SQ (Sophie) van Rijssel BSc

SQ (Sophie) van Rijssel BSc

PhD Student, Promovendus

Personal page at NIOO


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



I am a plant and soil ecologist with a passion for data analysis, particularly complex data on soil biota. I did my master in Forest- and Nature conservation, with a specialization in Plant-Soil interactions. For my thesis and internship I analyzed sequencing data of fungi, which I really enjoyed. Currently I am working on my PhD research that is part of the NWO-Green project: Vital soils for sustainable intensification of agriculture.

Vital soils for sustainable agriculture

A key challenge for sustainable intensification of agriculture is to produce increasing amounts of food, feed and bioenergy, with minimal loss of biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. Organic farming is supposed to have less negative impacts on soil biotic and abiotic properties resulting into more stable ecosystem functioning than conventional agricultural practices. However, conversion of conventional into more sustainable organic systems takes time and is often accompanied by a yield gap in the first years.

In this project we aim to unravel biological, chemical and physical mechanisms underlying high yields and stability in organically managed agricultural fields and we test how the transition from conventional to organic agriculture can be accelerated. We will identify factors that can predict successful conversion and can serve as indicators for vital soils for sustainable intensification of agriculture. Within the project I work together with Guusje Koorneef and while I focus on soil ecology she focuses on soil organic matter-related chemistry and physics. Soon there will be also a post-doctoral researcher appointed who will focus on soil foodwebs.

My focus - Soil communities and ecosystem processes

Soil communities are key regulators of ecosystem processes, such as nutrient recycling and disease suppression. For vital soils it is crucial to have a soil community that is providing nutrients at the right time, and controlling emerging diseases. Yet, we still have a poor understanding of soil community composition and functioning in agro-ecosystems. We will perform lab, greenhouse and field experiments in which we study how soil communities are affected by management and how they affect ecosystem functions. With this research we provide a basis for developing management practices which can steer soil communities towards favouring both high crop yields and minimal environmental impacts.