Seeding Food Innovation - Awarded Project 2018

Using beneficial microbes to mitigate the effects of climate change on plant nutrition, resistance to insects, and drought

Project Description

plant root with some bacteria stuck to it

Climate change has major present-day and anticipated consequences for Canadian and global food security. Increasing carbon dioxide (CO2) levels can lead to decreased plant nutritional quality: more fixed carbon and sugar means that plants have less protein and micronutrients per gram. Additionally, increased CO2 levels can exacerbate insect pests on crops because elevated CO2 interferes with plant signalling and suppresses plants' ability to respond to stressors.

Relevance to the field of food innovation

Below ground, plant roots associate with complex communities of microbes (called their microbiome) that can promote growth and protect plants from insect pests. Individual microbes can positively affect plant traits that are negatively impacted by climate change including plant pest resistance, food quality and drought tolerance. The goal of this research is to determine whether beneficial microbes can directly mitigate the detrimental effects of climate change on plant nutrition, resistance to insects, and to drought under elevated CO2.

Anticipated outcome

With global levels of CO2 projected to reach 600 ppm by the year 2050, a level of CO2 that has significant consequences for plant quality and productivity, this project is addressing the urgent need to identify, develop and implement solutions to the consequential effects on food quality and plant health. If successful, this work will lay the foundation for development of microbes as a rapid and sustainable approach to tackling climate change in agriculture.


Dr. Cara Haney

Dr. Haney is an Assistant Professor in the departments of Microbiology and Immunology and Michael Smith Laboratories at the University of British Columbia. Dr. Haney holds the Canada Research Chair in plant-microbiome interactions. Dr. Haney’s research focuses on interactions between beneficial plant » More Info

Dr. Juli Carrillo

Dr. Carrillo is an Assistant Professor at The University of British Columbia in the Faculty of Land and Food Systems. Her current research focus is on basic and applied ecology and evolutionary biology of agricultural systems. She received her PhD from Rice University in plant ecology and evolution. Prior to joining the faculty » More Info

Dr. Yi Song

Dr. Song is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Haney lab at the University of British Columbia. Yi did his Ph.D. in plant molecular biology at Fudan University in China, where he worked on the regulation of leaf senescence in plants. He is currently working on the molecular basis of how beneficial microbes affect plant » More Info

Dr. Quentin Geissmann

Dr. Geissmann is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow working jointly with Dr. Cara Haney and Dr. Juli Carrillo, at the University of British Columbia. Dr. Geissmann's research focuses on the effect of plant microbiome on the behaviour of herbivorous insects. He received MScs in Organismic biology in University Pierre et Marie Curie, » More Info