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INcreasing agricultural nutrient-use efficiency by optimizing PLAnt-soil-Microorganism INTeractions

Excessive fertilizer use in agriculture leads to nutrient imbalances, which are the cause of detrimental nutrient losses leading to surface and groundwater pollution as well as increased greenhouse gas emissions. A sustainable agriculture has to find ways to optimize nutrient efficiency, while maintaining or even increasing crop productivity and quality as fundamental criteria of a bio-based economy. This project is motivated by the central hypothesis that novel plant cultivation strategies directed towards “engineering” the complex nutrient cycling interactions between plants, soil and microorganisms, combined with improved timing of fertilizer and soil amendment applications, are the key to optimizing nutrient use efficiency of crop production. The overall objectives of this project are to (a) elucidate the key processes governing nutrient turnover and fluxes in the plant-soil-microbial system focusing on the buffering role of soil microorganisms in relation to plant nutrient uptake, (b) assess their importance for nutrient-efficient agricultural biomass production, (c) concurrently optimize the combined use of the main nutrients N, P and K, and (d) derive suitable management options for optimizing nutrient-use efficiency in agricultural biomass production for different soil conditions and different climate change scenarios.

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