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International symposium miCROPe2024 "Microbe-assisted crop production - opportunities, challenges and needs", July 15-18, 2024, Vienna, Austria

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Sofie Goormachtig (Keynote Speaker)
University of Gent, BE

Jan Leach (Keynote Speaker)
Colorado State University, US

Ahmed Abdelfattah
Leibniz Institute for Agricultural Engineering and Bioeconomy,DE

Livio Antonielli
AIT Austrian Institute of Technology, AT

Olubukola Oluranti Babalola
North-West University, ZA

Raffaella Balestrini
National Research Council, IT

Gabriele Berg
Graz University of Technology, AT

Jesus Mercado Blanco

Stéphane Compant
AIT Austrian Institute of Technology, AT

Maged Saad

Omri Finkel
Hebrew Univ. of Jerusalem, IL

Martin Hartmann
ETH Zürich, CH

Monica Höfte
Ghent University, BE

Mariangela Hungria

Britt Koskella
UC Berkeley, US

Tanja Kostic
AIT Austrian Institute of Technology, AT

Sylvie Mazurier

Monika Messmer

Simona Radutoiu
University of Aarhus, DK

Kenichi Tsuda
Huazhong Agricultural University, CN

Corinne Vacher

Philippe Vandenkoornhuyse
University Rennes, FR

Étienne Yergeau


Ahmed Abdelfattah, Leibniz Institute of Agricultural Engineering and Bio-economy, DE

Ahmed Abdelfattah

I am leading the working group Microbiome Management at the Department of Microbiome Biotechnology, Leibniz Institute of Agriculture engineering and Bio-economy (ATB), Potsdam. I am a former Marie Curie Fellow at Graz University of technology (TU Graz), a former postdoc at Stockholm University, and Mediterranean University of Reggio Calabria. I received my doctoral degree in 2016 from Palermo University. 

Livio Antonielli, AIT Austrian Institute of Technology, AT

Livio Antonielli

Livio Antonielli is a bioinformatician with a focus on microbial communities, whole genome and metagenome sequencing analysis. With over ten years of experience as a big data analyst, he has contributed to omics-based experiments related to human and animal health, food safety, and agricultural and environmental projects. He earned his Ph.D. in Agricultural Biotechnology from the Department of Applied Biology in Perugia, Italy. He later joined the Edmund Mach Foundation in Trento, focusing on plant microbiome data. Currently, he is a research engineer at the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology. There, he played a key role in establishing a platform for high-throughput data processing and storage. His responsibilities include setting up bioinformatic pipelines, assisting researchers with advanced multivariate statistics and machine learning, and providing services to companies, organizations, research institutes, and universities.

Olubukola O. Babalola, North-West University, ZA

Olubukola O. Babalola

Olubukola, the Vice President of OWSD, is also the Vice President of TWAS, Africa region. Olubukola, an NRF-rated scientist with MBA, sits on several editorial boards and acts as an International Advisor to a few others. Her effort has received many awards, including being the finalist, GenderInSite 2020 and Clarivate highly cited research top 1% for field year 2022 and 2023. She has years of experience focusing on rhizosphere genomics. Her recent Springer book is “Food Security and Safety: Africa’s Perspective.” Olubukola is #1 in Africa for Soil Science and Plant Nutrition. She is passionate about capacity building and has completed the supervision of 35 doctoral fellows, 25 masters, and numerous Honors students. Olubukola is a prolific author with over 350 publications. Her international experience spans the Americas, Asia, Europe, and Oceania. She enjoys research grants and international partnerships across the globe. Olubukola has an H-index of 65, with ~20,000 citations.

Raffaella Balestrini, CNR, IT

Raffaella Balestrini

Raffaella Balestrini studied Biology and obtained a PhD in Fungal Biology and Biotechnology at the University of Turin (Italy). With CNR since 1998, Raffaella is currently Research Director at CNR-IPSP. She has expertise on studies aimed to highlight the cellular and molecular bases of mycorrhizal interactions, mainly focusing on cell wall changes, nutritional exchanges, and cell-specificity in mycorrhizal roots. Current research interests mainly address crop responses to environmental stresses and the role of root-associated microorganisms (e.g., arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi) in improving tolerance as well as the relevance of roots traits, including the ability to interact with beneficial soil microorganisms. Her researches are currently focused on root plasticity in diverse plant genotypes by using an integrated approach, including -omics techniques (mainly transcriptomics) and root phenotyping. 

Gabriele Berg, Graz University of Technology, AT

Gabriele Berg

Gabriele Berg studied biology, ecology and biotechnology at the universities in Rostock and Greifswald obtained her Ph.D. in 1995 in microbiology from Rostock University (Germany). In 2005 she became a full professor in environmental biotechnology at Graz University of Technology (Austria), and in 2021 an additional professorship in Potsdam (Germany). Her interests are focused on microbiome research and translation of the results into new biotechnological and microbiome management concepts for health issues.

