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International Plant Health Day: Understanding in the laboratory what happens in the field

May 12 is International Plant Health Day: Freiburg biologists Jürgen Kleine-Vehn, Thomas Ott and Aida Maric on the relevance of research into plant growth, nutrient uptake and resilience.

When plants suffer from a changing climate, extreme weather events, pests and depleted soils, the livelihoods of the world's growing population are threatened. The United Nations General Assembly has therefore declared May 12 as International Day of Plant Health (IDPH). The aim is to draw attention to how essential the protection of plant health is for us humans – to secure our food supply, to reduce poverty and to protect our environment.

Researching the fundamentals of plant health

New approaches to promoting plant health come from basic research: at the CIBSS Cluster of Excellence at the University of Freiburg, scientists are researching which biological processes control the growth and resilience of plants. This makes it possible to identify new approaches to help crops adapt to changing environmental conditions and maintain their health. Research alliances such as CIBSS offer the opportunity of closely interlinking research on plants with other research fields such as biotechnology and biomedicine. This collaboration between different disciplines makes it possible to combine different areas of expertise and identify fundamental mechanisms that are relevant in both plants and other organisms.

Video interview with Prof. Dr. Jürgen Kleine-Vehn

Jürgen Kleine-Vehn is researching how plants process information from their environment and react to it by adapting their growth to these external conditions. Central to this are plant hormones that control communication between the cells of a plant. “Plants perceive their environment very precisely and integrate this information into their architecture,” says Kleine-Vehn. This means that plant hormones play a central role in the yield of crops.


Video-Interview mit Prof. Dr. Jürgen Kleine-Vehn

Video interview with Prof. Dr. Thomas Ott

Thomas Ott is researching a symbiosis between leguminous plants such as beans or peas and certain bacteria. “The bacteria release nitrogen to the plant and thus fertilise it,” explains Ott. This means that the healthy growth of legume plants is not dependent on a sufficient supply of nitrogen from the soil. In other crops, this must be provided by energy-intensive fertilisation. One of the aims of Ott's research is to transfer the ability to undergo this symbiosis to other crops.


Video-Interview mit Prof. Dr. Jürgen Kleine-Vehn

Video interview with Dr. Aida Maric

Aida Maric is researching on the processes that take place in plants when soils are suddenly flooded by extreme weather events. “Under water, the gaseous hormone ethene is trapped in the plant, which has serious consequences for the plant,” says Maric. She is looking for ways to reduce the amount of ethene in such cases, for example through the targeted use of natural soil bacteria.


Video-Interview mit Prof. Dr. Jürgen Kleine-Vehn

About the Cluster of Excellence CIBSS

The Cluster of Excellence CIBSS - Centre for Integrative Biological Signalling Studies researches the signaling processes that enable cells to coordinate their tasks, form tissue and adapt to environmental conditions. The aim of CIBSS is to communicate in this ‘language of life’, i.e. to understand the signal processing within cells and tissues and thus be able to control them in a targeted manner. More than 70 research groups are working together in interdisciplinary projects to achieve this.


 Jürgen Kleine-Vehn
Jürgen Kleine-Vehn

Professor of Molecular Plant Physiology, Faculty of Biology, Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg; member of the spokesperson team of the Cluster of Excellence CIBSS

Phone: +49 761 203 2951

 Thomas Ott
Thomas Ott

Professor of Cell Biology, Faculty of Biology, University of Freiburg

Phone: +49 761 203 2673

 Aida Maric
Aida Maric

Postdoctoral researcher in the working group of Junior Professor Dr. Sjon Hartman, Junior Professor of Environmental Signaling and Development in Plants, Faculty of Biology, University of Freiburg

Phone: +49 761 203 97193


Information from the BMEL on International Plant Health Day 


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