’To the roots of the matter’ part 3: Ronnie’s interacting plants

The visual series ’To the roots of the matter’ presents stories from the Utrecht University plant labs. The third episode focuses on Ronnie de Jonge’s research on the interaction between plants and microorganisms.

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Do you want to know more about Ronnie’s research? Then check out his profile page.

Previous episodes

The first episode of ’To the roots of the matter’ focuses on Professor Rashmi Sasidharan’s research on stress-resilient plants. In the second episode , Kaisa Kajala tells about her research on phenotypic plasticity in plants: their ability to change in response to the environment.

Text version

Ronnie and his team study the interaction between plants and microorganisms like bacteria. For example, bacteria on a plant’s roots affect the plant’s health, just as bacteria in our intestines influence how healthy we are.

Plant roots secrete various substances, some of which attract beneficial bacteria (although harmful bacteria can exploit these substances as well). Beneficial bacteria protect the plant from pathogens and help the plant absorb nutrients.

Ronnie and his colleagues want to know why some beneficial bacteria are able to successfully populate roots, while others struggle to do so. Given the complexity of this question-there are many factors that affect it, such as genetics, interactions between bacteria and all sorts of environmental factors, which also affect each other-Ronnie enlists the help of artificial intelligence to come up with new insights. These insights can ultimately be used to improve the resilience of plants against challenging conditions, such as disease and drought.