We need to produce food for a growing world population, with less pesticides and fertilizers and under field conditions that are often less than ideal.
 
Micro-organisms that live on or in the roots of plants may help to solve these problems: they can stimulate seed germination, promote plant growth and offer protection against drought, pests and diseases. But which micro-organisms are most effective? And are microbial consortia more effective than ‘single’ microbes?
 
Wild ancestors of crop plants and their microbial partners may hold the key to answering these questions. Compared to their cultivated crop relatives, they are thought to have a higher microbial biodiversity and stronger microbial support functions.
 
The aim of the BackToRoots research programme is to enhance plant growth and productivity by exploring, explaining and ultimately exploiting these microbial communities.
 

Practical applications

 

Getting discoveries into the hands of the people is a priority for BackToRoots. Expected benefits of the research programme include:

For society:

  • New tools for a more sustainable agriculture
  • Enhanced crop productivity without genetic modification
  • New antimicrobials for agriculture and pharma

For companies:

  • Beneficial microbes & novel antimicrobials
  • Plant biomarkers (DNA, exudates) involved in microbial support
  • New crop varieties

For academic partners:

  • Insight into the potential of microbial diversity
  • Knowledge of the metabolic capacity of microbes in an ecological context
  • Identification of the chemical communication between plants and microbes

FOUR PROJECTS
 

1: GOING BACK TO THE ROOTS

Deciphering seed & root microbiomes of crop species and their wild relatives for beneficial consortia

 

2: INNOVATION BY NATURE

Plant traits involved in maximizing growth and protective functions of root microbiota

 

3: MICROBIAL SUPPORT OF PLANT GROWTH UNDER ABIOTIC STRESS

Identifying microbes and mechanisms involved in drought tolerance of plants

 

4: PLANT PROTECTION ON DEMAND

Exudate-driven activation of novel antimicrobials in seed- and root-associated microorganisms

Research lines of the BackToRoots programme. For each of the four interconnected projects, the academic partners are listed; the institute that has the lead is underlined

 

BackToRoots receives an innovation subsidy from the Dutch technology foundation STW
 

 

Contact

Prof. dr. Jos M. Raaijmakers

j.raaijmakers@nioo.knaw.nl