In the face of enormous global challenges, the sustainability of agricultural production needs to be enhanced and fertiliser and pesticide use be reduced. A range of studies have shown that micro-organisms in soil can have a big impact on plant health and thus can contribute to sustainable agricultural production. However, how to employ soil microbial communities in a targeted way to provide agricultural benefits it is still poorly understood. This project aims at engineering, testing and applying new and innovative microbial consortia for enhanced sustainability of cropping systems.
What is special about the project?
This project uses new scientific concepts, such as keystone-taxa theory, communities of microorganisms complementing each other for maximum effects on ecosystem functioning, to design microbial consortia. Strategies for implementing the benefits of these consortia into agricultural practice will be developed in a participatory approach together with farmers and commercial producers of biological inoculants. Therefore, this project represents a unique combination of latest scientific research developments and agricultural application, directly linking basic research with practice.
This project aims to at developing reliable microbial inoculants that contribute to crop production and reduce the need for fertilizer and pesticide applications. Initial greenhouse experiments testing the effects of microbial communities from different field sites on crop performance alone and in combination with existing beneficial microbial inoculants have been performed. In a more targeted approach, several cultured microorganisms with reported beneficial effects on crop performance and/ or other beneficial inoculants, such as AMF, are currently being tested across a range of different Swiss field soils for their individual and interactive effects on crop performance. Simultaneously, the technical development of formulations of inoculants containing beneficial microbes in collaboration with biotechinological companies is ongoing and first greenhouse tests, as well as a range of on-farm field trials will be performed in the current year. Through these activities, an application strategy will be developed that allows to integrate the benefits and interactive effects of different microbial taxa and already exisitng beneficials into management operations of farmers in a convenient and cost-efficient way.
Bender, S. Franz, Cameron Wagg, and Marcel GA van der Heijden. «An underground revolution: biodiversity and soil ecological engineering for agricultural sustainability.» Trends in ecology & evolution 31, no. 6 (2016): 440-452;
Banerjee, Samiran, Klaus Schlaeppi, and Marcel GA van der Heijden. «Keystone taxa as drivers of microbiome structure and functioning.» Nature Reviews Microbiology 16, no. 9 (2018): 567-576;
Bender, S. Franz, Klaus Schlaeppi, Alain Held, and Marcel GA Van der Heijden. «Establishment success and crop growth effects of an arbuscular mycorrhizal fungus inoculated into Swiss corn fields.» Agriculture, ecosystems & environment 273 (2019): 13-24;
Wagg,C, K Schlaeppi, S Banerjee, E E Kuramae, M G A van der Heijden. «Fungal-bacterial diversity and microbiome complexity predict ecosystem functioning.» Nature Communications, 2019, 10(1): 4841.
Fehr, M., Bender, F. & Lutz, M.: Mehr Gemüseertrag durch Mykorrhiza. Der Gemüsebau, 2 (2021), 41
None so far
Persons involved in the project
Last update to this project presentation 09.05.2022