Harnessing the potato-microbiome interactions for development of sustainable breeding and production strategies
Current conventional agriculture relies heavily on high nutrient inputs that will be taken up directly by the plants as well as massive use of pesticides. In these systems, plants are considered as sole players, disregarding plant traits that can improve the recruitment of beneficial soil microbes for nutrient mobilization and plant protection. As a consequence, conventional practices have resulted in low nutrient use efficiencies, groundwater pollution and increased soil erosion to non-sustainable levels. High loads of synthetic and organic fertilizers as well as synthetic pesticides have made many beneficial soil biota, especially microbes, redundant. Their multifunctional ecosystem services have been replaced with single-purpose synthetic additives designed to support and protect plants directly, and their interactions with the plant have been neglected in breeding strategies.
The concept of this project relies on the principle that plants naturally interact with beneficial (soil) microbes, making them less dependent on synthetic inputs. For instance, varieties with increased root biomass and carbon exudation should be able to recruit beneficial soil microbiota more efficiently than conventional varieties, selected to work alone and on high nutrient availability. The greater the belowground diversity in the soil, the better the prospects of plant roots to recruit beneficial microbes to mobilize nutrients, reduce stresses and suppress pathogens. Nutrient use efficiency increases with improved microbial nutrient recruitment alongside a reduced fertilizer dependency and lowered groundwater pollution. This approach will be particularly beneficial for potato cultivation where many varieties have underdeveloped root systems and are susceptible to pests and other environmental stress factors including changes in climate.
PotatoMETAbiome aims at identifying potato genotypes that interact effectively with the soil microbiome, thus generating cultivars that have reduced dependencies on external inputs (synthetic fertilizers and pesticides)while maintaining high yield, under non-stress as well as biotic (pathogen pressure) and abiotic stress conditions. Potato varieties will be selected for microbiome-interactive traits (MIT) and analysed for both plant and microbiome genomics, thus identifying the mechanisms controlling the positive effect of the microbiome and genetic markers associated with MIT for use in future potato breeding strategies. Moreover, we will evaluate how the use of biologicals can boost nutrient uptake, as well as resilience to biotic (disease) and abiotic stress (drought).Altogether, this project will generate a resilient potato cropping system better able to recover from biotic and abiotic stresses.
The project is composed of 4 main themes:
1) Support breeding approaches to generate potato varieties that efficiently interact with soil microbiome, thus improving plant health, production and resilience;
2) Development of novel integrated crop and pest management methods that consider interactions between plants and soil organisms (“the plant as a meta-organism”), by improving resource-use efficiency, disease and stress resistance of potato crops.
3) Adapt and build resilience to biotic and abiotic stresses, by reducing chemical inputs while maintaining quality using biocontrol methods.
4) Evaluate the socio-economic and environmental impacts of the developed agronomic strategies for innovative and novel sustainable potato cropping system.
PotatoMETAbiome is a 3-year project with interdisciplinary research activities, structured with a well-balanced division between research and innovation, basic and applied research, field data collection and greenhouse experiments, as well as management. It will contribute to the achievement of sustainable potato cropping by integrating biological, social, economic and environmental dimensions while addressing smart breeding strategies, sustainable production and climate challenges.
Prof Joana Falcao Salles
University of Groningen, Groningen Institute for Evolutionary Life Sciences (GELIFES), Microbial Ecology cluster, NETHERLANDS
Prof Michael Schloter
Technische Universität München, Wissenschaftszentrum Weihenstephan Chair for Soil Science, GERMANY
Prof Gabriele Berg
Graz University of Technology, Institute of Environmental Biotechnology, AUSTRIA
Dr Achim Schmalenberger
University of Limerick, Biological Sciences, IRELAND
Dr Eleonore Attard
Université de Pau et des Pays de l'Adour, IPREM, UMR 5254 CNRS/UPPA, FRANCE
Dr Mariusz Maciejczak
Warsaw University of Life Sciences – SGGW, Faculty of Economic Sciences, POLAND
Prof Magdalena Frąc
Institute of Agrophysics, Polish Academy of Sciences, Department of Soil and Plant System, POLAND
Dr Krzysztof Treder
Plant Breeding and Acclimatization Institute - National Research Institute, Bonin Research Center, POLAND
Dr Dirk Hincha
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft zur Foerderung der Wissenschaften e.V., Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology, Potsdam, GERMANY