Understanding the mechanisms of general disease suppressiveness in organic fields

About this project

Project description

Plant diseases are a potential threat to crop productivity. Organic farming, which is an alternative sustainable approach based on natural resources, avoids the use of synthetic chemicals. Soils amended organically have the natural ability to suppress a wide range of plant pathogens, thus inducing “general disease suppression”. Limited studies however are available on understanding this general disease suppression and there has been no attempt to transform a non-suppressive soil. We hypothesise that signature microbial members, bioactive compounds, and soil practices from fields under organic farming can induce “general suppressiveness” in otherwise conducive soil. Hence, the proposed project attempts to adopt a polyphasic approach to identify the key markers for conferring disease suppressiveness to a wide range of pathogens. Together with a thorough characterisation of soil biological properties (microbial biomass, key enzyme activities, and abundance of key functional genes involved in carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus cycling, microbial community structure), soil physical (water-air relationships -aggregation, porosity, bulk density, etc), and chemical (basic characteristics such as pH, electrical conductivity, nutrient element concentrations, amounts and availability) properties will also be analysed. Subsequently, a bottom-up approach of rhizospheric engineering and appropriate soil practice such as pH modification will be employed to transform a conducive soil to a suppressive one.


Immediate deliverables

  • Identification of signature microbial members, soil properties and metabolites contributing to “general suppression” of diseases in organic fields.
  • Development of a robust antagonistic microbial community having disease-suppressive ability against a range of pathogens.
  • Proof-of-concept for inducing disease suppressiveness in otherwise conducive soils through soil bio-amendments and pH modification.
  • Data generated will result in high impact publications and paper presentations in conferences of repute.

Long term deliverables

  • Real-time tracking of biological markers associated with suppressive soil can also be included in one of the interventions of Ministry of Agriculture and Farmer’s welfare, Government of India called “Soil Health Card”, wherein only abiotic markers are currently targeted. This will help in judicious use of agro-chemicals and bioresources in farmlands and may pave a way-forward toward sustainable agriculture.
  • Development of diagnostic tools/protocols for assessing the disease suppressive potential of soil in a real-time frame, that can be used for evaluation in agricultural fields.
  • Technology can be developed to induce of disease suppressiveness in non-suppressive soils.

Information for applicants

Essential capabilities

Hands on experience with basic microbiology and molecular microbiology tools.

Desireable capabilities

Experience in microbial ecology, plant microbe interactions and/or molecular biology.

Expected qualifications (Course/Degrees etc.)

Postgraduate degree in microbiology, life sciences or the like.

Project supervisors

Principal supervisors

UQ Supervisor

Dr Cristina Martinez

School of Agriculture and Food Sciences
IITD Supervisor

Professor Shilpi Sharma

Department of Biochemical Engineering and Biotechnology