The department undertakes fundamental and applied research focused on interactions involving plants, pathogenic, symbiotic and saprotrophic fungi and other microorganisms and their role in forest and agricultural systems. Important research areas include ecosystem and molecular ecology, population biology and the molecular regulation of microorganisms as well as modelling and practical managment of plant diseases. It is part of the BioCenter at SLU.
South Asia connected research
Dr. Leslie Paul has a PhD in Soil Biology/Soil Science and is currently a co-leader of the AM Technology Center. Dr. Paul has been involved in conservation and ecological research for the past 18 years and has expertise in microbial isolation, genetic and morphological identification and ecological field experimentation. His primary research interests are on the interactions between host plants, soil bacteria and beneficial ecto and endo mycorrhizas. His work has been focused on the uptake of soil nutrients through co-metabiosis, improved of host plant productivity and utilization of sustainable agriculture and forestry through microbial associations. Dr. Paul has also been involved in a number of projects that were aimed at development of non-timber forest products for First Nations Peoples in British Columbia, Canada. In 2008 Dr. Paul along with Dr. Sadhna Alström and Dr. Jelena Jastrebova initiated a collaboration project with Dr. Alok Adholeya of TERI (The Energy and Resource Institute), India to develop a research plan for assessing the potential of using mycorrhizal fungi to improve berry productivity and value, see below.
Associate Professor Sadhna Alström has a PhD in plant pathology, and is currently co-leader of the AM Technology Centre. She has 25
years of experience in different aspects of plant/microbe interactions in presence and absence
of plant pathogens and biological control in agriculture and horticulture. Expertise in microbial
isolation from different environments, purification, functional characterization, inoculation,
colonization potential assessment and efficiency bioassays in controlled and field environment.
In 2002, Dr. Alström participated as a Lecturer in Nordic course in plant pathology and an intensive
course on Plant Microbe Interactions at the Energy and
Resources Institute (TERI) in New Delhi, India, and established contacts between SLU and TERI.
Associate professor Jelena Jastrebova has expertise in chromatographic and mass spectrometric profiling of plant extracts as well as development of chromatographic methods for measuring vitamins and bioactive compounds in plants and plant-based foods. Her research interests are cardioprotective vitamins such as folates and tocopherols and health protective phytochemicals with antioxidant properties. Current projects include chromatographic fingerprint profiling of plant extracts (e.g. extracts of wheat, buckwheat, millet and potato), evaluation of antioxidant capacity of plant extracts, isolation and identification of novel antioxidants from plant extracts, development of chromatographic methods for quantitative determination of antioxidants in plants and plant-based foods, in vitro studies of biological activity of extracts and individual compounds, studies on effects of plant nutrition on production of bioactive compounds in plants.
In August 2008, Dr. Alström and Dr. Leslie were awarded a SASNET planning grant
for a research project entitled ”Development of a collaborative research project between Indian and
Swedish researchers towards sustainable hillberry production for small
farm holders in Himalayan states of India”. The project is developed in collaboration with Dr. Alok Adholeya, Director of Biotechnology and Bioresources Division at TERI (The Energy and Resources Institute) an independent, not-for-profit research organization in New Delhi. More information about the 2008 SASNET planning grants.
The purpose is to facilitate a dialogue
between SLU and TERI, in order to develop a basic platform for collaboration
with the goal of developing a research project application for sustainable agriculture/horticulture
enhancement. Another academic goal of the project is to create 2 post-docs and 2 Ph.D. students
positions from India and Sweden. These positions will do the majority of the research planned
for the project supervised by the collaborators.
The practical goals are to: • study the diversity of arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi and N2-fixing bacteria
living with berry plants in their native environment;
• improve the nutritional and medicinal quality of hillberries specifically seabuckthorn
through the use of AM technology that includes interactions with beneficial indigenous
bacteria ; • heighten the awareness of the importance of utilizing natural microbial resources
in high quality berries production ;
• develop new knowledge and establish facilities towards improving the sustainability and
increasing the production of berries by small farm holders; and • to offer new possibility of improved economic conditions for small farm holders who
want/ already grow these commercially interesting plants through establishing market
Dr Alok Adholeya joined TERI in 1986. He has found ways to harness the power mycorrhizae to increase the productivity of crop plants, and to restore degraded lands. The increased demand for mycorrhizal biofertilizer prompted him to commercialize it. He has developed many other technologies involving mycorrhiza in the reclamation of industrial wastelands. He has also identified suitable microbes beneficial for growing biofuel crops. He has published over 60 research papers in reputed national and international journals and has also been a member of the editorial boards of many of them. He has often chaired many advisory committees on agriculture and bioremediation, and has guided 11 doctoral students and many masters’ students so far. He also acts as an invited reviewer for several reputed journals. He is also an invited speaker in many international forums.
The networking grant has allowed the Swedish project leaders to travel to TERI, where they have discussed and
developed a research project with Director Dr. Alok Adholeya . During their visits, Drs. Paul and
Alström also visited potential sites for trials of the proposed project and meet with local
growers. Preliminary sampling will be conducted for the development of arbuscular
mycorrhizal-bacterial propagation and speciation with seabuckthorn.
In September 2009, Dr. Alström and Dr. Leslie were awarded another SASNET planning grant
for a research project entitled ”Development of a collaborative research project between Indian and Swedish researchers towards sustainable production of Cocos nucifera”. The project will be developed in collaboration with the Indian Council for Agriculture (ICAR). ICAR has played a pioneering role in ushering Green Revolution and subsequent developments in agriculture in India through its research and technology development. More information about the 2009 SASNET planning grants. Project abstract:
The purpose of the project is to facilitate a dialogue between SLU and ICAR to develop a basic platform for collaboration on sustainable agriculture/horticulture enhancement.
The practical goals are to:
– Study the diversity of mycorrhizal fungi and bacteria associated with coconut palm in their native environment;
– Improve the nutritional and medicinal quality of coconut through the use of mycorrhizal technology that includes interactions with beneficial indigenous bacteria;
– Improve the disease resistance and ecological sustainability of coconut production through the use of beneficial microbes (fungi and bacteria);
– Heighten the awareness of the importance of utilising natural microbial resources in high quality coconut production;
– Develop new knowledge and establish facilities towards improving the sustainability and increasing the production of coconut by small farm holders; and
– To offer new possibility of improved economic conditions for small farm holders who want/ already grow these commercially interesting plants through establishing market networking.