The Graduate School Experimental Plant Sciences (EPS)

Fascination of Plants Day 2019: EPS PhD candidates participate in Science Battle, winner is Tom Theeuwen (WUR)

Tom Theeuwen wins the science battle between PhD candidates Ties Ausma (RUG), Eva van Zelm (WUR), Tom Theeuwen (WUR) and Sietske van Bentum (UU) who participated in a Science Battle organised by Plantum. The Science Battle took place at Fascination of Plants Day, in the greenhouse that Plantum, the organisation representing the plant breeding industry, placed on Plein, Den Haag, near the parliament buildings from 16-18 May.

These were the subjects the PhD candidates battled on:

Ties Ausma: Sulfur is an essential macronutrient for plants and is often a limiting factor in the field. Because of their more efficient photosynthesis and better yields, C4 plants may be cultivated more in the future. It is therefore important to compare Sulfur metabolism in C3 and C4 plants.

Eva van Zelm: Salt stress is an increasing problem for breeders. Salinisation of arable lands due to longer drought periods is creating problems for farmers. Research into how plants can cope with salt stress will help develop more salt stress resistant crops.

Tom Theeuwen: To face the growing population the world needs a new ‘green revolution’: a measure to strongly increase crop yield. The solution is in re-designing photosynthesis to improve efficiency and enhance crop yield. A promising method is to explore and use the natural variation present in chloroplast and mitochondrial genomes.

Sietske van Bentum: Upon infection, plants call in help from their root microbiome, thereby establishing the soil-borne legacies that protect future generations of plants. Mechanisms underlying these legacies are unclear but are used here, in soybean plants, to isolate and study the required beneficial microbiomes. Using these microbes, further steps can be made towards sustainable, biological protection of crops like soybean.