P (Paola) Rallo

P (Paola) Rallo

PhD student, Promovendus

Research conducted by the Laboratory of Nematology is part of the research prgram of the Graduate School Experimental Plant Sciences (EPS) and the C.T. de Wit Graduate School for Production Ecology & Resource Conservation (PE&RC)

Research:

Genetic basis and ecological relevance of intraspecific variation in grass microbiome interaction

The project focuses on grass species intraspecific variation and aims to unravel the genetic control and the ecological consequences of plant-microorganisms interaction.

Through association with beneficial bacteria and fungi, plants can express increased growth via improved nutrient uptake, disease resistance, and abiotic stress tolerance. Such microbe-mediated plant traits could be important for ecological adaptation and for crop improvement, but natural or artificial selection can only shape these traits if genetic variation exists for the ability to engage with specific beneficial microbes. While we know that plant species can differ a lot in their associated microbiomes and other soil biota, we know little about how much intraspecific variation there is for these associations.

Grasses are a good model for addressing this question of intraspecific variation. Grasses are known to engage in interaction with beneficial microorganisms, their abundance with along ecological successional gradients is at least partly determined by soil biotic interaction and understanding the genetic basis of grass-microbiome interactions is relevant for grass breeding.

To gain insight in intraspecific variation in grass-soil biota interactions, I will evaluate plant-soil feedback effects at the level of several genotypes of Lolium perenne, Festuca arundinacea and Poa pratensis grass species. These species belong to three different and relevant genera for breeding in turf and forage industry. I will zoom in on the genetic basis of microbiome variation in one of these grass species by using association mapping and microbiome sequencing across a large panel of genotypes. We hypothesize that there are genetic determinants of microbiome composition, leading to genotype-specific microbiome composition and that genetic determinants of intraspecific variation in microbiome composition can be pinpointed to chromosomal regions. This project will provide a step forward in linking and better understanding the grass genetic influence on its microbiome with regards to ecological adaptation and breeding.