Novel agroecosystem management strategies and tools

Part of the SolACE project will test a subset of soil and crop management practices that are prioritized through consultation with partners and stakeholders. These practices will then be developed and tested under combined limitations of water and nitrogen (N) or phosphorus (P), with a special focus on approaches that are expected to promote below-ground interactions.

In both conventional and organic farming systems, a number of agricultural management practises are in place to optimize plant nutrition, maintain soil fertility and to avoid plant diseases. However, limited knowledge exists on which management practices to choose in order to improve plant stress resilience, in particular, to combined stresses such as limited availability of nutrients and water. The aim of SolACE work package 3 is to test a wide variety of agro-management practises already available for wheat and potato. These include the use of crop genotype mixtures, crop rotation with legumes, different tillage practices or the use of microbial inoculants. Furthermore, decision support tools will be implemented to diagnose nutrient or water deficiency.

Microbial inoculants consist of microorganisms, which have been isolated from soils or plants and which have the capacity to reduce stress severity of plants by, e.g., nutrient mobilization and delivery or hormonal effects. As microbial products to reduce combined stresses of wheat and potato are currently hardly available, our aim in work package 3 is to select promising microorganisms or microbial combinations to be later tested under field conditions. Three partners - the Austrian Institute Of Technology AIT, the University of Hohenheim, Germany, and the Université catholique de Louvain, Belgium - are currently performing greenhouse experiments with potato and wheat, testing five microorganisms (plant growth-promoting bacteria and fungi as well as arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi) as well as ten combinations containing two to three strains. In these experiments, these strains and microbial combinations are particularly tested for their capacity to improve plant growth under combined stress conditions. We will select the best performing strains or combinations and our company partners - DCM and Agrobiotec - as well as the Université catholique de Louvain, will then provide formulations enabling later application and testing in the field.

More information about work package 3.