CIRCLES EU project
Senga Robertson-Albertyn, School of Life Sciences, University of Dundee, UK
CIRCLES is a multi-national, multi-actor, 5-year consortium funded by the European Commission and aimed at developing microbiome applications to improve food production, quality, sustainability and safety. A key aspect of this project is the so called lab in the field approach, whereby stakeholders, such as farmers and SMEs, directly contribute to the design and the implementation of the experimental approaches. In CIRCLES, our lab leads the plant food chain microbiome and is tasked to dissect and exploit the microbial communities thriving in association with spinach and tomato. In the initial 18 months of the project, amid the disruption caused by the covid-19 pandemic, we were able to carry out the first campaign of sampling and identify, using a high-throughput amplicon sequencing survey, preliminary information on the core and diagnostic (e.g., treatment-responsive) microbes for both target crops. In addition to these findings, we have developed a metagenomic pipeline which has been used to identify key metabolic processes discriminating between plant-associated and unplanted bacterial and fungal soil. This data will guide the identification of “biomarkers” to be used in the development and optimisation of tailored microbial tools, e.g., inoculants, which will be tested for their efficacy under field conditions.