Stéphane Compant, AIT Austrian Institute of Technology, AT

Stéphane Compant

Dr. Stéphane Compant is Senior Scientist at the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology. He received his PhD degree from the University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne, his habilitation from the University of Bordeaux and was Associate Professor of Microbiology at the National Polytechnic Institute of Toulouse in France before to work at the AIT. His research focuses on the ecology, functions and exploitation of plant-associated microorganisms. He further uses advanced microscopy techniques to study plant-microbe-(microbe) interactions, describes beneficial properties and modes-of-actions of microorganisms to develop biopesticides that can be used to tackle plant pest and diseases.

Omri Finkel, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, IL

Omri Finkel

Dr. Finkel is a microbial ecologist studying plant-microbe interactions in diverse settings. He has studied microbiomes across different plant species and environments, using both culture-dependent and independent methods. 

Among his achievements are the discovery of bacterial phototrophic genes on leaf surfaces, and of the importance of auxin-degraiding bacteria in the rhizosphere, for maintaining plant root growth.

Dr. Finkel is currently a sentior lecturer at The Hebrew Univerisity of Jerusalem, where his lab studies how plants evolved to recruit beneficial microbiota, and how the microbiota can protect plants from biotic and abiotic stress. 

Sofie Goormachtig, UGENT-VIB, BE

Sofie Goormachtig

Sofie Goormachtig is UGent Professor and PI at the VIB-UGENT Centre for Plant Systems Biology. Her research focuses on how interactions between plant roots and neighbouring organisms positively influence plant growth. The team combines root microbiome analysis with proteomics, transcriptomics, genetic approaches and high-throughput phenotyping to elucidate the mechanisms by which microbes help plants grow under adverse conditions. Her group is currently undertaking major initiatives to introduce soybean as a new crop in north-western Europe.  She has a strong interest in the validation of basic science and has contributed to the start-up companies Aphea.Bio (www.aphea.bio) and Protealis (www.protealis.be).

Martin Hartmann, ETH Zürich, CH

Martin Hartmann

Martin Hartmann is a Senior Scientist at ETH Zurich and a distinguished researcher specialized in soil microbial ecology. His research centers around the pivotal role of soil biodiversity for the functioning of agroecosystems and the impact of human activities and global change on this vital resource. His primary interest lies in conserving soil biodiversity and leveraging microbial functions to enhance soil health and promote sustainable crop production. An in-depth understanding of the molecular and bioinformatic toolbox to study complex microbial assemblages in the environment lies at the core of his work. As lecturer at ETH Zurich, he is passionate about educating the next generation of scientists. Dr. Hartmann is the Editor-in-Chief of the European Journal of Soil Biology and a member of the International Society for Microbial Ecology.

Monica Höfte, Ghent University, BE

Monica Höfte

Monica Höfte is a professor in plant pathology and head of the Department of Plants and Crops at Ghent University. She is a general plant pathologist interested in plant-pathogen interactions and non-chemical control strategies of plant diseases in a wide range of crops. In the field of biocontrol her group is working on lipopeptide-producing Pseudomonas and Bacillus strains to control soilborne pathogens and on Verticillium endophytes to control wilt diseases.

Mariangela Hungria, Embrapa, BR

Mariangela Hungria

Agronomist, with M.Sc., Ph.D and post-doc in Soil Microbiology. Researcher at the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa), at the Soybean Center in Londrina, Paraná State, since 1991. Professor of postgraduate courses of Microbiology and Biotechnology at the State University of Londrina (UEL) since 1992. Member of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences (ABC), of the Brazilian Academy of Agricultural Science (ABCA) and of The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS). Received more than 30 national and international awards. Specialized in Soil Biotechnology, with an emphasis on microbial processes of biological nitrogen fixation and other PGPB. Has published more than 500 scientific papers, books, book chapters, technical communicates and released more than 30 technologies for agriculture, including bacterial strains, inoculants, inoculation techniques. CV:http://lattes.cnpq.br/7355162785040506

Britt Koskella, University of California Berkeley, US

Britt Koskella

Britt Koskella is an Associate Professor in the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of California, Berkeley. Her work explores the importance of the bacteria and viruses making up the microbiome in shaping plant health, ecology, and evolution. She received her BA from the University of Virginia in 2001 and her PhD from Indiana University in 2018, and subsequently held postdoctoral and independent research fellowships in both the US (funded by the NSF) and UK (funded by NERC) at Oxford University and the University of Exeter. Her work combines laboratory experimental evolution with studies of natural diversity to determine how bacteriophage viruses shape bacterial evolution, microbiome diversity, and disease. She focuses on the phyllosphere (above ground tissues) of both long-lived trees and short-lived, agriculturally relevant systems to better understand the role that microbiomes play in plant health and agricultural sustainability.

