Biologicals, plant beneficial microbes and the second green revolution hos Institut for Plante- og Miljøvidenskab - Københavns Universitet

Background: As the world population and consumption continues to grow, global food, feed and bio-products demand will steadily increase putting an unprecedented productivity pressure on agriculture. In combination with increasing agricultural losses due to biotic and abiotic stresses caused by climate change and ban of pesticides it is expected that agricultural productivity needs to be increased by 50% till 2050. Traditionally, plant yield enhancement and resistance to stresses is achieved through lengthy and expensive breeding programs but progress has been slowed down. An alternative strategy is the use of plant growth promoting microbes in climate smart agriculture that is receiving increasing attention.

Beneficial microbes are involved in diverse processes including metabolite transportation, nutrient homeostasis, vascular differentiation, chloroplast biogenesis, downstream signaling of various phytohormones, growth and branching of root, shoot and inflorescence, leaf senescence, nutrient balance and stress tolerance. Earlier, transcript analysis under natural condition revealed that Bacillus subtilis FB17 (plant beneficial microbe) triggers plant responses in a manner similar to known plant growth promoting rhizobacteria and to some extent also suppresses defense-related genes expression in roots, enabling stable colonization. We have identified beneficial bacteria as new determinant of biological disease control (1, 2). In addition, we have started to characterize the mode of action of rhizosphere associated microbes that stimulate grow and improve drought stress tolerance by a combination of molecular and physiological phenotyping approaches (3). With this system biology approach we aim to identify plant biomarkers for practical applications that can help to more efficiently develop next generation microbial solutions for the second green revolution in agriculture in collaboration with industrial partners (4) or within international collaborations (5, 6).

Objectives: Contributing to elucidate the mechanisms involved in the promotion of plant health by microbes with a special focus on inter-kingdom signaling and predictive molecular and biochemical markers to develop novel strategies for application of probiotic microbes in sustainable agriculture to improve stress resilience for improved crop yield stability in combination with reduction of pesticides.

Methods: Plant treatment by beneficial microbes, growth and biotic/abiotic stress experiments, functional approaches with plant signaling, transporter and biosynthetic mutants and transgenic plants, re-isolation of bacteria from plants and their molecular identification, molecular, physiological and image-based analyses of the plant responses.


  1. Großkinsky et al. (2016) Cytokinin production by Pseudomonas fluorescens G20-18 determines biocontrol activity against Pseudomonas syringae in Arabidopsis. Scientific Reports, 6, 23310.
  2. ress release:
  3. roßkinsky et al. (2015). Plant phenomics and the need for physiological phenotyping across scales to narrow the genotype-to-phenotype knowledge gap. Journal of Experimental Botany, 66(18), 5429-5440.
  4. Press release:
  5. ttps://

The research group: Who are we?

Different aspects of the interaction of plants with beneficial microbes are a major research focus in the research group “Molecular Plant Physiology and Plant Phenomics”. See our home page, list of publications or press release press release.

Our lab is involved in different funded collaborative research project. Those include the the two EU international training networks, BestPass addressing microbial endophytes ( and MiRA addressing microbe induced resistance against insect pests ( In addtion, our lab is partner in the national project Bac4CroP to establish novel screening systems with funding from the Danish Innovation Fund and the big international Cooperative Crop Resiliency Program CCRP funded by the Novo Nordisk Foundation with ca. 30 mio Euro to spur the second green revolution

Video showing our research infrastructures

Growth facilities and phenomics research infrastructures

Within this general research topic specific BSc or MSc thesis project or projects outside course scope (POCS) can be tailed to specific particular topic and methodological interests. Please do not hesitate to contact Thomas to arrange a phone, video or personal meeting to get further information and discuss your own ideas questions.

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