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Sustainable agriculture: the role of beneficial soil fungi in promoting crop productivity under drought


There is growing evidence that, as a result of global climate change, some of the most severe weather events, including drought, could become more frequent in Europe over the next 50 to 100 years. European agriculture must deal with the effects of drought to provide a sustainable, safe and secure food supply for its citizens. This project will deliver understanding on the amelioration of drought effects for crop production using beneficial rizosphere microbiota with the ultimate aim of sustainable agriculture to support responsible European development. Thus the objectives of the proposal are within Europe’s interest and the agenda Europe 2020.
Improving the yield of crops grown under drought conditions has been difficult because of the low heritability of tolerance, varied effects depending on timing of drought, and gaps in understanding of drought physiology. However little attention has been made to the fact that most crops live in symbiosis with soil microbiota. Plants can overcome drought effects by interacting with several beneficial soil microorganisms. Particularly arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) are fundamental for plant performance, both in natural and agricultural ecosystems and most land plants are colonized by these fungi thus the can likewise affect critically important ecosystem services. Increasingly, the importance of AMF for agricultural sustainability is being recognized. This project will build upon the applicant’s experience in osmotic stress alleviation by AMF and the host research group top expertise in AMF biodiversity in agricultural lands. How differences in soil AMF biodiversity translate to differences in plant productivity and the provision of soil ecosystem services under drought is unresolved. The conjunction of the applicant and the host will act as a springboard for the longer-term development of sustainable agriculture under expected drought conditions in Europe.

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Bundeshaus Ost
3003 Bern

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Activity type
Public bodies (excluding Research Organisations and Secondary or Higher Education Establishments)
Administrative Contact
Marcel Van Der Heijden (Prof.)
EU contribution
€ 199 317,60