Research Projects

Desert rhizosphere microbes

Principal Investigator: Prof. Heribert Hirt

To feed the world, food production has to be increased by about 50 % until the year 2050. However, many countries in dry and hot zones already chronically lack the production of enough food for their own population and depend on imports and foreign aid. Considering that harvest losses by drought, salt and heat stresses amounts to approx. 60 % of total productivity, improvement of abiotic stress tolerance is the main aim in crop improvement in the world. All plants have evolved mechanisms to respond to changing environmental conditions (Hirt, 2009), but the ability of a variety of plants to adapt to extreme stress conditions also depends on the association with specific rhizosphere microbes (de Zelicourt et al., 2013; Lugtenberg and Kamilova, 2009).

Therefore, our project aims are:

  1. Identify the rhizosphere microbes that are associated with plants growing in extreme heat, drought and salt conditions.
  2. Identify the molecular mechanisms that enable plants to adapt to extreme environmental conditions induced by the microbial association.
  3. Use the appropriate rhizosphere partners to enhance plant stress tolerance and help increase crop food production in a sustainable way.
  4. Literature:
  • de Zelicourt A, Al-Yousif M, Hirt H (2013) Rhizosphere microbes as essential partners for plant stress tolerance. Mol Plant. 6:242-5.
  • Hirt, H. (2009) Plant Stress Biology: From Genomics to Systems Biology (Wiley, West Sussex).
  • Lugtenberg, B., and Kamilova, F. (2009) Plant-growth-promoting rhizobacteria. Annu. Rev. Microbiol. 63, 541–556