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This project is one of the five winners of the call 2017 «Microbials – Direct Use of Micro-Organisms».
Project partners: Agroscope, Universität Bern; FiBL, Forschungsinstitut für Biologischen Landbau
Project no: GRS-072/17
Amount of funding: CHF 410'000
Duration: 03.2018 - 02.2021
Area of activity:
Microbials, seit 2016
Dr. Klaus Schläppi
Dept. of Agroecology and Environment
8046 Zürich (Schweiz)
- klaus.schlaeppi@ips. unibe. ch
The big societal challenge is to secure food production while at the same time reducing the environmental impacts of agrochemicals. For this, we need to find alternative solutions to mineral fertilizers. Plant microbiomes comprise beneficial microbes that can enhance plant productivity. Such members include the arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF), which can promote soil fertility and contribute to plant nutrition by providing phosphorus (up to 90% of plant P can originate from AMF). We and others have shown that field inoculation with AMF can enhance crop yield, however, inoculation success is highly variable between field sites. While AMF reliably improve plant performance in sterilized soils, inoculation to microbe-rich soils or agricultural fields remains unpredictable and highly context dependent. Here, we explore whether soil microbiome diagnostics can be used to specifically predict the conditions for successful AMF field inoculation. Conceptually similar to ‘personalized medicine’, we pre-diagnose the soil (chemical measurements and microbiome profiling) to select the AMF inoculant that fits best the conditions of a given soil. We performed a large campaign inoculating maize in diverse field soils using Rhizoglomus irregulare SAF22 (our reference AMF) as well as other AMF species to test their impact on plant yield and their potential to replace P fertilizer inputs. We monitored the establishment of the inocula in the roots and evaluated under which conditions the inoculation affected plant yields. We began to model the establishment of the inocula and their effects on plant growth as a function of the soil chemical conditions. Our final goal is to develop an algorithm that could be used in an App predicting AMF communities from biological-physical-chemical soil properties and that recommends AMF species for successful inoculation for a given field. Our vision is that soil microbiome diagnostics becomes a tool for ‘smart farming’ through which the targeted application of microbials becomes a reliable and sustainable agronomic alternative to mineral fertilizers.
What is special about the project?
In this project, we develop soil microbiome diagnostics so that beneficial AMF can be inoculated to field soils in a targeted manner. Goals are to improve the reliability of AMF applications and to predict under which conditions AMF inoculations will be successful.
Our approach is conceptually similar to ‘personalized medicine’, we pre-diagnose the soil (chemical measurements and microbiome profiling) and then we choose the AMF inoculant that best fits the local soil conditions. Our vision is that soil microbiome diagnostics becomes a tool for ‘smart farming’ through which the targeted application of microbials becomes a reliable and sustainable agronomic alternative to the usage of mineral fertilizers.
This is a 3-year project that has started in early 2018 and includes large-scale field experiments over three field seasons. In 2018, we inoculated 22 field sites with AMF and in 2019, additional 25 fields were inoculated to test their potential to enhance maize yield. We find a significant positive effect of AMF inoculation on maize yield in about 10% of the fields with maximum yield increases of 20% in two fields. As expected, we find not all fields and soil conditions responding positively to AMF inoculation – this is the problem that we what want to explain and solve in the framework of this project. We have developed an algorithm that predicts the soil fungal community from soil chemical data. The aim for the third and final year of the project is to inoculate 10 additional test sites and to develop a second algorithm that predicts AMF inoculation success from soil chemical and/or biological data. The overall idea is that the developed algorithms will allow the targeted inoculations of the AMF based on soil microbiome diagnostics.
Bodenhausen N, Somerville V, Desiro A, Walser J-C, Borghi L, van der Heijden M, Schlaeppi K. Petunia- and Arabidopsis-Specific Root Microbiota Responses to Phosphate Supplementation. Phytobiomes Journal, 2019, 3:112-124;
Bender SF, Wagg C, van der Heijden MGA. 2016. An Underground Revolution: Biodiversity and Soil Ecological Engineering for Agricultural Sustainability. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 31: 440–452;
Schlaeppi K, Bender SF, Mascher F, Russo G, Patrignani A, Camenzind T, Hempel S, Rillig MC, van der Heijden MGA. 2016. High-resolution community profiling of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. New Phytologist 212: 780–791;
Schlaeppi K, Bulgarelli D. 2015. The Plant Microbiome at Work. Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions MPMI 212: 212–217;
Persons involved in the project
Dr. Klaus Schlaeppi
, Projektleiter, Agroscope, University of Bern Dr. Natacha Bodenhausen
, FiBLProf. Marcel van der Heijden
, AgroscopeJulia Hess
, AgroscopeAlain Held
, AgroscopeCaroline Scherrer
, AgroscopAndrea Bonvicini
, AgroscopeSusanne Müller
Last update to this project presentation 17.06.2020