Plant-Microbe Interactions. Quelle: Mika Tarkka/UFZ

Group: Plant-Microbe Interactions

Head: PD Dr. Mika Tarkka   ( Email , Web )
PhD Students
  • Claudia Breitkreuz
  • Kerstin Hommel
Guest Scientists
  • Esmaeil Karimi

Research Topics

Plant beneficial micro-organisms

Our scientific work is devoted to answering the question how soil microorganisms affect plant growth and stress resistance, and whether these interactions can be used to benefit plant health. Firstly, this takes place with pedunculate oak model system, wherein our models of biotic interactions include bacteria, mycorrhizal fungi and fungal pathogens, and the analyses take place at the level of genome regulation. Second approach considers plant growth promoting bacteria in agriculture and grassland. We investigate how soil bacteria influence nutrient mobilisation, plant growth and disease resistance. In this contex, an important topic of our research is how plant roots enrich bacterial communities upon prolonged drought periods. The aim of our work is to contribute to the assessment of the overall impact of microorganisms on plant health, and to promote the use of microbes for sustainable plant production in the context of global change.

Projects / Research Platforms

Research Platforms
  • PhytOakmeter
    The PhytOakmeter platform was created by planting pedunculate oak DF159 trees along a geographic gradient in Europe. It used to investigate the adaptation of the oak trees and the associated organisms to different climates, soils, and land use types.
    fact sheet - PhytOakmeter

  • GCEF - Global Change Experimental Facility
    Large field experiment for the investigation of the consequences of climate change for ecosystem processes under different land use options.
    fact sheet - GCEF
    platform - GCEF

  • TrophinOak - Multitrophic interactions with Oaks
    A controlled system with oak microcuttings to study gene expression and resource allocation in multitrophic interactions.
    TrophinOak Project

  • "Increasing the stress resistance of agricultural ecosystems through plant growth promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR) using winter wheat (Triticum L.) production as a case study"
    Funded by DBU | Project term: 2016 - 2019 | PhD Student: Claudia Breitkreuz
    Supervision by Dr. Mika Tarkka and Dr. Thomas Reitz


  • Stefan Scheu, Universität Göttingen
  • Roland Brandl, Universität Marburg
  • Thorsten Grams und Frank Fleischmann, TU München
  • Liliane Ruess, Humboldt Universität Berlin
  • Silvia Schrey, Forschungszentrum Jülich
  • Christoph Plomion, INRA Bordeaux
  • Francis Martin, INRA Nancy


Selected publications

Maboreke, H.R., Feldhahn, L., Bönn, M., Tarkka, M.T., Buscot, F., Herrmann, S., Menzel, R., Ruess, L. (2016):
Transcriptome analysis in oak uncovers a strong impact of endogenous rhythmic growth on the interaction with plant-parasitic nematodes.
BMC Genomics 17, art. 627   Journal

Caravaca, F., Maboreke, H., Kurth, F., Herrmann, S., Tarkka, M.T., Ruess, L., (2015):
Synergists and antagonists in the rhizosphere modulate microbial communities and growth of Quercus robur L.
Soil Biol. Biochem. 82, 65 - 73  DOI: 10.1016/j.soilbio.2014.12.004

Kohler, A., Kuo, A., Nagy, L.G., Morin, E., Barry, K.W., Buscot, F., Canbäck, B., Choi, C., Cichocki, N., Clum, A., et al. (2015): Convergent losses of decay mechanisms and rapid turnover of symbiosis genes in mycorrhizal mutualists.
Nature Genetics 47, 410–415  Journal

Kurth, F., Feldhahn, L., Bönn, M., Herrmann, S., Buscot, F., Tarkka M. T. (2015): Large scale transcriptome analysis reveals interplay between development of forest trees and a beneficial mycorrhiza helper bacterium.
BMC Genomics 16, 658  Journal

Selected review articles

Frey-Klett, P., Burlinson, P., Deveau, A., Barret, M., Tarkka, M.T., Sarniguet, A. (2011):
Bacterial-fungal interactions: hyphens between agricultural, clinical, environmental, and food microbiologists
Microbiology Molecular Biology Reviews 75, 583-609  Journal

Schrey S.D., Tarkka M.T. (2008):
Friends and foes: streptomycetes as modulators of plant disease and symbiosis.
Antonie van Leeuvenhoek 49, 11-19  Journal

Frey-Klett P., Garbaye J., Tarkka M.T. (2007):
The mycorrhiza helper bacteria revisited.
New Phytologist 176, 22-36  Journal