Soil protists and plants: who is in control?

Protists are microbial organisms that promote plant performance by releasing nutrients from their bacterial prey.

Yet it remains unknown if plants select for their own protist community, and if higher diversity affects plant performance. Stefan Geisen will address this research-question by examining plant-protist interactions in different successional stages.

From January 2018 on I will start my three year VENI project. It aims at disentangling whether soil biodiversity affects plant performance, both of crop plant species and even more of natural (early- and mid-successional) plant species. I will focus on soil protists and a diversity gradient of up to 100 species, a diversity that to date has never been touched in diversity-functioning experiments.

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In line, in collaboration with Alex Jousset from Utrecht University I have been granted an NWO project that aims at applying soil protists to increase plant performance for applied purposes.

To disentangle the importance of protists within the soil microbiome and to get a better understanding of soil biodiversity in general I will coollaborate with other scientists at the NIOO including Wim van der PuttenPaolina GerbevaEiko Kuramae in diverse projects.

However, I am also directly interested in other soil organisms, their diversity and ecological functioning and therefore directly include bacteria, fungi and nematodes in my studies using both classical cultivation based as well as molecular (qPCR, sequencing) approaches.