Interview with Dr. Nicolaus von Wirén, member of the jury for the Innovation Awards
We set out to interview 3 members of the jury for the Innovation Awards, in order to learn about them. Let’s meet Nicolaus von Wirén, Head of the Department of Physiology and Cell Biology at the Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research, in Germany.
Could you please present yourself and your areas of expertise?
I am Head of the Department of Physiology and Cell Biology at the Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK Gatersleben, Germany), and I am heading an own research group focused on nutrient uptake systems, especially for ammonium and iron. In addition, we are very much interested in the interaction between nutrients and root architecture and tackle questions like: How are nutrients in the soil perceived as a signal by the roots in order to change root development? How does the plant nutritional status determine root morphology? Or, how do nutrients change the synthesis of phytohormones? And related signalling pathways to affect nutrient acquisition and other agronomically relevant traits.
IPK has more than 500 employees with, about 200 researchers structured in 4 departments and 28 research groups. IPK hosts the largest gene bank for crop plants and medicinal plants in the EU. We have more than 150 000 lines with a major focus on barley and wheat. Currently, the IPK has the ambition to transform itself into a digital resource center for public use.
What is the history and the link between your Department and the Groupe Roullier? Do you have any common project?
I met Jean-Claude Yvin, R&D Director Plant Nutrition, Groupe Roullier, during a defense of a PhD thesis at the University of Caen.
I stayed in contact with Jean-Claude Yvin until recently one of my PhD students was employed by the Centre Mondial de l’Innovation (CMI).
We have a common project with the Group on abiotic stress responses. IPK conducts series of experiments, in which we expose plants to nutrient deficiencies and look at the transcriptional responses, physiological responses, and at the morphological responses of the roots.
What do you expect in a partnership with a private company?
We have several partnerships with private companies. But I have to say, definitely, with Timac Agro and the CMI, we made by far the most positive experience.
One major reason is that the liberty that the CMI provides for publishing common results is very high. I greatly appreciate the research-oriented approach and way of thinking in the CMI. This is quite exceptional.
Moreover, CMI allows some flexibility to change the direction of the research during the project, whenever unforeseeable results or observations have been made. The close and regular contact with the CMI research managers is very beneficial to shape the project continuously.
We have complementary expertises, as the IPK is strong in fundamental research, while the Roullier Groupe has high expertise in applied research.
I greatly appreciate the way of how you link your company with public research. You give a really good example there.
You participate in plenty of evaluation committee, could you please describe your experience in the evaluation of research projects?
Three times I was on the evaluation committee of the INRA Versailles, France. Moreover, I served as a member of the evaluation committee of the Faculty for Plant and Environmental Sciences at the University of Copenhagen, here we were evaluating more than 50 research groups.
For 8 years, I was elected member of the Quality assurance committee of the German Research Foundation (DFG). And finally, I serve frequently as a reviewer for the DFG in Germany, the French ANR, but also for the USDA in the US, or Swiss, Danish, and Dutch funding agencies.
Currently, I am also president of the German Society for Plant Nutrition.
Do you have any advice for our candidates in the Innovation Awards?
I will be interested in seeing innovative ideas about pathways, how soil or foliar applied nutrients enter plant cells and how uptake pathways could be improved, or new concepts about how to improve fertilisation practices or how plants respond to targeted ways of the nutrient application at the morphological and physiological level.
Other attractive concepts may address how to stabilize crop yields despite lower nitrogen input, as currently, all the farmers in EU are under pressure to reduce nitrogen fertilizer application. In general, the interaction between management practices and crop genotypes would also be very interesting, and I believe there is still a lot of room for research on such topics. However, I am already excited to see incoming project ideas also from any other direction in plant nutrition.
New experiments on dairy cows in Spain3 June 2019
In mid-April, the CMI Roullier Animal Nutrition team met Dr Alex BACH, research professor at the ICREA* and head of the department of ruminant production at the IRTA*, and his team on the experimental Spanish farm Blanca From the Pyrenees
23rd meeting of the ISS International Seaweed Symposium28 May 2019
The 23rd meeting of the International Seaweed Symposium (ISS) was held in South Korea from 28 April - 3 May 2019, on the theme of “Seaweeds: from Tradition to Innovation”.
CMI partner for the « 3rd Agriculture and Climate Change Conference » in Hungary10 April 2019
From March 24 to 26, the 3rd Agriculture and Climate Change Conference took place in Budapest, Hungary. International scientific researchers presented their works focusing on the impact of climate change on crop production and proposed solutions to maintain and increase crop productivity in this new context.
The CMI and TAI in partnership with the French Atlas of Soil Bacteria13 February 2019
Soil represents a vital area of research for the agriculture of tomorrow. The billions of bacteria that can be found in one single gram of soil are an important source of growth for plants. It is for this reason that this issue has a specific R&D department within the CMI, where we have taken in two postdoctoral researchers from Professor Lionel Ranjard’s team from the INRA Agroecology Mixed Research Unit.
Biocontrol for phytoparasitic nematodes13 February 2019
Phytoparasitic nematodes are microscopic roundworms found in agricultural soils. They affect root development and cause significant yield losses for crops such as potatoes, sugar beet, carrots and cereals. These pests reduce global agricultural production by about 11%, a loss of several million tonnes of crops each year. For environmental and health reasons, almost all of […]
CMI’s R&D partners with ISTRO, the International Soil Tillage Organisation22 October 2018
The ISTRO organises an international conference every three years to assess progress in terms of research and innovation attracting around 350 participants (researchers, development engineers, technical or agricultural machinery institutes, educators).
Creation of the LMH Innovation division, working for all professions within the Group20 September 2018
LMH is enhancing its organisational structure in order to better meet the growing needs of all the Group’s employees on the topic of microorganisms, and the division will enable optimised and accelerated innovation in this field.
The Roullier Innovation Awards 2018 Ceremony day3 July 2018
On Thursday 28 June, the 2018 Roullier Innovation Awards trophies were presented to the two winners during a wonderful ceremony day.
Interview with Dr. Bernard Dumas, winner of the Innovation Awards first edition in 200123 March 2018
In 2001, the first Innovation Awards event, formerly the Plant Engineering Prize, rewarded 2 research laboratories for their scientific projects. We wanted to have a talk with Dr. Bernard Dumas, head of the winning team from the University of Toulouse.
Interview with Pr. Heitor Cantarella, member of the jury for the Innovation Awards28 February 2018
To end our series of interviews, we met with Pr. Heitor Cantarella, Director of the Soils and Environmental Resources Center at the Agronomic Institute of Campinas, Brazil.