View graph of relations


Main research question/goal

Maize is the third most important crop worldwide. Due to its tropical origin - maize originated in Mexico - cultivating maize in the northern hemisphere has brought some challenges. Cold temperatures negatively affect plant development and hampers juvenile maize growth, which leads to increased susceptibility for diseases such as Rhizoctonia solani. Plant roots and the soil around the roots are filled with bacteria. Some are pathogenic, but many others have the potential to promote plant growth. The goal of this project is to identify plant growth promoting bacteria that can promote maize growth under low temperature conditions or in the presence of the fungal pathogen Rhizoctonia solani. At the same time, we aim to facilitate the selection of these bacterial candidates and try to understand the underlying growth promoting mechanisms.

Research approach

We begin with in-depth microbiome studies to analyze the bacterial communities in and around the maize root. Based on the results of these microbiome analyses, we identify those bacterial families that are repeatedly enriched within the plant roots. A collection of maize endophytes (bacteria) is created and part of this collection will be screened and tested for their growth promoting capacities for maize under cold stress or in the presence of a pathogen (Rhizoctonia solani). The identified strains will be used to unravel the underlying growth promoting mechanisms.


This research is a "sandwich" doctoral study between VIB and ILVO. This is fundamental research with the aim of better understanding how certain bacteria can promote maize plant growth. In the longer term certain bacterial strains may be identified and used as a seed coating in agricultural applications to increase maize growth under common Belgian stress abiotic (cold) and biotic (Rhizoctonia solani) conditions.

External partner(s)
VIB - Vlaams Instituut voor Biotechnologie
Effective start/end date1/01/1631/12/19

ID: 6776399