Project properties

Title Root trait diversity in grassland communities enhance productivity and ecosystem services
Group Soil Biology
Project type thesis
Credits 24-39
Supervisor(s) Bobby Zetterlind and Marie Zwetsloot
Examiner(s) TBD
Contact info
Begin date 2024/02/01
End date 2024/10/31
Description Multispecies swards consisting of different grasses, forbs and legumes are a promising alternative to high yielding and high input perennial ryegrass monoculture used in pasture production. Recent research shows that low input biodiverse swards can yield similar or higher yields then high input monoculture systems. Hence, these swards can serve as an alternative to increase biodiversity, gaining ecosystem services meanwhile producing high biomass quantity.
Although much research have focused on above-ground traits in diverse systems for finding complementarity between species that could increase yields, less have been focused on how root traits can be used to design multispecies mixtures. Within this context, the mechanisms through which root traits can complement each other and how root trait diversity influence soil processes is poorly understood.
The aim of this project is to understand how combination of root trait diversity of different grassland species, diversified in forbs, grasses and legumes influence carbon and nutrient cycling in soils. 8 different plant communities with known root traits will be used and grown in the greenhouse to measure community root trait changes and arbuscular mycorrhizae, nutrient cycling in soil, microbial activity and biomass gain.
The outcome of this project will help predict functionality of diverse grassland communities and supporting the process of using a root trait framework to design such diverse systems that ultimately can be used for agronomical systems and better management practices.
You will be working in the field with a sandy and clay soil in Wageningen. You will take root measurements, analyze root traits and mycorrhizae colonization as well as taking several soil samples to assess nutrient cycles in these different grassland communities.
Used skills Literature review, writing proposal and thesis, Field work, lab skills – Root trait analysis, mycorrhizae, enzyme and microbial activity, data analysis.
Requirements Required courses for MSc thesis in Soil Biology