Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Linking aboveground-belowground interactions and plant-soil feedback to improve pest control and sustainability in greenhouse cut-flowers

We examine how soil inoculation influences aboveground organisms (i) directly, and indirectly via (ii) its effects on plant chemistry or volatile emission, or via (iii) mediating the effects of belowground pathogens on aboveground organisms via the shared plant.

2015 - 2018
Martijn Bezemer
NWO Groen NWO Groen

Haikun Ma
Dr. Ana Pineda
LTO Glaskracht Nederland
Wageningen UR business unit Glastuinbouw

In this project we examine how we can reduce the severity of aboveground pests of the cutflower Chrysanthemum via inoculation of soil microbial communities via plant-soil-insect interactions.

Plant-soil-insect interactions

Soil microorganisms can reduce the damage that aboveground herbivores inflict on a plant. A major challenge is to apply this knowledge to improve sustainable crop production. In this project we examine how soil microbial communities added to sterile soil influence aboveground plant chemistry, the severity of aboveground pests, and the efficiency of predators of these pests.

Chrysanthemum cut-flowers

We will examine this for Chrysanthemum and the major aboveground pests of this crop. Chysanthemum is a major cut-flower crop in greenhouses in the Netherlands that is grown in soil and an important export product. To control soil-borne diseases, the soil is disinfected frequently by steaming. Disinfected soils can be easily colonized by soil pathogens but disease suppressiveness of these soils can be improved by inoculation with microbial communities.


We test for a range of microbial communities how they suppress belowground pathogens and performance and behaviour of aboveground pests (thrips, two-spotted spider mite and aphids) and their natural enemies.

In collaboration with a breeding company, inocula are added to potting media and Chrysanthemum cuttings planted in this potting media are grown in experimental Chrysanthemum growing units. Flower production, quality and pest damage are determined and results are shared with growers.

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