ProjectRoots of Decline

Assembly and Function of the Rhizosphere Microbiome in Relation to Yield Decline

Prof. Gary Bending
University of Warwick

Co-PIs & Co-Is

Dr. Jay Moore, University of Warwick
Dr. Graham Teakle, University of Warwick
Professor Peter Mills, Harper Adams University
Dr. David Bass, The Natural History Museum
Professor Penny Hirsch, Rothamsted Research
Mr. Ian Clark, Rothamsted Research
Dr. Tim Hugh Mauchline, Rothamsted Research
Dr. Christopher van der Gast, Manchester Metropolitan University

Aims & Objectives

This project will determine the pro- and eukaryotic microbe community and differentiate it into core (local, abundant) and satellite (infrequent, rare) species. The role of soil management, environmental variables and distance as drivers of community assembly in relation to yield decline will be examined. This project will focus on:

  • Field experiments to investigate changes in microbial community organisation and function during transition from a healthy to diseased state.
  • The characterisation of rhizosphere soil networks
    associated with microbial pathogenesis and host
    defence and nutrition.
  • The potential to manipulate the assembly of the
    rhizosphere microbiome through crop genotype and soil management will be investigated.

Dr. Gary Bending

University of Warwick

Gary Bending was recently (2015) appointed Professor of Environmental Microbiology in the School of Life Sciences at the University of Warwick. His main research interests are plant-soil microbe interactions and the environmental fate of organic pollutants. You can find out more about Gary here.


Sally Hilton

molecular biologist

Sally is an experienced molecular biologist whose research focuses on using molecular biology tools to obtain a greater understanding of microbes.  Specifically she has worked on studying rhizosphere and soil microbial communities, host-pathogen interactions, gene function, gene expression and regulation and DNA replication.  She is familiar with a range of molecular techniques, currently amplicon sequencing library preparation and bioinformatics pipelines for sequence analysis.

For more information about Sally, please click here.

Susanne Schreiter


Susanne is an agro-ecologist whose research focuses on analysis of bacterial and fungal communities in the rhizosphere.  Specifically she has experience working food crops (potato and lettuce) and is currently working on the problem of yield decline in oil seed rape.  She is familiar with a range of molecular techniques including DGGE, DNA extraction, Southern Hybridisation and cultivation-dependent methods.

Emma Picot

circadian biologist

Emma is a circadian biologist whose research focuses on the evolutionary genetic regulation.  Specifically she has experience in comparative genomics and the genes involved in the Arabadopsisclock and her current research focuses on Brassica rapa microbiome. Emma is familiar with a wide variety of techniques including next gen sequencing (lab and bioinformatics), R and network analysis.