Caroline De Tender group

Research focus

The research group of Caroline De Tender focuses on microbial life in soil and substrates in interaction with plants. Through a combination of next-generation sequencing techniques, phospholipid fatty acid analysis (PLFA) and cultivation, bacteria, fungi and protists are studied in soil and in relation to plant roots, in function of plant growth and defence. The team studies how these microbial communities can be used to promote a healthy soil and healthy plants. This can be achieved by adding a beneficial stressor (such as biochar, chitin or compost) or by removing a negative stressor (such as microplastic pollution).

In collaboration with the Institute for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Research (ILVO), the group focuses on the effect of biochar and chitin on the growth of strawberry and lettuce, aiming to reduce the use of pesticides and mineral nutrients. This way they demonstrated that chitin stimulates a group of fungi from the Mortierellomycota that positively affect the growth of plants. Further research on these fungi is aimed at explaining the plant growth promotion effect.

In the ERC project MiCoS, the team focuses on microplastic pollution in (agricultural) soils. The concentration and extent of pollution is determined and its effect on soil and plant health is assessed, specifically focussing on the effects on the microbial community. By using specific cultivation media and recent technologies, bacteria and fungi are investigated that might be able to break down plastics.

Brief CV

Caroline De Tender studied bioscience engineering at Ghent University and obtained her PhD in Biotechnology in May 2017, in collaboration with ILVO.

In 2017 she started as a postdoc in the department Applied Mathematics, Computer Science and Statistics at Ghent University and for one year worked together with NIOO (Netherlands Institute of Ecology) to focus on biostatistics, metagenomics and bioinformatics.

From 1 February 2023 she is appointed as a professor in the department Biochemistry and Microbiology after obtaining an ERC starting grant on microplastic pollution in agricultural soils in the BeNeLux area.  

Publications Caroline De Tender

Twitter: @CarolineTender