plant Mol Biol

Melino VM, Casartelli A, George J, Rupasinghe T, Roessner U, Okamoto M, Heuer S (2018). RNA catabolites contribute to the nitrogen pool and support growth recovery of wheat. Front Plant Sci, Plant Nutrition

Casartelli A, Riewe D, Hubberten HM, Altmann T, Hoefgen R, Heuer S (2018). Exploring traditional aus-type rice for metabolites conferring drought tolerance. Rice DOI 10.1186/s12284-017-0189-7.

Heuer S, Gaxiola R, Schilling R, Herrera-Estrella L, López-Arredondo D, Wissuwa M, Delhaize E, Rouached H (2017). Improving phosphorus use efficiency - a complex trait with emerging opportunities. Plant Journal [doi:10.1111/tpj.13423]

González-Schain N, Dreni L, Lawas L, Galbiati M, Colombo L, Heuer S, Jagadish K, Kater M (2016). Genome-wide transcriptome analysis during anthesis reveals new insights in the molecular basis of heat stress responses in tolerant and sensitive rice varieties. Plant Cell Physiology doi: 10.1093/pcp/pcv174.

Steinemann S, Zeng Z, McKay A, Heuer S, Langridge P, Huang CY (2015). Dynamic root responses to drought and rewatering in two wheat (Triticum aestivum) genotypes. Plant and Soil 38(10):2171-92; DOI 10.1007/s11104-015-2413-9.

Li X, Lawas LMF, Malo R, Glaubitz U, Erban A, Mauleon R, Heuer S, Zuther E, Kopka J, Hincha DK, Jagadish KSV (2015). Metabolic and transcriptomic signatures of rice floral organs reveal sugar starvation as a factor in reproductive failure under heat and drought stress. Plant Cell Environ doi: 10.1111/pce.12545.

Heuer S, Chin JH, Gamuyao R, Haefele SM, Wissuwa M (2013). Molecular breeding for phosphorus-efficient rice. In: Translation Genomics for Crop Breeding: Volume II: Abiotic Stress, Quality and Yield. Editors: Rajeev Varshney, Roberto Tuberosa. ISBN 978-0-470-96291-6 - John Wiley & Sons.

Gamuyao R, Chin JH, Pariasca-Tanaka J, Pesaresi P, Dalid C, Slamet-LoedinI, Tecson-Mendoza EM, Wissuwa M, Heuer S (2012). The protein kinase pstol1 from traditional rice confers tolerance of phosphorus deficiency. Nature 488: 535–541 [doi:10.1038/nature11346].

Chin JH, Gamuyao R, Dalid C, Bustamam M, Prasetiyono J, Moeljopawiro S, Wissuwa M, Heuer S (2011). Developing rice with high yield under phosphorus deficiency: Pup1 sequence to application. Plant Physiol 156: 1202–1216.

Jagadish SVK, Muthurajan R, ZW Rang, Malo R, Heuer S, Bennett J, Craufurd PQ (2011). Spikelet proteomic response to combined water deficit and heat stress in rice (Oryza sativa cv. N22). Rice DOI 10.1007/s12284-011-9059-x.

Rang ZW, Jagadish SVK, Zhou QM, Craufurd OQ, Heuer S (2011). Effect of high temperature and water stress on pollen germination and spikelet fertility in rice. Environmental Exp Bot 70(1): 58–65.

Jagadish SVK, Muthurajan R, Oane R , Wheeler TR, Heuer S, Bennett J, Craufurd PQ (2010). Physiological and proteomic approaches to dissect reproductive stage heat tolerance in rice (Oryza sativa L.). J Exp Bot 61: 143–156.

Wassmann R, Jagadish S V K, Heuer S, Ismail AM, Redona E, Serraj R, Singh RK, Howell G, Pathak H, Sumfleth K (2009). Climate change affecting rice production: The physiological and agronomic basis for possible adaptation strategies. In: Sparks DL, editor, Burlington: Academic Press, Adv Agron 101: 59-122. ISBN: 978-0-12-374817-1.

Wassmann R, Jagadish S V K, Sumfleth K, Pathak H, Howell G, Ismail AM, Serraj R, Redona E, Singh RK, Heuer S (2009). Regional vulnerability of climate change impacts on Asian rice production and scope for adaptation. Adv Agron 102: 91–133.

Xu K, Xu X, Fukao T, Canlas P, Maghirang-Rodriguez R, Heuer S, Ismail AM, Bailey-Serres J, Ronald PC, Mackill DJ (2006). Sub1A is an ethylene-responsive-factor-like gene that confers submergence tolerance to rice. Nature 442: 705–708; doi:10.1038/nature04920.

Head of Pre-Breeding Department
Programme Leader Crop Improvement and Resilience, National Institute Agricultural Botany (NIAB), Cambridge, UK
Photograph of Sigrid Heuer

Contact Details

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