Plant-beneficial rhizosphere bacteria
Fungal diseases and insect pests cause major damage to agricultural crops and those affecting below-ground plant parts are particularly difficult to ward off with conventional control methods. Environmental and public health concerns restrict the use of pesticides in soil. Plant protection by treatment of soil or planting material with beneficial soil bacteria is a promising, ecologically sound alternative.
The Keel lab investigates plant-beneficial pseudomonads that live in close association with roots and cooperate with their plant host. These rhizobacteria protect crop plants from pathogenic fungi and some are virulent towards pest insects. We try to identify molecular traits required for plant-beneficial and insect-pathogenic activities and mechanisms controlling their expression in response to the respective host. In field trials we also study the agroecosystem services of these bacteria.
Our research involves close collaborations with the lab of Monika Maurhofer at ETH Zurich and with different other labs.