Our team focuses on plant and microbial communities in sustainable production ecosystems of food and biological raw materials relevant to agriculture and forestry. We characterise rhizosphere microbiome attributes influencing plant nutrition and desiccation tolerance, to expand the potential of modern plant-breeding lines using next generation sequencing combined with high resolution microscopy and metabolomic approaches. Our cross disciplinary collaboration team involves scientists ranging from community- and systems ecology to analytical chemistry and social science.
Plant root microbiome interactions are studied by observation using gradually increasing resolution LM (A and B), ESEM (C), SEM-EDS(D), AFM (E) and cryo-EM (F).
Keywords *Deciphering plant–microbe interactions, construction of genome-scale metabolic models of microorganisms and plants. *Habitat re-creation *Extremophilic microorganisms and their biochemical adaptation and biotechnological application. *Bioremediation: decontamination of soil and water pollution generated by manmade chemicals
Ongoing research projects:
Development of native rhizosphere community-based microbial consortia (CBC) for crop stress tolerance improvement and habitat re-creation
Goal: Integrating rhizosphere microbiomes to improve crop plant nutrition, water use efficiency and bioremediation ability in Ukraine, East- and Central Africa and in the Baltic Sea Region. We analyze the role of root microbiome from the crop plants wild relatives, landraces and the representatives naturally growing in stress habitats.
Our studies illustrate the importance of method for selection of CBC (also known as PGPR) and nanoparticles for the CBC formulation. Our results explain the generally observed inconsistent behaviour of PGPRs in field application. The nanoparticle effect is soil specific and is related to the particles’ ability to modulate the surface formation of complexes with important types of biomolecules such as phospholipids and proteins. Understanding the pathways improves the effectiveness of formulation and optimize the mutually complex interactions, as it allows their regulated delivery and release, focusing on specific tissues and cells at specific times. In this innovative transdisciplinary approach, we combine breeding lines and rhizosphere bacteria from the natural resources and vegetative drought tolerant plants. We combine experimental studies and cultivation-independent bioinformatic analysis to identify putative bacterial consortia.
Plant genomic studies: associations with crop plant water use efficiency, bioremediation ability and nutritional element uptake
Goal: Identification of crop plant genomic sequences associated with the stress factor of the study (drought, pollution, nutritional deficiency). Identification of genomic markers for CBC interaction to be employed in breeding programs
Our studies reveal five times greater survival and 78% higher biomass in inoculated plants under drought stress using the bacterial consortia from the harsh environments. We optimise the bacterial beneficial effect via genomic studies, bioactive compound identification and development of formulation strategies using crystalline TiO2 and native silica nanoparticles for encapsulation of microorganisms. Coalescence of nanoparticles self-assembling on the surface of cell membranes leads to formation of dense and stable shells able to improve survival and function of plant growth promoting bacteria.
Dissemination and communication: Crop plant microbiome is an essential tool for future production systems
Goal: To maximize the impact of project 1 and 2 derived information
While human microbiome research is increasingly applied in practical medicine, plant-microbial interaction research has a relatively weak link to practical agriculture. The future production systems will be based on carefully designed crops and crop specific microbiome focusing on ecologial resoration, habitat creation and crop production profitability. The link to public education, practical agriculture/industry and civil society will be strengthened via product and method communication. In collaboration to social scientists, we establish trans-national collaboration between researchers and stakeholders and carry out dissemination and communication activities addressed to district audiences by using our projects concepts and results.
Bioremediation of pollution generated by manmade chemicals in the form of industrial activity, agricultural chemicals, or the improper disposal of waste
Goal: Replacement of conventional methods routinely used for the remediation of contaminated environmental soil and water such as excavation, transport to specialized landfills, incineration, stabilization, and vitrification. Bioremediation technologies using native microbial consortia offer many advantages over traditional remediation technologies as they can be applied in situ without the need for removal and transport of contaminated soil/water, are economical, less labour-intensive and have a lower carbon footprint.
Prof. Eviatar Nevo Institute of Evolution, Haifa University, Israel: Evolutionary Biology; four natural laboratories of “Evolution Canyons" in Israel
Dr. Diriba Muleta, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopian small-grain cereals and their wild progenitors
Prof. Jill Farrant University of Cape Town, ZA Myrothamnus flabellifolia, and Xerophyta schlechteri rhizosphere metatranscriptomics http://www.mcb.uct.ac.za/mcb/people/staff/academic/farrant
Prof. Bernhard Glick University of Waterloo, Canada: Mechanisms of microbe-mediated abiotic and biotic stress mitigation
Prof. Jonas Bergquist Uppsala University (UU), Chemistry BMC, Sweden: Temporal dynamics of plant-soil metabolome
Dr. Ilmar Tamm Estonian Crop Research Institute (ECRI), Estonia: Plant breeding, circular bioeconomy, NordGen genebank
Prof. Ylo Niinemets and Steffen Noe Estonian University of Life Sciences: Station for Measuring Ecosystems Atmospheric Relations (SMEAR Estonia)
Dr. Julian Conrad Swedish National Cryo-EM facility, SciLifeLab, Stockholm, Sweden: Super-resolution microscopy
Prof. Erik Rudloff-Bongcam SLU-Global Bioinformatics Centre
Taavi Pall University of Tartu, Faculty of Medicine, Institute of Biomedicine and Translational Medicine
Dissemination and communication activities
Dr. Paul Fuehrer Södertörn University, School of Social Sciences
Prof Tarmo Soomere TallinTech,Univ. Estonia Mapping and engineering of Baltic Sea pollution https://wavelab.ioc.ee/
Dr. Lawrence Behers Novawest Technology and Communications, USA