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.
Long term deliverables
Hands on experience with basic microbiology and molecular microbiology tools.
Experience in microbial ecology, plant microbe interactions and/or molecular biology.
Postgraduate degree in microbiology, life sciences or the like.