A better understanding of the interaction of bacteria between plants and the microorganisms surrounding them can be part of the answer to how we can produce more food for the additional two billion people the UN assesses the earth’s population will increase with over the next 30 years. This is why the Novo Nordisk Foundation has granted USD 30 million for the research program Collaborative Crop Protection Programme (CCRP), which will map new paths to a larger and more sustainable production of food.
Researchers from a total of 14 research groups at Danish and foreign universities collaborate in the research consortium, which over the next six years will examine up to 1000 bacterial species and analyze the biological interactions between bacteria and plant roots and leaves. The research represents a whole new approach to agricultural development by not focusing on the crops but on the microorganisms around them.
The aim is to gain insight into how agriculture can utilize research-based knowledge of bacterial communities to improve existing crops and, in the longer term, create far more sustainable agricultural production with greater yields and greater resistance to climate change. The research will help reduce the use of fertilizers and insecticides by promoting natural bacteria that coexist with the plants.
At DTU, researchers from DTU Bioengineering participate in two of the three sub-projects in the program:
* Matrix will focus on the abundant but poorly studied interactions between plants and microbes across the earth.
* Interact will focus on the essential and mutually beneficial interactions between underground plants and microbes.
* Inroot will provide knowledge and tools for the science-based development of new crop varieties and associated microbial interventions.
In the Interact project, Professors Ákos T. Kovács and Jens Christian Frisvad will help map beneficial interaction between plants and bacteria, while Professor Winnie Edith Svendsen in the Inroot project, will help develop tools that can be used to produce new crops and develop new methods for using bacteria in agriculture.
“We hope to contribute with new knowledge and tools for evidence-based development of new resilient crops and documented methods for how we can actively use and supply beneficial microorganisms. We are working with novel methods using micro and nanotechnology, that can improve productivity, reduce the need for fertilizers and pesticides and alleviate the negative environmental impact that is currently associated with our food production”, says Winnie Edith Svendsen.