An alternative strategy to fertilizer and pesticide application, is the use of environment-friendly
substrate amendments such as chitin and biochar to improve crop growth and disease resistance.
Chitin or biochar amendment to substrate have proven to increase disease resistance and growth
of plants, which is at least in part regulated through a change in the microbial community
interacting with the plant root system. However the mechanisms by which chitin or biochar induce
these changes and by which the altered microbiomes assist in those plant beneficial effects are
currently poorly understood.
In this project, a combination of ‘mics will be used to study the effect of chitin and biochar on the
rhizosphere and substrate microbiome. Data analysis remains challenging and the state-of-the-art
methods are often not tailored towards the meta-‘mics. Therefore, proper data analysis pipelines
have to be developed to give reliable information on the effect of chitin and biochar addition on
the rhizosphere microbiome.
Strawberry, an economic important plant in Belgium, typically cultivated in substrate, will be used
as model system. Both the functions and activity of the microorganisms of the strawberry
rhizosphere in response to chitin or biochar amendment will be characterized, and chitin or
biochar metabolizers will be identified. This information can help to elucidate how and under
which circumstances chitin or biochar amendments may increase disease resistance and plant