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Research project (§ 26 & § 27)
Duration : 2017-06-01 - 2021-05-31

The application of biologic soil additives based on beneficial microbes is an interesting and durable alternative to existing fertilizing methods. A mixture of beneficial microbes will be developed, optimized to control the fungal genus Fusarium. Fusarium diseases on small grain cereals (Fusarium head blight, FHB) and on maize (Fusarium ear rot, FER) are one of the most relevant problems in agriculture. FHB and FER induce yield losses but of main concern are quality losses due to contamination of the grain with mycotoxins that are harmful to humans and animals. Maximum toxin content in food is worldwide regulated. To date, no effective control of FHB/FER is possible: an integrated approach with proper soil preparation, crop rotation, use of fungicides and resistant plant varieties is advised but innovative control strategies are urgently needed. Fusarium causing FHB and FER can only survive in intact infected crop debris on which the fungus produces spores in the next spring. The spores can reach the flowering cereal or maize ear where infection can occur. The development of a preventive microbial soil or plant additive reducing the production of spores on crop debris or increasing plant resistance is a promising approach to control Fusarium. By reducing inoculum, infection pressure and probability of toxin contamination will be reduced. We follow 4 complementary strategies to reach our goal. We will select microbes that: 1) are specialised in fast decay of the crop debris. Fusarium cannot survive in the soil and uses colonized crop debris as a refugium. 2) show an antagonistic activity against Fusarium, inhibiting growth and sporulation on the crop debris. 3) induce systemic induced resistance: this strategy activates the natural plant defence mechanisms. 4) We will apply Ca2+, Mg2+ and Si3+. These cations enforce plant wall strength and Mg2+ inhibits mycotoxin production. 5) A mixture of microbes acting via mechanism of 1-3 plus 4, resulting in additive effect on Fusarium. To reach our goals we follow an approach of selection of microbes in the lab and greenhouse, in small field plots and in field experiments. The result will be a new product composed of a mixture of several microbes controlling Fusarium via complementary mechanisms. A company will be founded to commercialise the innovative product. The product will reduce the risk for toxin contaminated grains used for food and feed and will in the end contribute to public health.

The main objective of this study is to investigate the impact of elevating temperature and CO2 air concentration on the nutritive value of Dactylis glomerata L. growing in permanent grassland managed under cutting. Changes in nutritive value is mainly supported by plant related measurements like development state determination, leaf to stem proportion, and their synchrony in relation to maturity & response to the simulated biotic stress condition. These relevant information are useful to understand changes in plant morphology, phenology and forage quality, as a result of a changing climate. Predicting the response of the forage crop to stress conditions will help to adjust management practices, determine the optimum harvest date at the proper stage of maturity to achieve highest nutritive value, which will be positively reflected on the animal’s performance. This will end up with a profitable, environmentally friendly grassland-based dairy production system.
Research project (§ 26 & § 27)
Duration : 2019-01-01 - 2021-12-31

Circular economy and any form of sustainable society depends on the availability of renewable resources in high quantities. Agricultural production of industrial raw products is, for well known reasons, ethically questionable. Cultivation of phototrophic microorganisms (algae and cyanobacteria) does not provoke such conflicts, but is, compared with agriculture, a relatively new research segment and far less optimised. One of the promising product groups are the poly-hydroxalkanoates (PHA's), native in bacteria and cyanobacteria and, when isolated, with properties and with a usability similar to conventional plastics. Besides possibilities and limits for a biotechnological mass production, understanding the biological and ecological meaning of this natural polymer demands for investigative research. While there are already some reports for heterotrophic bacteria available, very little is known about the possible functions and interactions of PHA's in cyanobacteria. Our project conducts highly specialised methods for measurements of chemical, physical, morphological and molecular parameters with the exposure of cyanobacteria cells to favourable and unfavourable environmental conditions. Based on the collected data we expect to gain a deep insight into the cyanobacterial stress response in terms of PHA accumulation. The outcome is not only of academic interest, it is likely a valuable base for future process optimisation in cyanobacterial biotechnology.

Supervised Theses and Dissertations