This project addresses the challenge of producing enough food for the increasing world population while at the same time preserving the environment for future generations. Fungal diseases cause enormous yield losses despite the abundant use of hazardous fungicides. Worldwide, consumers’ concerns about pesticide residues in food and environment urge us to find reliable, cost-efficient and environmentally friendly alternatives to our currently used synthetic fungicides. We believe that one such solution lies in harnessing the protective power of the plant microbiome. Like us humans, plants are densely colonized by a large diversity of microbes and the aim of this project is to understand their contribution to plant health, using potato as a model plant and late blight as a model disease. The final goal is to use this plant microbiome understanding to develop new strategies to protect our crops without harming environmental and human health. Transfer of such new strategies to practice shall be done in collaboration with producers’ associations and industrial partners involved in sustainable crop protection.
What is special about the project?
This project exploits a newly discovered ability of plants to “call for help” and specifically recruit health-protective microbes upon pathogen challenge. Instead of selecting biocontrol agents in artificial laboratory settings, we propose to let the plant select the best microbes itself in a natural enrichment process. Using an unprecedented vaccination-like strategy, we propose to harvest the most active microbiota members selected by the plant upon infection, and to assemble these protective microbiome members in synthetic communities to be applied to new plant generations. The project’s most important intended direct benefit to society will be a lesser reliance on synthetic fungicides, leading to improved environmental and human health. This benefit shall not be restricted to potato production, but once the concept is established, it shall be applied to other staple crops, e.g. wheat, rice or maize, leading to even stronger impact.
The project started in May 2019. Since then, we have performed a large-scale vaccination experiment over three generations using two different potato cultivars, the sensitive cultivar Bintje and the more tolerant cultivar Innovator. We have isolated ca. 700 bacterial strains from vaccinated plants and are in the process of identifying them. In parallel, we have extracted DNA from both the rhizosphere and the phyllosphere of vaccinated and non-vaccinated plants. Amplicon-based sequencing will be performed on these samples and allow to identify putative shifts in the microbiota occurring upon vaccination in both potato cultivars. These shifts will reveal which populations might have been recruited by the plant upon infection. This information will then assist us in selecting microbes to be applied as single biocontrol agents or in synthetic communities for sustainable protection against late blight.
Ritpitakphong U, Falquet L, Vimoltust A, Berger A, Métraux J-PP, L’Haridon F. 2016. The microbiome of the leaf surface of Arabidopsis protects against a fungal pathogen. New Phytol 210:1033–1043;
Bailly A, Weisskopf L. 2017. Mining the Volatilomes of Plant-Associated Microbiota for New Biocontrol Solutions. Front Microbiol 8:1–12;
Berendsen RL, Vismans G, Yu K, Song Y, De Jonge R, Burgman WP, Burmølle M, Herschend J, Bakker PAHM, Pieterse CMJ. 2018. Disease-induced assemblage of a plant-beneficial bacterial consortium. ISME J 12:1496–1507;
De Vrieze, M., Germanier, F., Vuille, N., and Weisskopf, L. 2018. Combining Different Potato-Associated Pseudomonas Strains for Improved Biocontrol of Phytophthora infestans. Front. Microbiol. 9:1–13.
Pour l'auto-défense des plantes contre les pathogènes
, RTS, CQFD, 14.5.2019L'Université de Fribourg veut vacciner des plantes
, 20minutes, 10.5.2019L'Université de Fribourg veut vacciner des plantes
, 24heures, 10.5.2019Stimuler l'autodéfense contre le mildiou
, La Liberté, 14.5.2019L'Université de Fribourg veut vacciner des plantes
, TdG, 10.5.2019Bakterien als Pflanzenmedizin
, Schweizer Bauer, 14.5.2019Mit Bakterien gegen Pflanzenkrankheiten
, foodaktuell.ch, 13.5.2019Un projet pour se passer des fongicides
, Agri, 10.5.2019
Persons involved in the project
Last update to this project presentation 17.01.2023