Project presentations on the website

Every project supported by Gebert Rüf Stiftung is made accessible with a web presentation that informs about the core data of the project. With this public presentation, the foundation publishes the funding results achieved and contributes to the communication of science to society.




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This project, funded by Gebert Rüf Stiftung, is supported by the following project partners: Agroscope; BBZ Arenenberg; Mycorrhizal Applications SA

Project data

  • Project no: GRS-088/20 
  • Amount of funding: CHF 285'000 
  • Approved: 29.10.2020 
  • Duration: 03.2021 - 02.2024 
  • Area of activity:  Microbials, seit 2016

Project management

Project description

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 at developing reliable microbial inoculants that contribute to crop production and reduce the need for fertilizer and pesticide applications. In a range of greenhouse experiments, combinations of field microbial communities, as well as of different cultured microbial taxa with reported beneficial traits have been tested for their effects on crop production. Results show that a previously tested strain of AMF is most promising in promoting crop yields, while the other microbial formulations did not yield the expected results. In cooperation with an industry partner, novel inoculum formulations of the AMF strain have been developed that allow efficient application of the inoculum by practitioners in the field. Formulations have been tested for their effectivity in the greenhouse and a field trial testing the new formulations under applied conditions will be performed this 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. Additional funding could be generated through SNSF to drive further large-scale field testing and to implement developed products in practice in the coming years.


Lutz, S., et al., Soil microbiome indicators can predict crop growth response to large-scale inoculation with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. Nature microbiology, 2023. 8(12): p. 2277-2289;
Salomon, M., Bender, S.F., Cavagnaro, T., Van der Heijden, M.G.A., 2022. Biofertilizers: assessing the effects of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi on soil health, pp. 347-376;
Fehr, M., Bender, F. & Lutz, M.: Mehr Gemüseertrag durch Mykorrhiza. Der Gemüsebau, 2 (2021), 41;
Stefanie Lutz, Natacha Bodenhausen, Franz Bender, Klaus Schläppi, Marcel van der Heijden (2024). UFA-Revue, (1), 10-13. «Das Gute kommt von unten» (https://www.ufarevue.ch/pflanzenbau/das-gute-kommt-von-unten);
Stefanie Lutz, Natacha Bodenhausen, Klaus Schläppi, Marcel van der Heijden (2024). Landwirtschaft ohne Pflug - -LUMBRICO, Ausgabe 17. «Mykorrhiza: Lohnt sich eine Impfung?»
Stefanie Lutz, Natacha Bodenhausen, Franz Bender, Klaus Schläppi, Marcel van der Heijden (2024). Der Pflanzenarzt, Ausgabe 1-2. «Mykorrhizapilze für einen gesunden Boden - Nützlinge nutzbar machen»


Persons involved in the project

Dr. Franz Bender, Agroscope & University of Zurich, project leader
Prof. Dr. Marcel van der Heijden, Agroscope & University of Zurich
Dr. Ido Rog, Agroscope & University of Zurich
Raphaël Wittwer, Agroscope
Philippe Trautzl, BBZ, Arenenberg
Alain Held, Agroscope

Last update to this project presentation  11.04.2024