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DEC. 2 - 5, 2019


Steven Lindow (Keynote)
Univ. Berkeley, US

Jos Raaijmakers (Keynote)
Netherlands Inst. of Ecology, NL

Karen Bailey
Agriculture & Agri-Food, CA

Gabriele Berg
Graz University of Technology, AT

Günter Brader
AIT Austrian Institute of Technology, AT

Trevor Charles
University of Waterloo, CA

Philipp Franken
University of Applied Sciences Erfurt, DE

Paolina Garbeva
Netherlands Institute of Ecology, NL

Heribert Hirt
King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, SA

Michael Ionesco
Evogene, IL

Jennifer Kao-Kniffin
Cornell University, US

Adam Schikora
JKI Braunschweig, DE

Klaus Schlaeppi
University of Bern, CH

Alga Zuccaro
University of Cologne, DE


Karen L. Bailey, Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada, CA

Karen L. Bailey

Dr. Karen Bailey, Emeritus Research Scientist from Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada, trained as a plant pathologist and applied this expertise to improve plant health by finding solutions to reduce the impact of soil-borne plant diseases and by using fungi for biological control of Canada thistle and other broadleaved weeds. She has more than 300 publications, inventions disclosures and patents, and has received recognition from her peers with awards such as the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, CPS Outstanding Research Award, and CPS Award for Achievements in Plant Pathology. Although having retired from AAFC, she continues to support commercialization activities related to her bioherbicide discoveries.

Trevor Charles, University of Waterloo, CA

Trevor Charles

Trevor Charles is a bacterial geneticist with a research program in plant-microbe interactions, functional metagenomics, and bacterial genome engineering for bioproducts. Following B.Sc. Microbiology at University of British Columbia, he obtained his Ph.D. in Turlough Finan’s lab at McMaster University (symbiotic nitrogen fixation) and did postdoctoral work in Gene Nester’s lab at University of Washington (Agrobacterium). He held a faculty position at McGill University before moving to his current position at University of Waterloo in 1998, where he is currently director of Waterloo Centre for Microbial Research. He is also co-founder and CSO of the company Metagenom Bio, which applies metagenomic and microbial community analysis to challenges in the agriculture and environment sectors. 

Philipp Franken, University of Applied Sciences Erfurt, DE

Philipp Franken

Philipp Franken started to work on the arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) symbiosis in 1991 at the MPI of Plant Breeding Research in Cologne and the INRA in Dijon, France. In 1995, Philipp Franken established a working group on AM molecular biology at the MPI of terrestrial Microbiology in Marburg. By the discovery of the plant growth-promoting fungus Piriformospora indica in 1998, he became also interested in other groups of beneficial root-colonisers. After his habilitation in Applied Botany and Microbiology at Marburg University, Philipp Franken took over the head of the Plant Nutrition Department at the Leibniz-Institute of Vegetable and Ornamental Crops in 2002. Among other horticultural topics, he further worked mainly on the functions of root-fungus interactions. Since 2019, Philipp Franken is scientific director of the Erfurt Research Centre for Horticultural Crops at the University of Applied Sciences Erfurt. In four research groups, the centre is working on questions of horticultural practice using current methods of biosciences. The scientific work is supported by the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena where Philipp Franken holds a chair of Molecular Phytopathology. The research in his group is aimed towards integrating knowledge about mycorrhizal fungi and other beneficial root colonisers in novel strategies for sustainable plant production systems.

Heribert Hirt, KAUST, SA

Heribert Hirt

Hirt studied biochemistry at the Univ. of Cape Town and received his PhD from the Univ. of Vienna in 1987. After post-doctoral fellowships at the Univ. of Oxford and Wageningen, he became Professor of Genetics at the Univ. of Vienna. In 2007, he became Director of the INRA Plant Genomics Institute in Paris and in 2014 of the Center for Desert Agriculture at KAUST. His key biological questions are how plants can survive under stress conditions and how microbes contribute to these events by positively or negatively interacting with plants. In the DARWIN21 project (https://www.darwin21.org) he searches for beneficial microbes from desert plants with the aim to enhance stress tolerance of plants. A main focus of his research is to identify the microbial and plant genes and pathways that provide stable stress tolerance to plants without interfering with growth and yield. His long term goal is to provide farmers with tailored microbial communities to enhance the performance and protection of crops to specific stress conditions.

Michael Ionescu, Lavie-Bio, IL

Michael Ionescu

Michael Ionescu is the VP Research of Lavie-Bio, a subsidiary of Evogene, focused on development of novel ag-biologicals products. For the last 6 years, Michael leads the research and optimization activity of novel microbiome-based Ag-biological to drive food quality and sustainability. His interdisciplinary research team is implementing a rationale biology driven design of microbiome-based products by leveraging a proprietary Computational Predictive Biology (CPB) Platform utilizing genomic and phenotypic big data and advanced informatics, focusing on the discovery and optimization of both Bio-Stimulants and Bio-Pesticides. Michael received his PhD degrees from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Life Sciences and Environmental Studies, researching stress response mechanisms in enteric bacteria. He had conducted his postdoctoral research at the University of California at Berkeley in phytopathology, studying cell-cell communication system in plant pathogens with relation to interaction with host plant.

Steven Lindow, University of California, Berkeley, US

Steven Lindow

The Lindow lab focuses on the ecology and management of plant-associated bacteria with a focus on both epiphytic and endophytic bacteria. A thrust of the lab has been on identification of traits that confer fitness and stress tolerance of bacteria on leaf surfaces and their regulation. The contribution of intra- and inter-species chemical communication that mediates expression of cell density-dependent traits in both Pseudomonas syringae and Xylella fastidiosa are being addressed with the aim of modifying their behaviors to achieve plant disease control. The emigration from and immigration to bacteria to plants via airborne transport is being studied to better understand processes determining the context-dependent assembly of epiphytic communities on leaves.

Jos Raaijmakers, NIOO-KNAW, NL

Jos Raaijmakers

Jos Raaijmakers received his MSc and PhD degrees from the University of Utrecht (Netherlands), where he studied phyllosphere and rhizosphere microbiology. His PhD work specifically focused on siderophore-mediated iron acquisition by rhizosphere bacteria. He undertook postdoctoral research at USDA and Washington State University (USA) on disease suppressive soils and the antifungal activity of secondary metabolites (phloroglucinols, phenazines) of root-associated bacteria. Upon returning to the Netherlands, he became an associate professor Plant Pathology at Wageningen University working on microbe-microbe/microbe-plant interactions and the diversity & functions of cyclic lipopeptides. Currently he is head of the Microbial Ecology department of the Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW) and a Professor at the Institute of Biology of Leiden University. His research program focuses on i) the impact of plant domestication on microbiome assembly, and ii) the role of the plant microbiome in biotic stress tolerance.

Klaus Schlaeppi, University of Bern, CH

Klaus Schlaeppi

Klaus Schlaeppi studied plant-microbe interactions and obtained his PhD from the University of Fribourg (Switzerland) based on work investigating plant defences against pathogens. As postdoctoral scientist at the MPI for Plant Breeding Research in Cologne (Germany) he contributed to method development and characterization of the commensal root microbiota of the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana and related Brassicaceae species. Back in Switzerland, as junior group leader he broadened his research interests to rhizosphere microbial ecology and how the root microbiota could be manipulated to improve agriculture. Today he is lecturer at the University of Bern (Switzerland) and investigates with his team the contribution of the root microbiota to plant growth and how plants communicate to their root microbiota and take influence on their activities. The long-term ambition of his research program is to make use of plant microbiomes in smart and sustainable agriculture.