Reducing mineral fertilizers to improve soil and produce
Conventional agriculture relies on regular and liberal applications of artificial mineral fertilisers containing essential plant nutrients, especially nitrogen and phosphorus. Nitrogen fertilisers are made from atmospheric nitrogen, which is converted to ammonium using the energyintensive Haber-Bosch process, while phosphorus fertiliser is made by treatingmined phosphate rock with sulphuric acid. Apart from the high energy cost of producing these fertilisers with limited natural resources, harm is also caused to the environment by their application. Only about half of nitrogen fertilisers and 20 per cent of phosphate fertilisers are taken up by crops. Most of the remainder is immobilised, runs off into waterways, isleached into groundwater or lost in gaseous form. The liquid leachate causes pollution of groundwater sources and leads to the eutrophication of rivers, lakes and coastal zones, thereby reducing biodiversity and producing toxic algal blooms. Because of these damaging effects, many regions - including Europe - are introducing legislation to reduce the use of mineral fertilisers.
In response to the need to maintain crop yields whilst reducing artificial inputs, a number of projects are being funded by the European Commission to investigate more natural ways of sustaining agricultural production. BIOFECTOR (Resource preservation by application of bio-effectors in European crop production) is a major project investigating the use of bio-effectors (BEs) to improve the ability of crops to utilise nutrients from both artificial and natural fertilisers. Coordinated by the University of Hohenheim in Germany and benefiting from the dedicated project management skills of consultancy company CMAST, the project comprises a consortium of 21 industrial and academic partners BIOFECTOR is now approaching the end of its five-year duration, in which it has tested the effects of 36 BEs in over 150 laboratory and field Experiments.
BIOFECTOR Project Structure
WP01: Product Development
WP02: Synergisms and Product Combinations
WP03: Functional Mechanisms
WP04: Abiotic Stress
WP05: Organic Farming
WP06: Recycling Fertilisers
WP07: Fertiliser Placement
WP08: International Field Testing Network
WP09: Economic Evaluation
WP10: Training and Public Dissemination
WP11: Project Management
The major tasks of this work package comprise the administrative management of the project and supporting the coordinator and participants in all aspects regarding the scientific management of the project according to the EC regulations, including reporting, contractual duties, management of financial resources, publication plan, capture and protection of intellectual property. The WP will provide an efficient web-based communication infrastructure to foster the integrative activities within the consortium and to facilitate reporting and administrative processes. Linked with WP10, an additional field of activities is the dissemination of knowledge produced within the project to the relevant target Groups.
The research lines covered by this group comprise molecular characterisation of nutrient uptake and regulatory aspects of root growth and root physiology. The rhizosphere research team lead by Prof. Dr. Günter Neumann has an outstanding reputation in the characterisation of root secretions and adaptive root-induced modifications of the root-soil interface (rhizosphere) as key factors for plant nutrient acquisition, with special emphasis on phosphate and micronutrients. Competence in bio-effector research is reflected by a long-lasting 20-years history of industrial research co-operations, with focus on the fate and function of bio-effectors to reduce fertilizer input.
The “Julius Kuehn-Institute (JKI)” is an independent research institution subordinated to the “Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection”. Its main task is to advise the German Federal Government concerning issues of crop production, soil science, plant breeding, plant protection, plant health and biological safety.
Tasks:The major field of expertise of the working group headed by Prof. Dr. Pavel Tlustos is the production and testing of plant-growth promoting bio-effectors based on compost extracts and humic acids as a contribution to WP01 (product development), as well as compost production technology. In WP06 the respective composts will be tested as recycling fertilisers based on organic waste products, including in combination with microbial and non-microbial bio-effector products, to increase the fertiliser quality of the composts and plant nutrient availability. The application potential of the newly developed bio-effector-recycling fertiliser combinations will be tested in organic farming Systems (WP05) and also for fertiliser placement close to the roots to increase their utilisation Efficiency (WP07). The working group is also partner of the BIOFCTOR International Field Testing Network (WP08) providing field sites for standardised testing of the most promising bio-effector products developed within the Project.
