• The University of Western Australia (M089), 35 Stirling Highway,

    6009 Perth


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Personal profile


Khalil is a soil microbiologist at The University of Western Australia. He is specialised in "Beneficial Soil Fungi" and he has been studying the role of mycorrhizal and other symbiotic fungi in soil nutrient cycling, plant nutrition, and improving plant performance in both agricultural and natural ecosystems.

Khalil accomplished his PhD studies at the UWA (2009-2013) where he discovered a novel plant-fungus symbiosis (named "feremycorrhiza") that was published in the prestigious journal New Phytologist (2014). ‘Fere’ means ‘nearly’ in Latin; hence, the term ‘feremycorrhiza’ means ‘nearly mycorrhiza’ (Kariman et al., 2018; 2023). This term is well suited for this symbiosis because of i) The Australian native fungus A. occidentalis phylogenetically belongs to an ectomycorrhizal (ECM) lineage, ii) A. occidentalis possesses several established hallmarks of the ECM symbiosis, and iii) A. occidentalis does not enter roots and hence does not form any interface structures in the root. Therefore, it is not a fully developed mycorrhiza structurally; it is a ‘nearly’ mycorrhiza (with mycorrhiza-like effects on plant growth and nutrition).

From 2013-2018, Khalil worked as a research assistant (casual) at the UWA on different soil biology and agricultural projects. In 2018, he started his full-time research associate position at the UWA School of Agriculture and Environment. In 2019, Khalil was awarded a three-year Postdoc Fellowship by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) to study the potential of his newly discovered symbiosis for agriculture in collaboration with Prof Zed Rengel and Dr Craig Scanlan. His current postdoc project is entitled "Exploiting the Potential of a Novel Fungal Biofertiliser", aiming at boosting crop yield in an environmentally friendly manner and reducing chemcial inputs (phosphorus fertilisers, in particular) in farming systems. In 2024, Khalil was honored with a highly prestigious four-year fellowship by the Australian Research Council for his project titled "Novel Biofertiliser for Sustainable Agriculture: Tackling Phosphorus Crisis.

Khalil won the Rising Stars 2021 award at the University of Western Australia (2nd prize, 28th Oct 2021). For this award, 14 researchers with different disciplines were selected based on their high research calibre and academic merit and presented their research to a broad audience, which included academics, donors, investors, industry partners and the WA Minister for Agriculture and Food (Alannah MacTiernan).

Khalil was awarded the "Marschner Young Scientist Award", 23 August 2022, Brazil, and invited to give a plenary oral presentation about his research on a novel fungal biofertiliser at the IPNC 2022 in Brazil. This is a prestigious international award, established in honour of Professor Horst Marschner.


Khalil has also been involved in supervision of postgraduate students at UWA.


My research mainly focuses on the role of beneficial soil microbes (such as the feremycorrhizal fungus) in soil nutrient cycling and fertility, as well as improving plant fitness in production and natural ecosystems. Considering the damage and pollution caused by the intensive use of chemical fertilisers/pesticides worldwide, it is crucial to exploit the potential of soil microorganisms to sustain the environment, i.e. mimicking the Nature's way to save the planet.

Research interests

Feremycorrhiza, Mycorrhiza, Soil Microbiology, Nutrient Cycling, Soil Fertility, Stress Tolerance in Plants

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 2 - Zero Hunger
  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 15 - Life on Land

Education/Academic qualification

Soil Biology, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Physiological and molecular analysis of tolerance to phosphate toxicity in jarrah (Eucalyptus marginata) seedlings inoculated with mycorrhizal fungi, The University of Western Australia


Plant Pathology, Master of Science (MSc), Isolation and identification of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi associated with sugarcane in Iran, Tarbiat Modarres University


Agricultural Sciences, Bachelor of Science (BSc), Plant Protection, Gorgan University of Agricultural Science and Natural Resources


External positions

Research Assistant, Agricultural Biotechnology Research Institute of Iran (ABRII)


Industry keywords

  • Agriculture and Food
  • Environmental
  • Biotechnology

Research expertise keywords

  • Mycorrhizal associations
  • Soil microbiology
  • Plant nutrition and soil fertility
  • Beneficial fungi
  • Molecular biology and gene expression
  • Secondary metabolites in plants and fungi


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