Project properties

Title <B>Roots crying for help?: harnessing root microbiome to help plants fight insect attack</B>
Group Entomology, Laboratory of
Project type thesis
Credits 24-39
Supervisor(s) Marcela Aragon Gomez (PhD candidate) & Dr. Karen Kloth / Dr. Pedro Beschoren da Costa
Examiner(s) Dr. Marcel Dicke
Contact info
Begin date 2021/06/01
End date 2023/12/31
Description Description:

In agriculture, insect herbivory is one of the main biotic stresses that plants face because it represents around one-fifth of global crop yield losses. One sustainable alternative to fight insect pests can be to harness the natural beneficial interactions that plants have with the soil microbiome, a community of root-associated microbes that can promote growth and defense. Recent evidence suggests that changes in plant metabolism, as a consequence of insect herbivory, can create shifts in the microbial community belowground via the release of root exudates. Nevertheless, whether and how these insect herbivory-induced shifts in the microbiome are beneficial for the plant is currently unknown.

This is where your MSc thesis comes! You will be studying the effects of soil microbiome in plant resistance to insect herbivory. You will be working with plants from the Brassicaceae family and different types of insect herbivores such as caterpillars and aphids. Your MSc thesis will consist of a combination of greenhouse experiments, lab work, and data analysis using an ecological perspective. We can discuss how to shape your particular MSc project whether your interests are more focused on the root microbiome, plant defenses, or insect herbivory (or a combination of the 3 of them!). Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.
My PhD project is part of a large consortium in the Netherlands, if you are interested in knowing a bit more about it you can check this webpage:

One current MSc project for you to do could be the following:

Multi-generation microbial legacy effect on aphid performance
This proposed research will assess the legacy effect on aphid resistance using both a multi-plant generation approach (3 generations) and a microbial dilution-to-extinction approach (3 dilutions of soil). Often, plant-soil-feedback experiments last for two generations however, if the legacy effect remains longer than this could be explored further. Furthermore, as the diversity of microbes in the soil decreases their plant-beneficial functions of growth and resistance might also be reduced. Using a dilution- to-extinction approach it can be possible to find the minimum community of microbes needed that provides health functions to the plant. For this project, both plant and insect performance parameters will be evaluated in each of the dilution treatments across the generations.
Used skills In your thesis you will develop one or more of the following skills: Designing, planning, and setting-up greenhouse experiments, Plant-soil-feedback type of experiments, Growing 1 to multiple plant species in a greenhouse setting, Aphid/caterpillar rearing, Plant-insect ecology, Plant-microbe ecology, Molecular ecology (gene expression by qPCR), Root sampling and root analysis, microbiome analysis, defense metabolome, analyzing data in R.
Requirements For doing a BSc-thesis at Entomology, there are no requirements for specific courses.
For doing an MSc-thesis or internship at Entomology, the following requirements apply ENT-30806 + a second ENT-course (preferably ENT-30306 or ENT-50806 or ENT-53806). As an alternative for the second ENT-course, PHP-30806 or BHE-30306 can be selected.
Note: these requirements do not apply for MBI students; MBI students should check the requirements for doing an ENT MSc-thesis or internship in the study programme of their specialisation.