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Delivering food security from grasslands by understanding the link between root microbial networks and resilient agriculture

People: Manon Longpiere, Diego Garlaschelli Matthias Rillig Evelyn Doyle Elke Eichelmann Yvonne Buckley Saoirse Tracy Fiona Doohan, Jon Yearsley, Tancredi Caruso

Project Description

Irish grassland This project will reveal how plant-microbial biodiversity and productivity in grassland respond to extreme drought and flood. The ultimate goal is restoring and harnessing the microbial networks that support sustainable, resilient and smart food production, which aligns directly with the Smart and Sustainable Food Production and Processing research priority area (Food).

Microbes, still insufficiently investigated in Ireland and beyond, are explicitly considered a research priority as they arguably represent not only most of terrestrial biological diversity but also the central biological engine that supports ecosystem productivity. The focus of the proposal on plant-microbial networks and the link between biodiversity, productivity and roots in grasslands is motivated by the call of the "Agri-Food Strategy to 2030 (DAFM)" and "FoodWise 2025" to understand and restore Irish biodiversity in support of a more resilient agri-food sector. In that spirit, this proposal will directly investigate the core of grassland biodiversity, namely plant and microbial communities. These two communities together generate the biomass that underpins food production in grasslands. More broadly, this proposal will produce a general baseline of root-microbial biodiversity. This baseline is needed to develop solutions to the major issue of managing plants and soils under increasingly unpredictable and frequent extreme flood and drought. The oriented basic research of the proposal thus aligns with the broad legal remit of SFI, directly linking to the future technological applications invoked by the Frontiers for the Future Programme and the strategic visions for the food security of Ireland and Europe.