Rhizosphere Ecology

Research theme: Novel Integrated Agro Technologies, Plant Nutrients and Microbials for Improved Production of Green Leafy Vegetables

Importance :
In order to ensure food security in highly urbanized environments such as in Singapore that have limited natural resources especially land and water, novel food production technologies will need to be developed. Current practices of urban crop production are not suitable as they rely on extensive land usage, and intensive inputs of water, energy and chemicals - fertilizers and pesticides. Here, the overall goal of this research is to develop integrated solutions tailored specifically for urban crop production by utilizing the synergy between plant traits, their associated microbes and physico-chemical traits of soil substratum and light. The three interrelated themes are (i) Value-added Vegetables - involving selection of Asian vegetables, with high nutritional values and biomass growth properties; (ii) Effective Microbial Solutions - involving microbiomes (microbial communities) of high nutritional vegetables and developing beneficial microbial consortia to improve plant nutrients and defense against urban pests and diseases, thereby increasing yields and reducing chemical inputs; (iii) Cost-effective Agrotechnologies

The project aims to establish and utilize novel technology platforms and microbials to improve production and enhance nutritional benefits of the Asian green leafy vegetables in Singapore. This will help meet the national food and nutritional security targets in Singapore, where natural resources especially land and water, are highly limited. Current practices of urban crop production are not suitable as (i) these rely on extensive land use, and intensive inputs of water, energy and chemicals such as fertilizers and pesticides; (ii) these are highly prone to environmental stresses; (iii) there is no systematic knowledge of their nutritional benefits, or nutrient- and water-use efficiency; (iv) these do not utilize the multitude benefits of synergistic microbes that aid nutrition, growth and plant resistance to stresses, in order to reduce the input costs and yet be ecologically friendly and avoid transgenic technologies and (v) reliance on land and soil leads to problems of nutrient leaching and introduction of pathogens.
As this project is quite multi-disciplinary in nature, our team consists of researchers from different departments in NUS, industry partners and policy makers from governmental organizations.