Research conducted by the Laboratory of Nematology is part of the research program of the Graduate School Experimental Plant Sciences (EPS) and the C.T. de Wit Graduate School for Production Ecology & Resource Conservation (PE&RC).
To meet global demand, food production has been subject to agricultural intensification, increasingly relying on chemical inputs to improve crop uniformity and yield. These agricultural practices are incredibly damaging to the local ecosystem, largely ignoring above- and belowground biodiversity and depleting natural resources.
Sustainability focused agricultural practices, such as intercropping, could offer an alternative that puts less strain on the local ecosystem while increasing biodiversity and yield stability through complementarity. While the aboveground interspecific interactions and benefits of intercropping are often well characterized, belowground dynamics remain understudied. As the soil microbiome is an important driver of soil health and plant performance, studying the effects of intercropping on the soil microbiome is crucial.
In this project, I will explore the role of intercropping on the soil microbiome, comprising prokaryotes, fungi, nematodes and protists, using high-throughput DNA sequencing. I will study the soil microbiome community composition across multiple intercrop pairings as well as across space and time, to look for potential general trends and shifts caused by crop diversification. In addition, I aim to explore the functional identity of the soil microbiome under intercropping in a multi -omics approach. Finally, the role of the soil microbiome in abiotic and biotic stress tolerance will be studied.
My personal goal with this project is to highlight the effect of aboveground crop diversification on belowground biodiversity and functioning, underlining its importance for consideration in future biodiversity strategies.