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Sorghum is the fifth most important cereal in the world. In sub-Saharan Africa, many farmers rely on this grain for food and feed. But Striga, a parasitic weed, can have a devastating impact on crop yield. With an 8-million-dollar grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, an international team will now explore the potential of soil microbes to offer crop protection. The Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW) is coordinating this 5-year project.
If you’re small, smells are a good way to stand out. A team of researchers led by the Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW) has demonstrated for the first time that two different types of micro-organisms – bacteria and fungi – use fragrances, known as terpenes, to hold conversations. And that’s not all. “We actually believe that terpenes are the most popular chemical medium on our planet to communicate through.”
Tiny predators in the soil can literally sniff out their prey: soil bacteria, which communicate with each other using scent. A team of researchers from the Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW) has discovered that these predators - called protists - 'eavesdrop' on the bacteria's communication. It's a discovery that opens up perspectives for agriculture. The results are available online this month in The ISME Journal, from the publishers of Nature.
Micro-organisms living inside plant roots team up to boost the plant’s growth and tolerance to stress. This research is featured this week in the scientific journal Science.
NIOO has a vigorous and long-standing commitment to societal impact. Not only is NIOO housed in a sustainable building designed to translate our ecological principles in terms of architecture and construction, we also have a number of units that are tailor-made for disseminating our ecological knowledge to specific target groups, we have a very active outreach policy, and we actively involve citizens in our research through large-scale citizen-science projects.
Microbes can act as bodyguards for plants and can foster plant growth in other ways as well. At NIOO, we are digging into the mechanisms: in what ways do they interact? And how can we stimulate this, to make our agriculture more sustainable? Let's rewild our microbes!