Environmental Biotechnology Research group

Research domain

The Laboratory of Environmental Biotechnology focuses on the application of micro-organisms for optimizing processes in environmental technology and agriculture. By directed selection and screening protocols, we seek out functional strains or consortia which are subsequently applied and optimized for real-life scenario's.

Research goals

When dealing with pollutant substances, biodegradation is often solely defined as the disappearance of the original compound from the matrix. However, microbial metabolites resulting from the degradation process might still infer a residual or even higher toxicity for the environment. Therefore, biodegradation assays should be complemented by detoxification assays to insure a safe removal of the pollutant. This approach is currently being followed for the microbial degradation of two mycotoxins which may contaminate food and feed matrices: deoxynivalenol and zearalenone. We also seek to unravel the biodegradation pathways, ultimately leading to safe detoxification in food or feed matrices. This research line is embedded in MYTOX.

In order to achieve a more sustainable agriculture, specific micro-organisms formulated as biostimulant and biocontrol products (BBP) may be employed to minimize potentially harmful chemical inputs such as fertilizers and pesticides. However, scientific literature abounds with many potentially highly useful strains that do not appear on the commercial market. From our microbial ecologist standpoint, this discrepancy stems from the current strategy in developing BBP which we find fundamentally flawed. Therefore we have set out to develop an innovative approach in acquiring strains for BBP, based on more ecological selection principles. This research line is embedded in IOF consortium CropFit.


Microbial ecology, Enrichment cultures, Functional inoculants, Plant biostimulants, Biodegradation


    • 2018-2022: Innovative in planta enrichment platform to select efficient biostimulants and biocontrol microorganisms (Noémie De Zutter)
    • 2017-2021: Unraveling the zearalenone degradation pathway using a poly-omics approach, for valorization in pre- and post-harvest remediation (Laura De Mets)
    • 2014-2020: Microbial detoxification of deoxynivalenol (Ilse Vanhoutte)
    • 2015-2017: Valorization of phosphorous solubilizing bacteria for improved nutrient uptake by agricultural crops (IWT TETRA)
    • 2014-2015: Processing of mycotoxin contaminated organic waste streams through anaerobic digestion (OVAM)
    • 2011-2016: Quantification, recovery and valorization of nitrogen and phosphorus from waste streams : strategies towards circular nutrient management (Joeri Coppens)
    • 2008-2015: Implementation of bioaugmentation for treatment of pesticide waste streams (Pieter Verhagen)


Contact information

Please contact professor Leen De Gelder for more information