This project will determine how crop species, genetics, management factors and climatic conditions interact with ecosystem genomes (the plant and microbiome) to express disease-suppressive functionality.
Managing agro-ecosystems towards disease-suppressive states is an opportunity to sustainably maintain production and reduce dependence on chemical and other inputs. As an ecosystem metaphenome, general disease suppression confers immunity/protection to a range of plants from a variety of pathosystems and is enduring over time. The role of microbial membership and functions or processes within these communities has been defined for disease-suppressive soils.
The team will also test the plant-supported heritability of plant rhizosphere microbiomes and traits over time. Using novel, mixed or cover species to manage the assemblage of microbial communities may provide new soil microbiome management tools.
Finally, the project team plan to determine the relative importance of different farm management practices on disease-suppressive soil metaphenome, and elucidate links between management practices, soil microbial biomass, and groups of beneficial and pathogenic taxa.
The research challenge is to understand how environmental conditions and management practices affect disease suppression in ecosystems, and then to apply this knowledge to management practices that can alter the ecosystem trajectory towards an enduring, disease-suppressive state.
Understanding the role of mycorrhizal fungi in resilient soil ecosystems
PhD student, Fionnuala (Finn) Bulman will characterise the community of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi found in agricultural and native ecosystems of New Zealand. She will use the fungal community from these soils to examine the extent that previous land cover affects future mycorrhization in the context of land-use change and resilience to climate disturbance.
Finn will also investigate the role of different root classification approaches in analysing a variety of mycorrhizal traits.