This project runs in the framework of the National Research Programm (NRP) 68: "Sustainable use of Soil as a Resource". Soils are of vital importance for sustainable food production and a major component in maintaining biological diversity.
Several important soil ecosystem services are provided by arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF), a widespread group of soil fungi. AMF form symbiotic associations with the majority of land plants, including most crops and improve plant growth and plant diversity. Recent studies indicate that land use intensification reduces AMF diversity. Pot experiments indicate that this loss of fungal diversity can impair plant productivity and ecosystem functioning. Yet, we have not been able to demonstrate this in the field. Moreover, it is still unclear whether functioning of agricultural soils with impoverished AMF communities can be increased or restored by re-introducing specific AMF species that complement the resident community. This project addresses a number of crucial issues concerning the importance of AMF biodiversity for ecosystem functioning and whether re-introduction of AMF into impoverished AMF communities can restore specific soil functions.
Specific program goals include:
- AMF as bio-indicators: Examination of AMF diversity across a variety of agro-ecosystems. This task includes the development of a DNA sequencing based AMF community profiling method.
- Recruitment limitation in soil? Impact of AMF species introduction on plant productivity and ecosystem functioning in the field.
- Assessment of the impact of AMF diversity on ecosystem sustainability and understanding the ecological role of "generalist" and "specialist" AMF species.
Several other beneficial soil organisms improve soil health and plant performance. In collaboration within the NRP68 we compare effects of various beneficial soil organisms and to test whether they can complement each other in supporting plant productivity:
- Plant beneficial pseudomonads: Dr. Monika Maurhofer (ETH Zurich) and Dr. Christoph Keel (University of Lausanne)
- Entomopathogenic nematodes: Prof. Ted Turlings (University of Neuchatel) and Dr. Fabio Mascher (Agroscope Institute for Plant Production Sciences, Changins)
- Metagenomics: Dr. Brion Duffy (ZHAW Waedenswil
The aim of the collaboration is to test for synergism in soil. Can we improve soil health and plant performance by combining field applications of plant beneficial pseudomonads, entomopathogenic nematodes and AMF?