According to a news release issued by Utrecht University in the Netherlands, a project aimed at developing new tools to predict and optimize potato plant growth by mapping the micro-organisms living on potato tubers has been awarded 940.000 Euro in funding.

The project, led by biologist Roeland Berendsen, will be a collaboration between Utrecht University and the commercial partners Agrifirm, Averis seeds, Bayer Cropscience and HZPC.  The funding is granted by the Dutch Research Council (NWO) and the private companies involved in the project.

Potato is one of the world’s most important food crops, but its production greatly depends on the use of fertilizers and pesticides. A promising strategy to reduce the use of these agrochemicals, is to optimize the composition beneficial microorganisms living on the plant. These micro-organisms support growth and strength, creating a natural defense mechanism for potato plants.

The new grant allows Utrecht University biologist Roeland Berendsen and his team to develop new tools to precisely map the microbial population on potato tubers. This results into the so-called microbiome fingerprints, or a collection of unique compositions of all microorganisms.

Next, they will link the microbiome fingerprints from seed potato tubers to the vitality and health of the potato crop that emerges from them.

“We will identify and isolate microbes that promote potato vitality and health”, says Berendsen. “These microbes can then be used to develop sustainable potato cultivation systems that contain optimal microbiome. Ultimately this results in crops that make better use of the natural microbial potential of soils and rely less on inputs of fertilizer and pesticides.”


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