Cristina Cruz | Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Changes, Faculty of Sciences of the University of Lisbon
Marcel G. A. van der Heijden | Agroscope Institute for Sustainability Sciences, Zurich, Switzerland
We all know how much pressure agriculture is under. An increasing and more demanding population is pushing farmers towards an intensive and super-intensive farming to supply the markets with quality, cheap and safe food. High productivity is therefore needed for which most farmers make use of more and more fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, or even water to fight drought - so the main question is how to produce more with less, in times of climate uncertainty. No matter how much processing, packaging and marketing goes into modern food, the production of most of it depends, in fact, on the crowd of microorganisms responsible for soil functionality and plant phenotype, many of which have not even been granted a scientific name. The main ambition of this symposium is that next time one picks up a piece of bread or a bottle of beer, remembers who is producing them - and it is not only the famous trademarks on the box. Belowground there is an army of organisms that are the stewards of our planet and builders of our crops. A microbial dark matter that forms soil and plant microbiomes regulating crop nutrient use efficiency, productivity, food quality and security. How can we use this microbial dark matter to promote a more sustainable agriculture?