Soil Ecology

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Soil microbes represent the unseen majority of life on Earth and are essential for the functioning of terrestrial ecosystems as they catalyze unique and indispensable transformations in the biogeochemical cycles of the biosphere. The significance of soil biodiversity for the functioning of agricultural ecosystems is still poorly understood and soil microbial communities can be considered as a black box.  

Unraveling what soil microbes are doing in this black box has been identified as one of the major research areas in science, comparable to the search for life on Mars. We investigate the significance of soil biodiversity for the functioning of agricultural ecosystems. Specific attention is given to arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, soil microbes which form symbiotic associations with most crops and which can have a big impact on plant growth and ecosystem functioning.

We perform greenhouse and field experiments to investigate how soil organisms influence plant productivity, nutrient cycling and ecosystem sustainability.

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The role of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi in nutrient cycling

Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) are known to forage efficiently for soil nutrients and forward them to associated plants. Supporting those fungi in agricultural ecosystems, could reduce environmental pollution and improve the sustainability of agricultural production.

Teaser-Bodenökosysteme

Restoring Soil Ecosystem Functioning and Sustainability

Several microorganisms can improve soil health and plant productivity. We investigate if the functioning and sustainability of agricultural soils can be increased or restored by introducing beneficial microorganisms (e.g. mycorrhiza) in the field.

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Mycorrhizal Fungi for Weed Control?

Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi have the ability to inhibit the growth of some agricultural weeds. So far, little is known about the underlying mechanisms of this unilateral suppressive action.