RAF (Robbert) van Himbeeck MSc

RAF (Robbert) van Himbeeck MSc

PhD student

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:

Characterization and steering of a highly desirable though sporadic phenomenon in soils: the biological suppression of plant-parasitic nematodes with quarantine status

Root-knot nematodes (i.e. Meloidogyne sp.) and potato cyst nematodes (i.e. Globodera sp.) are among the most harmful plant-parasitic nematodes in the world and are responsible for enormous agricultural losses each year. To control these plant-pathogens, various management strategies can be applied. Due to its adverse side effects, the use of nematicides is highly restricted, crop rotation is highly effective but limited to oligophagous plant parasites, and host plant resistances are available for a few major crops only. Thus, there is an urgent need to develop additional management tools to control plant-parasitic nematodes.

A promising control tool is the exploitation of the disease suppressive potential of soils. Disease suppressiveness is defined as the endogenous ability of the soil microbiome to suppress the multiplication and proliferation of pathogens. Disease suppressive soils have been widely studied, but due to the lack of insight in the working mechanism, how to manipulate it and how to predict the phenomenon, it is barely used as management tool. This project seeks to identify the responsible complex of biological actors for disease suppressiveness against plant-parasitic nematodes and to provide handles to maximize the suppressiveness in arable soils. To achieve this, we will use state-of-the-art sequencing techniques to characterize both the resident (DNA) and active (RNA) microbial communities of these soils.

This research can result in a novel management tool to manage potato cyst nematodes and root-knot nematodes, i.e. control by maximizing the endogenous ability of soils to suppress nematode populations. Although this study will focus on arable fields in the Netherlands, this new tool has the potential to fulfil the global demand for environmentally sound management practices.