Endophytes within plant tissues can provide mutiple benefits to their hosts, including buffering against climate shocks (e.g. drought, heat stress) or pest and pathogen outbreaks. Use of endophytes can also address problems that are difficult to manage using ‘conventional’ approaches, such as the build up of pesticide resistance and/or socio-political pressures to reduce synthetic pesticide use. They can enhance the overall efficiency of plant resource use (e.g. nutrients, water), enabling the development of new production systems that are more efficient and environmentally sustainable (e.g. through reduced fertiliser wastage, pollutant and greenhouse gas emissions). Endophytes can also enhance the nutritional value of grain, fruit and plant tissues, providing a means to address declines in food quality that have occurred throughout the Anthropocene to date.
Endophytes represent a major progression from current ‘biopesticides/biostimulants’ by offering a means to stabilise environmentally-sensitive beneficial biological crop inputs through placement within the plant tissue. In vivo introduction of endophytes to crop plants is challenging, but has been overcome through polymer based technologies already developed at Newcastle University and commercialised through CASE collaborators, Nutriss. This has enabled the potential of endosymbiont application to be explored in certain tropical crops, paving the way for work in temperature producton systems.
The current project will explore endophyte application to manage temperate crop microbiomes for climate resilient and Anthropocene-aligned farming, combining laboratory/glasshouse experiments on plant growth and pest/pathogen responses at Newcastle University with nutritional profiling of harvested crop material through biochemical analysis at Northumbria University. Cross-institute training in these areas will allow a suitable student to become a future leader in this exciting and emerging field.
This project is part of the ONE Planet DTP. Find out more here: View Website