Application of protozoa as next generation biofertilizer in sustainable agriculture


Sustainable crop production requires a rethinking of our production practices in order to reduce fertilizer and pesticide input while preserving high yields and quality. There is currently a growing interest in using beneficial soil microbes to support plant growth and increase plant resistance against diseases. To date, the biotechnology potential of these organisms has however been hampered by their unreliable survival and effect under field conditions. Here, we propose to circumvent this problem by targeting a novel, to date neglected, group of organisms - soil protozoa. Protozoa are eukaryotic microbes such as amoebae. By consuming bacteria and fungi, they represent a major driver of microbial community function. They can promote beneficial microbes and stimulate their plant growth-promoting activity. In previous experiments, we demonstrated that protozoa can be applied to improve plant growth, health and nutrition. In this project, we will identify protozoan species with strong abilities to promote plant growth and health, reveal the underlying mechanisms and develop biotechnological applications based upon the most promising species. To ensure knowledge implementation, this work will be performed in close collaboration with Dutch companies producing organic fertilizers. We will pinpoint the potential of protozoa to enable reliable, high-yield sustainable crop production systems. We will then provide a framework to isolate and screen new protozoa for specific properties, such as enhanced nutrient turnover or disease suppression. We will finally show a proof-of-concept of a biotechnical application using protozoa to enhance plant yield in agricultural settings.


Project number


Main applicant

Dr. A.L.C. Jousset

Affiliated with

Universiteit Utrecht, Faculteit B├Ętawetenschappen, Departement Biologie

Team members

Baron N Amacker, Dr. W Xiong


01/01/2018 to 31/10/2021