Banat’s University of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine from Timisoara is a state higher education institution that has the didactic mission to train specialists for scientific research in agricultural sciences and consultancy through the university extension. The second mission of our institution for experimental research in agricultural sciences and veterinary medicine. The research infrastructure of the group comprises experimental field sites as well as large scale protected cultural areas (greenhouses and solariums), agricultural machines and equipment for testing bio-effector products under realistic conditions for agricultural production.
Tasks: The working group is a main partner of the International BIOFECTOR Field testing Network (WP08).
The Corvinus University of Budapest, Faculty of Horticulture, Departments of Ecological and Sustainable Farming Systems and Soil Sciences and Water Management has its main activities in research in national and international projects on organic and sustainable agriculture and are currently studying the role of soil-properties and the various management/soil tillage practices on the growth of tomato, green bean and several other horticultural crops.
Tasks: The CUB will provide combination products based on bacteria, plant extracts and humic acids, suggested and available for the organic agricultural practice in Hungary, to the consortium Partners (WP01). In own research activities, the group will test these bio-effector combinations for applications in organic tomato production in model and field experiments (WP02, WP05) with special emphasis on elucidation of mechanisms behind interactive effects (WP03). Moreover, the group contributes to the International Field Testing Network” (WP08), providing field sites for commercial tomato production in organic farming systems.
P 06: WUR Plant Research International (DLO)
Plant Research International is part of the Wageningen University and Research Centre. Participating research group is member of the business unit “Bio-interactions and Plant Health”. In this business unit, the interactions between arthropods, nematodes, fungi, bacteria and viruses with plants are investigated.
Tasks: Leadership of WP03, and specifically investigating the functional mechanisms behind bio-effector-plant interactions in relation to plant-associated (endophytic) microbial populations. Research activities comprise the development of novel tools to measure endophyte densities in bio-effector-treated plants and to monitor the fate of microbial bio-effectors inside plants (WP03), as well as synergistic effects on endophytic communities upon application of combined bio-effectors to plants (WP02). The group also contributes to WP08 by technical support and sample analysis in the “International Field Testing Network” for final evaluation of BE products (WP08).
The Università of Napoli Federico II is the second largest University in Italy, involved in all disciplines of scientific research. The BIOFECTOR team consists of two research groups, focused respectively on plant responses to environmental stresses and agricultural microbiology, belonging to the Department of Agricultural-Science. The research groups operate as true interdisciplinary teams to address complex issues, such as sustainable crop production under stress environments.
Tasks: Leadership of WP04, investigating perspectives or bio-effector applications to increase crop tolerance against environmental stress factors, such as limited nutrient availability, low soil temperature during early growth, drought or high salt concentrations. As a contribution to WP01 (Product Development) the group provides screening and production of bio-effectors adapted for salt-stress environments, based on microorganisms and plant extracts in close cooperation with the SME partners AGRIGES and BIOATLANTIS. Products and product combinations are tested in model experiments and small greenhouse trials (WP02), including also the investigation of functional mechanisms (WP03). Within the International Field Testing Network (WP08), the group provides field sites for validation and demonstration of the agronomic effectiveness and economic value of bio-effector strategies under real production conditions, characteristic for the Mediterranean agriculture.
P 08: University of Copenhagen (UCPH)
The Plant and Soil Science research group at UCPH has a strong tradition of research on biological soil fertility and the influence of organic matter decomposition processes on nutrient turnover in temperate and tropical agro-ecosystems. Particular focus areas have been the interactions at the root-soil interface, the role of soil microorganisms in determining nutrient availability and nutrient release from various agricultural and urban wastes.
