We work in the field of microbial ecology with the aim to better understand how plant-associated and soil inhabiting microorganisms can influence plant growth and development and how the presence and activity of these microorganisms is controlled by environmental factors. On the one hand, microorganisms living in the phyllosphere or rhizosphere of plants can directly influence plant growth and development. It is our main interest in this context to understand the controlling factors of plant colonization by microorganisms. This includes the question how plants can influence this process and which microbial traits are important for successful colonization. On the other hand, microorganisms in the soil and rhizosphere are involved in the consumption of root exudates and the degradation of dead plant material, a process that is essential for the release and availability of nutrients for plant growth. We want to understand this nutrient cycling in more detail and identify the relevant microbial players that are involved in the process.
Goal of our research is to obtain a better understanding of the role of soil and plant-associated microorganisms for plant growth and development as a basis for the development of new strategies to improve staple food production in the future. To address the above mentioned research questions, we apply molecular methods for the analysis of microbial community composition and abundance. Transcriptomic and proteomic approaches are used in order to analyze physiological adaptations and regulatory mechanisms of plant associated and soil inhabiting microorganisms. The methods are applied to study complex environmental samples on the one hand and model organisms grown in pure culture conditions or in synthetic communities with or without plants on the other hand.