Unearthing beneficial microbe rhizosphere competence traits in vivo


Fixation of solar energy in plants through photosynthesis drives all life on our planet. Up to 20% of the carbohydrates produced by photosynthesis are released into the soil, making plants central players in the belowground food web. In nature, plant roots live in close association with countless microbes, also known as the root microbiome. Beneficial microbes provide plants with important services, such as enhanced nutrient uptake and protection against diseases. Because of their potential to sustainably improve crop production, increasingly microbial products are registered for biofertilization and biological control purposes in agriculture. However, despite their promise under controlled conditions, bioinoculant efficacy can vary in the field. This can be caused by variable environmental conditions that influence microbial performance, unidentified negative interactions with local microbiome communities, or a suboptimal match with plant genotype. Hence, an in-depth understanding of the microbial traits that influence rhizosphere competence is urgently needed for the development of more persistent microbial products for future crop improvement. In the proposed interdisciplinary project, we blend expertise from the fields of microbial genetics, microbiome metagenomics, computational modelling and molecular plant biology to devise an innovative approach in which we use high-throughput trait identification methodologies to discover: microbial rhizosphere competence traits that influence the success of bioinoculants, root microbiomes traits that affect rhizosphere competence of bioinoculants, and the mechanisms by which root exudates affect plant-beneficial microbe interactions. With our industrial partner Novozymes, world leader in the market of bioinoculants, we will analyze the predictive power of our findings in the field.





Prof. dr. ir. C.M.J. Pieterse

Verbonden aan

Universiteit Utrecht, Faculteit B├Ętawetenschappen, Departement Biologie


01/09/2018 tot 01/01/2022