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Sofie Goormachtig

Sofie Goormachtig

Reducing the Use of Chemical Pesticides or Fertilizers by Increasing Sustainability in Agriculture

ofie Goormachtig is both full professor at Ghent University and group leader at the VIB Center of Plant Systems Biology. She started her research career in 1987 at Ghent University focusing on how interactions between plant roots and neighbouring organisms influence plant growth in a positive way. Initially, the emphasis was on the symbiosis between legumes and rhizobia, resulting in the formation of new root organs, the nodules, in which the rhizobia reside and fix atmospheric nitrogen for the plant – making plant growth independent of nitrogen fertilizers.

Plants engage in numerous interactions with both beneficial and harmful soil organisms. These can be bacteria and fungi, but also other plants. It is therefore of great importance for plants to attract friends and repel foes. This intra- and interkingdom communication occurs through molecular signalling pathways involving the secretion and sensing of various metabolites and proteins.

By using various models, Goormachtig’s research group aims at understanding this molecular communication and explore how they can use this knowledge for various applications. Because it is now generally agreed that many beneficial soil organisms can be used to increase sustainability in agriculture, thereby reducing the use of chemical pesticides or fertilizers. In fact, together with VIB colleagues, Goormachtig established the start-up Aphea.Bio that focusses on just that.

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