Spatially explicit modelling of soil microbial communities in intercropping systems

Project: PhD

Project Details

Description

Intercropping is an agricultural practice in which multiple crop species are grown together in the same field. Some plant combinations benefit from being intercropped, for instance leading to increased yield or better resistance against drought or pathogens. The mechanisms behind these benefits are largely unknown, but the soil microbial community is thought to be involved. Since the soil microbiome is highly heterogeneous, spatial structure and distance between plants likely play essential roles. Here, we present plans for the development of a spatially explicit reaction-diffusion PDE model of multiple types of soil microbes interacting with each other and with the plants through root exudates. With this model, we wish to identify the effect of intercropped versus monocropped microbe-promoting (e.g. Allium fistulosum) and microbe-suppressing plants (e.g. Brassica oleracea) on soil microbial eco-evolutionary dynamics. Before modelling, we will first conduct a literature search to identify key open questions which can be answered with this type of model, which will result in a literature review. We will then extend our model in relevant directions to answer these questions. Our model will be integrated with data from concurrent greenhouse and open-field intercropping experiments performed within a recently started consortium that studies the role of plant and soil microbiome biodiversity in intercropping. Our research aims to contribute to both the fundamental theoretical understanding of microbial ecology in space, and to application in the understanding and design of specific intercropping systems.
StatusActive
Effective start/end date1/02/22 → …

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