Two young CropFit researchers win the Bayer innovation award for best Master thesis

(26-09-2019) Each year, Bayer awards the most innovative master theses in the domain of sustainable agriculture. Two young CropFit researchers Jill Peeters and Aaron Vannevel won respectively the first and second price.

Jill Peeters, master student of Professor Tina Kyndt won 1.000 euro with her research on the use of chitin to protect strawberries against the fungal pathogen Botrytis cinerea. Jill discovered that chitin positively influences the composition of the microbiome in the rhizosphere of strawberries. Substrate enriched with chitin, stimulated the growth of beneficial bacteria and activated the plant defence machinery that protects strawberry plants against fungal diseases (B. cinerea). The use of chitin in the soil or substrate of plants may significantly reduce the use of chemical crop protection products in the future. This study was carried out in collaboration with Caroline De Tender (associated to UGent and ILVO) and Jane Debode (ILVO). 

Aaron Vannevel, master student of Professor Kathy Steppe, won 500 euro. He investigated the dynamics in microclimate around plant leaves, and its implications towards plant disease development. He discovered that the leaf wetness period is the most determining parameter to predict the outbreak of foliar fungal diseases. Aaron successfully tested a newly developed  microclimate sensor of the Laboratory of Plant Ecology, Faculty of Bioscience Engineering, to accurately measure the leaf wetness period on plant leaves. This microclimate sensor appears to be an excellent tool to quantify leaf wetness and to combat apple scab (Venturia inaequalis) in orchards.