Tanja Kostic, AIT Austrian Institute of Technology, AT

Tanja Kostic

Tanja Kostic is a Senior Research Engineer at the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology with a research focus on food systems microbiomes. She has participated in various national and international projects and has extensive experience in research collaboration with industry.  Currently, she is coordinating the Horizon Europe project MICROBE (www.microbeproject.eu) dedicated to the development of optimized methodologies and technologies to preserve and provide access to microbiome samples and associated data to enable more efficient development of microbiome-based solutions and applications.

Jan Leach, Colorado State University, US

Jan Leach

Jan Leach is a plant pathologist who studies the molecular basis of plant disease susceptibility and resistance and how these responses are influenced by interactions within the phytobiome.  She is a University Distinguished Professor in the Department of Agricultural Biology at Colorado State University.  Leach is the Immediate Past President of the International Society of Plant Pathology and is a Fellow and a past President of the American Phytopathological Society (APS). She is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology. In 2019, Leach was awarded the Agropolis Fondation Louis Malassis International Scientific Prize for Agriculture and Food for Distinguished Scientist, and in 2020, she was presented the APS Award of Distinction, an award that had been given only 17 times in the 112 years of APS’s history. Leach was elected to the US National Academy of Sciences in 2021. 

Sylvie Mazurier, INRAE, FR

Sylvie Mazurier

Sylvie Mazurier obtained a PhD in Microbiology from the University Claude Bernard-Lyon I (1989). Her PhD work focused on genotypic and functional diversity of rhizobia. She was hired as Research Scientist to study the ecology of pathogenic bacteria in food industry (INRA, Massy-Paris). Her postdoctoral work at the RIVM (NL) was supported by a NATO fellowship and constituted a pioneer work in molecular epidemiology of food-borne pathogens. Since then, Sylvie carries research on multitrophic interactions between plants and microorganisms in the rhizosphere, with a specific focus on bacterial (pseudomonads) traits (siderophores, type III secretion systems) mediating interactions with plants, pathogenic and symbiotic fungi. More generally, research in her group (IMR-Multitrophic Interactions in the Rhizosphere, Agroecology, INRAE, Dijon) aims at harnessing beneficial soil-plant-microbiome interactions to increase crop yields and nutritional quality with a special focus on iron dynamics.

Jesús Mercado Blanco, Estación Experimental del Zaidín (CSIC), ES

Jesús Mercado Blanco

Dr. J. Mercado-Blanco is Senior Researcher at CSIC (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Spain), currently affiliated to the Estación Experimental del Zaidín (EEZ-CSIC). Previous scientific activities were performed at Utrecht University (The Netherlands) and Instituto de Agricultura Sostenible (IAS-CSIC). Head of the Crop Protection Department of IAS-CSIC (2020-2022). Current convenor of the Working Group "Integrated Protection of Olive Crops" of the IOBC-WPRS. His research is focused on microbiology, agrobiotechnology, plant-microbiome interactions and integrated control of soil-borne pathogens. The identification and characterization of biological control agents is one of the main research lines. He participated in more than 20 research projects (11 as principal investigator) and (co)authored more than 100 book chapters and scientific/technical articles. (Co)inventor of 9 patents. He gave seminars and invited lectures at different academic institutions worldwide.

Monika Messmer, FiBL Research Institute of Organic Agriculture, CH

Monika Messmer

Monika Messmer made her PhD in plant breeding in Hohenheim in 1993. For six years she studied resistance genes at Agroscope before joining the start-up company VitaPlant AG focussing on medicinal plant breeding and cultivation. Since 2009 she is leading the plant breeding team at the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) Switzerland. FiBL is an independent, non-profit, research institute conducting cutting-edge science and participatory research to boost organic agriculture (www.fibl.org ). Focus of research is resistance breeding, breeding for mixed cropping systems, breeding for plant microbiome interaction and organic participatory breeding and seed systems. She is board member of EUCARPIA section of organic and low input agriculture. She initiated the EUCARPIA working group on plant microbe interaction in 2015. She has been engaged in several national and EU projects Root2Res, LIVESEED (www.liveseed.eu) and LiveSeeding (www.liveseeding.eu) involving microbiome research.

