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Early stage researchers: Johannes Herpell is rethinking agriculture


Johannes Herpell is a member of the Vienna Doctoral School of Ecology and Evolution. In his PhD thesis, he aims to strengthen plants with the help of bacteria instead of pesticides.

Rethinking Agriculture: Johannes Herpell explains his research

Johannes Herpell and his colleagues investigate bacteria that live on leaves and roots of plants. They isolate the bacteria and investigate where they occur in nature and what exactly they do. "We try to understand the molecular processes that lead to the promotion of plant growth by these bacteria and we try to implement our research in agricultural systems. I think you could say we try to develop a sustainable solution to plant fertilisation and stress resistance."

According to Herpell microorganisms are powerful players in large scale geochemical cycles. Influencing these organisms could fix a lot of problems around the world – the excessive use of fertiliser, the leaching of nitrogen into nature and its eutrophication. But also the use of pesticides. "We try to ramp up natural resistance of plants, facilitated by beneficial bacteria."


Semester question: How do we humans affect the earth?

The age of humans – the so-called Anthropocene – is confronting us with major questions about the future: How do we humans affect the earth? The semester question of the University of Vienna attempts to identify the burning questions about the Anthropocene and demonstrate the answers academia can provide. "Our negative impact on the earth's biosphere and on its climate are undeniable. The real question is: how can we help it to recover? Combining (bio)technological solutions for enhanced crop production with a reduction of land use intensity could set us back on the right path", so Johannes Herpell.