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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
We need to secure food production and at the same time reduce the environmental impacts of agrochemicals. Soil and plant root microbiomes comprise beneficial microbes that promote soil fertility and plant productivity and thereby, present alternative solutions to mineral fertilizers. Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) are such beneficial microbiome members as they contribute to plant nutrition by providing phosphorus (up to 90% of plant P originates from AMF). While AMF reliably improve plant productivity in sterilized soils or under laboratory conditions, inoculation success into microbe-rich soils or agricultural fields remains unpredictable and highly context dependent. We hypothesize that AMF inoculations fail in some soils because the inocula face competition with the indigenous microbiota or because they are not adapted to the soil environment. Here we develop soil microbiome diagnostics to specifically predict under which conditions AMF field inoculation will be successful to enhance plant yield. We plan large-scale field inoculations of maize with different AMF species and AMF consortia to test their impact on plant yield and their potential to compensate for reduced P fertilizer inputs. We will monitor the establishment of the inocula in the roots, evaluate under which conditions inoculation affects plant yields and then model these effects as a function of the previous soil diagnostics. The goal of the project is to develop an algorithm that predicts AMF communities from biological-physical-chemical soil properties and recommends AMF species for successful inoculation for a given field. Finally, we will explore the potential of this algorithm to be marketed as a decision making tool for successful inoculations of AMF into field soils.
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 two field seasons. In 2018, we have inoculated 22 field sites with AMF to test their potential to replace P fertilizer inputs. In 5 fields we find a significant positive effect of AMF inoculation on maize yield with in 2 fields the yield increases by 20%. 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 are currently conducting the second field season where we will continue on 22 additional field sites with applications of different AMF species and AMF consortia. The aim for the third year is then the development of an algorithm to model the AMF community from soil chemical data and to predict AMF inoculation success. In the third year, we also aim to validate the algorithm at 10 additional test sites, where we will target the inoculations of the AMF based on precedent soil microbiome diagnostics.
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 01.07.2019