Tasks: With their outstanding expertise in fertilisers based on organic waste products. the team provides the leadership of WP06. The main focus of the research activities is the investigation of bio-effector-recycling fertilizer combinations to increase the plant nutrient availability of the recycling products in pot and small field trials for the development of fertilizer strategies adapted to the requirements of low-input systems (WP04), organic farming (WP05) and fertiliser placement techniques close to the plant roots. For the International Field Testing Network (WP08) the group provides field sites with contrasting properties concerning phosphate levels and organic matter content.
P 09: Agri-Food Biosciences Institute (AFBI)
AFBI is a non-departmental public institution. More than 800 experienced and internationally trained scientists are engaged in basic, applied and strategic research on plant and animal sciences with focus on low-input and organic arable crop production to minimise the use of mineral fertilizer and crop protection agents.
Tasks : The core competencies of the research group led by Prof. Sharma are rapid compositional analyses of plant materials and monitoring of signalling factors ( WP03 ) bio-stimulant formulation efficiency testing of the products ( WP01 ). Special emphasis is placed on the development and function of combination products based on seaweed extracts and microbial bio-effectors for improving cold tolerance of wheat ( WP02 , WP04 ) in close cooperation with the SME partners BIOATLANTIS, AGRIGES and ABITEP. As a member of the International Field Testing Network ( WP08 ), the group provides field testing sites for; assessing the agronomic effectiveness and economic value of the developed bio-effector strategies under the climatic conditions of Northern Europe.
P 10: Bioatlantis Ltd. (BIAT)
BIOATLANTIS is a biotechnology company specializing in the provision of sustainable solutions to problems caused by stress in crops, both Abiotic and Biotic, and those prevalent in systems of intensive monogastric animal production.
BioAtlantis Ltd. work in close collaboration with universities across the world and have developed a range of extracts derived from raw materials including Ascophyllum nodosum and Laminaria sp. The company markets its products in over 30 countries, providing products for use in enhancing yield and marketable grade in major commercial crops. In addition to BioFector, BioAtlantis also act as the coordinators of an EU-wide FP-7 consortium, which aims to validate the functionality and effectiveness of naturally-derived products for use in solving problems facing modern systems of monogastric animal production (THRIVE-RITE, Grant Agreement n°315198; http://www.thriverite.eu/).
Tasks: Responsibilities include development and delivery of bio-effector products, based on seaweed, large-scale production and adaptation of bio-effectors to improve stress resistance of crops and acquisition of mineral nutrients. In turn, this will provide a means of increasing biomass and yield in crops. (WP01, WP04).
P 11: Anhalt University of Applied Sciences (AUAS)
AUAS offers degree courses in Agriculture, Ecotrophology, Farm Management, Food- and Agribusiness, Landscape Architecture and Plant Biotechnology and is the domicile of the German Agronomical Society (DLG).
The research team of Dr. Joerg Geistlinger provides expertise in production and characterization of bio-effectors based on plant and fungal extracts with potential to stimulate plant growth and root colonization with symbiontic microorganisms. Geistlinger is the leader of WP02
PD Dr. Helmut Baltruschat is an outstanding specialist for Sebacinales, a novel group of ubiquitous, potentially plant-growth promoting fungi.
Tasks: AUAS is the leader of WP02 (product combinations). the group investigates the effects and the function of combined bio-effector products, based on natural extraction products and various bacteria and fungi as well as the potential of sebacinales as bio-effctors (WP02, WP03). successful product combinations are delivered to other project partners for further testing (WP01). as a member of the international field testing network (WP08), auas provides field testing sides for validation of bio-effector products on fertile soils in central germany, supported by a small unmanned aircraft system for remote sensing of soil quality, especially phosphate content and plant population development.
P 12: Research Institute of Organic Farming (FiBL)
FIBL is one of the world’s leading organic farming research centers, dedicated to sustainable agriculture. Two of its divisions (Soil Sciences and Crop Protection & Biodiversity) combine research and farm-scale dissemination activities with focus on nutrient use efficiency, bio-effector research and assessment of soil microbial community structures.
