PROMISE (Promoting Root Microbes for Integrated Striga Eradication) is a discovery programme led by the Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW) and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The overall goal of PROMISE is to engineer soil and plant microbiomes for enhanced crop productivity in Sub-Saharan Africa.
To achieve this goal, NIOO-KNAW is working together with several key partners with specific expertise needed for successful completion of the programme. Together, they will undertake a breakthrough systems approach combining classic and state-of-the-art ‘omics technologies to investigate the diversity and functional traits of the microbiomes of sorghum and of the Striga parasite.
The immediate goal of this 5-year programme is to address the following questions:
How diverse are sorghum and Striga microbiomes (bacteria & fungi) in soils from different agroecological zones in Ethiopia?
What is the relative importance of sorghum and Striga microbiomes in the Striga life & infection-cycle?
What is functional potential of sorghum and Striga microbiomes to adversely affect the Striga life & infection-cycle?
Which soil characteristics and plant traits are associated with microbiome-mediated suppression of Striga infection?
We will identify specific groups and functions of known & unknown microbial genera that, in conjunction with specific sorghum lines and agronomic practices, consistently suppress Striga infections, adversely affect the Striga seed bank and enhance sorghum productivity for smallholder farmers.
To this end, we will isolate, characterize and establish repositories of microbial strains (bacteria, fungi) from sorghum and from Striga that exhibit specific Striga-suppressive traits. In the longer term - beyond the 5-year time frame of the programme - Striga-suppressive microbes will be exploited for crop yield improvement via two complementary approaches:
- Introduction of microbial inoculants in sorghum fields in conjunction with Striga-resistant sorghum cultivars
- Augmentation of indigenous Striga-suppressive microbes via targeted soil & crop management practices
By working together with local research institutes, we will train scientists and extension workers, and educate smallholder farmers and involve them in greenhouse and small-scale field trials to allow a successful exploitation of Striga-suppressive microbes for crop protection and yield improvement. Local staff, students and technicians will be trained on site and in the partner labs abroad, learning and adopting the newest technologies and methodologies needed for the programme and beyond.
- Improved local research facilities, scientific know-how & staff trained in state-of-the-art technologies
- Standard operating procedures & functional assays for sorghum-Striga microbiome analyses
- Specific microbial metabolites that interfere with Striga germination and reduce infection of sorghum
- New Striga-pathogenic fungi that adversely affect the Striga seed bank
- Sorghum root traits associated with Striga suppression
- Sorghum local & systemic defenses induced by beneficial microbes
- Soil properties and management practices that promote Striga-suppressive microbes & activities