Six consortia of top researchers are being awarded a total of 113.8 million euros to conduct groundbreaking scientific research programmes in the coming years, the Dutch Research Council (NWO) has announced. One of the principal members of the MiCRop consortium is NIOO researcher Jos Raaijmaker. He and his team will delve into the beneficial effects of the microbial community around crop plants, and use their findings to develop stressproof and sustainable future crops that require fewer fertilisers and pesticides.
The chief aim of the MiCRop programme is to strengthen agricultural plant species and thus meet the challenges of sustainable food production. Plants host and nuture billions of micro-organisms on their roots. In exchange, this so-called root microbiome supports the plant, boosting its nutrient uptake and tolerance to environmental stress, and protecting it against diseases and pests. 20 million euros in funding has now been earmarked for MiCRop.
In the programme, a team of researchers from University of Amsterdam, Wageningen UR, VU Amsterdam, Utrecht University and NIOO-KNAW will investigate how plants recruit such beneficial root micro-organisms under stress. Much remains unknown about the traits of both plants and micro-organisms that facilitate these interactions. Those traits are MiCRop's main focus, and its ultimate aim is to harness them for the development of the next generation of stressproof crop plants. Fewer fertilizers and pesticides will be needed for these plants.