Tasks: Adaptation and testing of bio-effectors at various scales with special emphasis on applications in low-input and organic farming systems (WP05); developing molecular tools to trace inoculated Pseudomonas strains (WP03); testing the P solubilising effects of bioeffectors in combination with P recycling fertilizers (WP 06); investigation of the ecology of microbial bio-effector strains and their interactions with the native soil microflora, particularly with fungal plant-symbionts (mycorrhiza). As a contribution to the International Field Testing network (WP08), FIBL has access to fields with various soil conditions. The unique long-term DOK system comparison experiment will serve as a reference for bio-effector testing.
P 13: madora gmbh (madora)
Madora manages international trading with Eastern Europe and central Asia as trader and consultant, organising projects and creating marketing and staff training plans. Madora scientifically tests the ability of liposomes, microorganisms, plant extracts and natural minerals to induce plant resistance to disease and pests, as well as researching plant activators for their ecological and yield potential.
Tasks: Leader of WP10 with Expertise in bio-effector patent and marketing issues. Responsibilities are training and public dissemination of BIOFECTOR outputs; collection, exchange, arrangement, linkage and dissemination of new information from current BIOFECTOR research activities and the general web-presentation of the project; development of new channels for public dissemination and marketing of BIOFECTOR project outcomes. Installation of an open information data-base on application fields and effectiveness of bio-effectors in agricultural production in close cooperation with FIBL Projekte.
P 14: ABitep GmbH (ABI)
ABI is a private company, producing agents for plant strengthening and growth promotion, based on naturally occurring soil bacteria. It also offers a sound service of production technology. ABI owns research laboratories and bioreactors and is well equipped for extraction and formulation of a wide range of bio-formulations. The company provides a large collection of defined Bacillus mutants and Bacillus strains of different ecological origin.
Tasks: As leader of WP01, ABI will develop and deliver bio-effector products, with special emphasis on collection, fermentation and formulation of Bacillus strains. Application fields comprise soils with limited nutrient availability, tolerance to low temperature, drought and high salt concentrations (WP04). Based on the experiences in WP02, the company will provide also production and development of combination products with synergistic interactions.
P 15: Arbeitsgemeinschaft Huettenkalk e.V. (HKKalke)
The “Association for Liming Fertilisers from Iron and Steel Slags” encompasses all fertiliser-producing steelworks in Germany and Austria. It works on research, development and testing of fertilizers, based on recycling products from steel production and has long experience in vegetation experiments for nutrient research with special emphasis on phosphate and liming fertilisers. Moreover, HKKalke has been engaged in the development of technologies for phosphate recovery from residues and wastes from bone meal and sewage sludge incineration to produce fertilisers with high phosphate efficiency.
Tasks: Responsible for production and delivery of fertilizers, based on industrial waste products (WP01). Contributes to WP05 (Organic Farming) and WP06 (Recycling Fertilizers), by testing the respective fertilizers with respect to nutrient efficiency and environmental characteristics. In WP06, strategies to improve plant nutrient supply from industrial recycling fertilizers by application of bio-effectors are developed, including the investigation of perspectives for fertiliser placement (WP07).
P 17: Bayer Crop Science Biologics /Prophyta GmbH (PROPH)
Prophyta is a German-based bio-control company which develops, produces and markets biological products, processes and services for integrated crop protection. The products are based on living fungal microorganisms and the company has developed a patented solid state technology for the mass production of filamentous fungi.
Prophyta was acquired by Bayer CropScience in January 2013.
Tasks: As contribution to WP01, PROPH will develop and deliver bio-effector products, based on collection, fermentation and formulation of filamentous fungi. Moreover, compatibility studies on the effects of single and multiple combinations of promising bio-effectors on model plants will be conducted as a contribution to WP02 with the final goal to produce combination products with synergistic properties.
