Wageningen Plant Research
In my work at Wageningen Plant Research I am involved in projects on the role of bacteria in disease development, with a focus on plants. On the one hand, this includes pathogens and methods to detect, trace and prevent bacterial infection. On the other hand, I study antagonistic bacteria and how they can be applied to improve plant resistance. All these projects aim at developing effective and sustainable methods that support healthy, safe and high quality plant cultivation.
PhD project: causes and consequences of soil bacterial rarity
It has been shown in past studies that low abundant (i.e. rare) soil bacterial species plan an important role in supporting various ecosystem functions. However, it is not well understood why some species are rare, whereas others are abundant. In my PhD research I could show that many rare soil bacterial species can grow quickly and utilize a wide range of substrates, indicating that slow growth and a narrow niche are unlikely to cause rarity. In contrast, predation by protists was found to reduce several bacterial species to low abundances. Overall causes of rarity can be various. It is crucial to further identify the factors that determine bacterial abundance in order to be able to predict and ultimately steer microbial community composition and community functioning.
In addition, I studied the effect of rare bacterial species in soil on the systemic resistance of plants against aphids. In contrast to earlier studies, loosing rare bacteria did not negatively affect plant resistance. However, in the presence of rare species the survival of an artificially introduced bacterial species was reduced, indicating that rare bacteria can play a major role in the suppression of invasions.