Information für die Wissenschaft Nr. 23 | 15. Mai 2017
Priority Programme “Rhizosphere Spatiotemporal Organisation – a Key to Rhizosphere Functions” (SPP 2089)

The Senate of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) has established a new Priority Programme entitled “Rhizosphere Spatiotemporal Organisation – a Key to Rhizosphere Functions” (SPP 2089). The programme is designed to run for six years. The present call invites proposals for the first three-year funding period.

This Priority Programme aims at the identification of spatiotemporal patterns in the rhizosphere and at the explanation of the underlying mechanisms. The key concept of the programme consists of approaching the rhizosphere as a self-organised system. Self-organisation arises from a cascade of feedback loops between root, microbiome and soil. Emerging patterns in the rhizosphere cannot be understood from studying the components in isolation. This call invites proposals from appropriate disciplines such as rhizosphere research, soil chemistry, plant genomics and physiology, soil microbiology, soil physics, exudate analysis, image/pattern analysis and modelling.

A system approach is obligatory in the sense mentioned above as well as contribution to and participation in the Central Platform Experiments (CPE) with two substrates (silt loam, loamy sand) and two Zea mays genotypes (wildtype and root hairless mutant rth3). Experimental work is expected to take place on or use material from CPE. Complementary focal topic-related satellite experiments using the two substrates, two Zea mays genotypes and comparisons with genotypes or crop plant species with contrasting rhizosphere traits are possible.

The overall hypothesis of the Priority Programme is that resilience emerges from self-organised spatiotemporal pattern formation in the rhizosphere. The projects focus on testing:

H1: Self-organisation in the rhizosphere leads to specific spatiotemporal patterns of nutrients, water and the microbiome. The interplay between these temporal and spatial patterns is the key for efficient resource acquisition by the plant.

H2: Self-organisation in the rhizosphere is indispensably connected with/tied to soil structure formation and thus increases microbial habitat diversity. Structures are supposed to be long-lasting, i.e. they will still be present, when the processes initiating them are not present any more.

H3: The size of the rhizosphere is determined by the radial extent of pattern formation controlled by root activity/morphology. It is specific for different root exudates/nutrients and modulated by soil texture, microbial activity and driving forces for transport.

H4: The process complex of self-organisation in the rhizosphere follows a similar general pattern of interactions between roots, the associated microbiome and the soil. External drivers, like soil texture, plant genotype or introduction of new players in the microbiome, result in quantitative but not qualitative changes in the self-organised rhizosphere system.

The hypothesis should be tested in the context of at least one of the following focus topics:

  • plant microbe interplay in the rhizosphere
  • water flux/drought/mucilage/hydrophobicity
  • cycling/acquisition of nutrients (N, Fe, B)
  • carbon sequestration/micro-aggregate formation/stability of soil structure

The working groups are expected to make use of modern analytical techniques for measuring temporal and/or spatial parameter patterns in situ, allowing investigations ranging from the nanometer to the centimeter scale.

Concepts should be provided for image processing, image analysis and image registration for images from different sources. Likewise concepts for pattern recognition and analyses are required. These may be supplemented by process-based ecological modelling (e.g. individual based models) for identification of underlying mechanisms. We also welcome modelling approaches which integrate spatiotemporal dynamics into single root or root system models in order to predict the emerging properties at the root system scale.

In line with the conceptual framework of self-organisation, we will work at the single root scale up to root system scale. Further upscaling to field or landscape scale is beyond the scope of the suggested Priority Programme.

Proposals for the first three-year period must be written in English and follow the guidelines in DFG form 54.01en (Proposal Preparation Instructions). Please adhere the rules for publication lists (form 1.91en). Further information on e.g. eligibility requirements can be found in DFG form 50.05en, part B. Proposals must be submitted via the DFG’s electronic proposal submission system “elan” by 3 November 2017. Please select “Schwerpunktprogramm” and “SPP 2089/1 Rhizosphere” when submitting your proposal. If you are using the “elan” system for the first time, please note that you need to register yourself and your institutional address by 20 October 2017 before being able to submit a proposal.

In addition to submitting your proposal to the DFG, please send an electronic PDF copy including the summary to the coordinator Professor Dr. Doris Vetterlein.

Details of the research concept of the programme, the focal topics and the CPE’s will be presented at an organisational meeting on the 19 June 2017 in Leipzig. This meeting provides the opportunity for the initiation of joint proposals and is supposed to harmonise and coordinate individual grant proposals.

Registration for the organisational meeting on the 19 June 2017 is possible at the Priority Programme’s homepage. Please note that the number of participants which can be supported by DFG is limited. Participation is only possible upon prior registration (Deadline 31 May 2017). Participants may introduce their research approach briefly (2 minutes) using a template that can be found at the programme’s homepage (see below).

Further information

For further information related to Central Platform Experiments (CPE) please refer to:

Please note the general information and guidelines for proposals at:

Contact person for questions concerning the Priority Programme:

Contact person for information on submitting proposals and the review process:


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