Simona Radutoiu, Aarhus University, DK

Simona Radutoiu

Simona Radutoiu leads a research group focused on studies of interactions established between plants and the large diversity of surrounding microbes. Her team uses genetic and molecular tools to decipher the role of plant components in establishing symbiotic associations with beneficial bacteria and fungi, or pathogenic associations with detrimental microorganisms. These interactions are studied by performing: i) targeted investigation of the mechanisms enabling plant LysM receptors to recognize these microbes at molecular, cellular and whole plant level. ii) a broad investigation of microbiomes associated with different plant genotypes using next-generation sequencing of microbial DNA

Maged M. Saad, KAUST (King Abdullah University of Science and Technology), SA

Maged M. Saad

Maged, a Senior Research Scientist at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), coordinate the DARWIN21 Desert initiative. He also serves as the CEO of GROWBIOM Agribiotech company. With a background in Biochemistry from Ain Shams University in Egypt and a Ph.D. in molecular biology from the University of Geneva (UNIGE) in Switzerland, He has continued his work as a Postdoc in INRA France. Dr. Saad research focuses on two main topics, developing different biological solutions based on desert microbes to mitigate constraints on agriculture productivity (soil health, low yield, biotic, abiotic stresses, and nutrient assimilation) and the precision application of biological solutions on a site-specific basis (soil type, plant type, and climate conditions) for optimizing efficiency and return to farmers. This could lead to an eco-friendly strategy for re-planting desert areas and land restoration into sustainable agricultural systems.

Angela Sessitsch, AIT Austrian Institute of Technology, AT

Angela Sessitsch

Dr. Angela Sessitsch is Head of the Bioresources Unit at the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology. She studied biochemistry at the University of Technology in Graz, holds a PhD in Microbiology from the Wageningen University, the Netherlands, and is habilitated at the Vienna University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences. She has pioneered plant-associated microbiomes and is interested in understanding the interactions between plants, microbiomes and the environment as well as to develop applications. Her group explores the diversity and functioning of plant microbiota by applying a range of molecular approaches, interaction modes between plants and model bacteria, colonization behaviour of endophytes as well as various application technologies for biocontrol and crop enhancement applications. Together with her group A. Sessitsch published more than 250 publications, she belongs to the Highly Cited Researchers and is co-inventor of several patents.

Kenichi Tsuda, Huazhong Agricultural University, CN

Kenichi Tsuda

Kenichi Tsuda is a Professor at College of Plant Science and Technology in Huazhong Agricultural University and Researcher at National Key Laboratory of Agricultural Microbiology and Hubei Hongshan Laboratory. He obtained PhD at Hokkaido University in Japan (2004), was a Postdoc at University of Minnesota in the US (2005-2011), and was a Research Group Leader at Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research in Germany (2011-2019).

His major research fields are plant immunity and plant microbiota. He aims to elucidate how plants control the growth and behavior of beneficial, commensal, and pathogenic bacteria and provide agricultural solutions to biotic and abiotic stress.

He is a member of the Editorial Board, an Editor, or an affiliate of eLife, EMBO Rep, Review Commons, bioRxiv, MPMI, iMeta, J Genetics and Genomics, Stress Biol, Crop Health, J General Plant Pathology, Phytopathology Res, J Plant Research, and Plant Cell Physiol.

Corinne Vacher, INRAE, FR

Corinne Vacher

Corinne Vacher obtained her PhD in evolutionary ecology from the University of Montpellier (France) in 2004. She then joined the Ecology Department of INRAE (France) as a researcher, where she focused on ecological networks in forest ecosystems. A few years later, the emergence of next-generation sequencing techniques opened up new possibilities, leading her to integrate microbial communities into her research. In 2017, she became director of research at INRAE, with the primary goal of generating new knowledge on the contribution of phyllosphere microbiota to plant resistance against biotic and abiotic stresses. In 2023, she moved to the Plant Health Department of INRAE, taking charge of a new research program centered on the grapevine microbiota and its protective role against foliar diseases.

Philippe Vandenkoornhuyse, Université de Rennes, FR

Philippe Vandenkoornhuyse

My work takes part in a needed better ecological and evolutionary understanding of plant microbiota.

We (my group) have developed a new corpus of ecological knowledge of the plant root endosphere (i.e., microorganisms within roots) and new conceptual frameworks (among others, holobiont, meta-holobiont, dysbiosis, evolution of dependencies and co-metabolism). We are studying the eco-evolution of plant symbioses and developing a new understanding of the plant holobiont concept.From a more applied perspective, the fundamental research developed has the ambition to provide new directions for a more sustainable and productive agriculture.

Etienne Yergeau, Institut national de la recherche scientifique, CA

Etienne Yergeau

Étienne is studying microbes that covers the outside and inside of trees, crops, animals, ice, soil and water. Although he grew up in the city, he spent his summers as a kid at the family cottage in the Canadian back-country, where he became fascinated with all life forms and their interconnections. This led him to complete a master focusing on the fungal pathogens associated with asparagus, followed by a PhD looking at the effects of global warming on Antarctic soil microbes. As a Professor at the Institut national de la recherche scientifique of the Université du Québec, he is now leading a team of enthusiastic scientists toward (hopefully!) exciting discoveries in the field of plant-microbiome interactions. When he is not busy with science, Étienne enjoys spending time with his  three kids and his wife, training for obstacle course races, snorkeling, BBQing, playing ice hockey or building stuff.