P 18: Sourcon Padena GmbH & Co. KG (SP)
Sourcon Padena is a medium-sized biotechnology company as a spin-off from the Universities Hohenheim and Tuebingen. The company develops and produces biological plant protection products. Over the past few years the company has collected valuable experience in the field of biological plant protectors, especially bacterial pathogen antagonists based on Pseudomonades (resp. non spore forming bacteria) with a wide range of additional plant growth promoting properties.
Tasks: Contribution to WP01, especially production of bacterial bio-effector products based on pseudomonas strains with a unique fermentation and formulation technology.
P 19: FIBL Projekte GmbH (FIBL-Projekte)
FIBL-Projekte provides scientific services to organic agriculture at the interface between research and agricultural practice. From this mandate it derives the four pillars of its work for organic agriculture and the organic food industry: Knowledge transfer, drawing up concepts to strengthen organic agriculture, scientific support for actors in the field and promotion of actor networks. Key activities are the co-ordination of actors within the organic movement as well as the development and distribution of information about organic agriculture to a broad range of players from science, consultancy and practice.
Tasks: FIBL-Projekte will contribute to the public dissemination of BIOFECTOR project results (WP10), create a public data-base on applications of bio-effectors for information of farmers and agricultural advisors across Europe, and apply their experience of organizing workshops, field days, conferences, symposia and exhibitions.
P 20: The Agricultural Research Organisation of Israel – the Volcani Centr e
ARO is the research institute of the ministry of agriculture and rural development of Israel and is responsible for research and development in the areas of agriculture and the environment, to further the prosperity of the country and the well-being of the public.. Focuses are basic and applied research with special emphasis on arid zone agriculture, enabling Israel - a country short of all the resources required for agriculture - to achieve among the highest levels of agricultural output in the world..
Tasks: Leading WP07 (Utilization of bio-effectors (BEs) in combination with localised fertilizer application technologies), the centre will adapt bio-effectors for integration into strategies of fertilizer placement or combined application of water and fertilisers by drip irrigation close to the target plants. The final goal is a more efficient use of the applied fertilisers and of water (particularly under Mediterranean conditions) and assessing functions and benefits of bio-effectors under abiotic stress (WP04). The site-specific adaptation of bio-effectors combined with placed fertilization and drip fertigation will be tested under real production conditions as a contribution to the International Field Testing network (WP08).
AGRIGES is a company, operating in the area of biological and integrated crop nutrition with strong interest in developing new products for sustainable agriculture. Currently, the company produces a broad range of fertilizers including algal derivatives, containing various organic compounds with plant growth regulator activity.
Tasks: As contribution to WP01, the company will develop and deliver fertilisers and bio-effector products based on seaweed extracts, including combination products and synergistic mixtures (WP02) and will assess functions and benefits of bio-effectors under abiotic stress conditions (WP04).
P 26: CMAST bvba (CMAST)
CMAST delivers Project Management, Consulting and Business Solutions services to its life science clients, with >50 experienced project managers and consultants, specialized in 4 business areas. With our Strategic Collaborations business unit / team, services range from facilitating multi-stakeholder collaboration platforms to advisory services on funding opportunities and on-site project management of large multi-stakeholder or consortia projects. Our recent project engagements summarize as follows:
* IMI projects (ND4BB, Predict TB, EBOVAC, EMIF, RADAR, EPAD, PHAGO)
* 3 large consortium H2020/FP7 projects (MSCA-IAPP, SPIRE)
* Other funding agencies (BARDA, NIH, BMGF, WHO, BioAster, VLAIO, IWT)
With thorough understanding of academic as well as industrial Life Sciences research environments, CMAST is able to form a neutral “bridge” between the various stakeholders’ needs and facilitate the joint effort towards high quality project outcomes.
Tasks: As leader of WP11, CMAST has the general task of administrative project management to support the coordinator to accomplish all tasks except scientific coordination and management of the scientific activities. To organise communication within the project and to ensure punctual and error-free submission of reports and financial statements, CMAST provides a specifically developed web-based project management tool solely for the use of FP6/7 consortia.
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