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Department of Plant and Microbial Biology


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February 2023

January 2023

September 2023

  • PhD defence Chantal Herzog (12.9.22): Impact of agricultural intensification on soil biogeochemistry and multifunctionality.
  • Marcel van der Heijden is listed as ISI/Clarivate highly cited researcher (5th year in a row).

August 2022

  • PhD defence Judith Riedo (25.8.22): Occurrence of Pesticides in Agricultural Soils and Their Influence on Beneficial Soil Microorganisms.
  • PhD defence Misato Toda (11.8.22): Soil microbes as a regulator of nutrient cycling.

July 2022

  • Our work on the impact of pesticides on the natural soil fertility function of mycorrhizas is published: Edlinger et al. (2022). Agricultural management and pesticide use reduce the phosphorus uptake capability of beneficial plant symbionts. Nature Ecology & Evolution.
  • Biodiversa, the funding organsition published a blog on this work: Collateral effects of pesticides and agriculture on plant symbionts.

June 2022

  • Annual report university of Zurich.
    Nachhaltig ackern (page 57). One page highlight of our research on microbiome engineering and exploration of soil life.
  • Der Dschungel im Boden: Ein Bilderbuch über eine der wichtigsten Ressourcen der Menschheit. Werd Verlag. Durch Atlant und Siriporn Bieri. This book for the general public was initiated as part of our “Soil your undies” project. You can order it with us.

May 2022

  • Steffi Lutz is our new teamleader on rhizosphere ecology.

January 2022

  • Florian Walder, postdoc and teamleader in our group obtained a position as a research group leader for soil quality and soil use at Agroscope
  • Klaus Schläppi, postdoc and team leader in our group is appointed as professor for Plant-Microbe Interactions at Basel University.
  • The project “Soil impact of pesticides (Bodenwirkung Pestiziden)“ is funded by Agroscpe. The occurrence of pesticides and their impact on soil functioning in approximately 60 organic and conventional Swiss vineyards will be investigated.

November 2021

  • Two projects in our group got funded by the EJP Soils project (Horizon 2020, European Union, including CH): MINOTAUR: Modeling and mapping soil biodiversity patterns and functions across Europe. SE4/ INDICATORS. Towards climate-smart sustainable management of agricultural soils (EJP Soils).
  • TRACE-SOILS: Mechanisms underlying TRAde-offs between Carbon sequestration, greenhouse gas Emissions and nutrient losses in Soils under conservation agriculture in Europe. Towards climate-smart sustainable management of agricultural soils (EJP Soils). EU Project H2020.

September 2021

August 2021

  • The results from our FArming Systems and Tillage experiment is published (Wittwer et al. (2021) Organic and conservation agriculture promote ecosystem multifunctionality. Science Advances, 7(34). Link: (
    This is the first paper synthesizing results from the Farming System and Tillage Experiment initiated and established in 2009.
  • Marcel van der Heijden: So reduzieren wir künftig den Pestizideinsatz. der externe Standpunkt. NZZ am Sonntag (20.6.2021).
  • Podcast Julia Hess mit Natacha Bodenhausen, Klaus Schläppi, Marcel van der Heijden (Apr. 2021). Microbiome Diagnostics Project: Microbiome Engineering with Mycorrhizal Fungal Inoculations - Gebert Rüf. Projekt:
  • Our project “Soil microbiome engineering for a sustainable agriculture”. Gebert Rüf Foundation (microbials call) got funded.

April 2021

March 2021

February 2021

January 2021

  • Crop cover is more important than rotational diversity for soil multifunctionality and cereal yields in European cropping systems. The work from our Biodiversa “Digging Deeper” project is published in Nature Food by Gina Garland et al. 2021.
  • Franz Bender, teamleader at Agroscope and scientist at the university of Zurich received a permanent research position in our group at Agroscope.

November 2020

  • 18 November: PhD defence Raphael Wittwer, Agroscope Reckenholz, 14.00h: Title: Assessing and improving the multifunctionality of Swiss arable cropping systems

Oktober 2020

September 2020

  • Gina Garland, former postdoc in our group received a large SNF Prima grant to initiate her own research line at the ETHZ.

July 2020

  • A large article featuring our work “the jungle below our feet” and the potential of mycorrhizal inoculation and microbes for agriculture was published in one of the main Swiss newspapers, the “Tagesanzeiger” (PDF of this article (PDF, 1 MB)).

June 2020

  • PhD Position: In collaboration with Alberto Orgiazzi and others at the JRC, we are looking for a PhD student: “Soil Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functioning Assessment across Europe“ Apply at: Jobs UZH
  • Start of SNF project “microbiome complexity and microbial keystone taxa as drivers of agro-ecosystem functioning”.
  • Klaus Schläppi, former team- and project leader, started a new position as associate professor on plant-microbe interactions at the University of Basel.

May 2020

April 2020 

  • Gina Garland, former postdoc in the digging deeper project got a permanent position as researcher in the research group soil quality and soil protection at Agroscope.
  • Verena Säle, former PhD student on mycorrhizas got a position as researcher in the “Extension Gemüsebau” group at Agroscope, location Wädenswil.

March 2020 

  • Lecture cancelled and postponed due to Corona outbreak. 16 March: Apero + Eintrittsvorlesung Prof. Marcel van der Heijden: Pesticides, Climate Change & Microbiome Engineering: Agricultural Challenges for a Sustainable Future. UZH main building.

February 2020

  • We are looking for a Postdoc in Microbiome Ecology & Agro-ecosystem functioning (application deadline 28. February 2020). Job description 
  • The paper “Keystone taxa in microbiology: roles, drivers and importance for microbiome functioning” “ by Banerjee, S., Schlaeppi, K., van der Heijden, M.G.A., (2018). Nature Reviews Microbiology 16: 567-576. is a “Web of Science hot paper”, meaning that it is in the top 0.1% of its academic field.

January 2020

  • Claire Stanley, former SNF Ambizione Fellow and teamleader in our group starts her new position as assistant professor at Imperial College London
  • Janine Moll, former PhD student in our group starts a scientist position in the NABO group at Agroscope.
  • We are looking for a PhD student “Soil biodiversity and ecosystem functioning assessment across Europe” (application deadline 6. February 2020). This is a joint research project between the University of Zurich and Joint Research Centre of the EU

November 2019

  • Marcel van der Heijden is again elected as “Highly Cited Researcher” (section Cross Fields), together with approximately 6000 other researchers in the world.
  • «Ohne Bakterien und Pilze sähe es auf der Erde aus wie auf dem Mars». This press release on the importance of microbial networks for ecosystem functioning was picked up by the media and published in a wide range of newspapers including Blick, Bauernzeitung, le Matin, 20 Minuten, etc.): Blick 

Oktober 2019

  • new paper in Nature Communications: Wagg, C., Schlaeppi, K., Banerjee, S., Kuramae, E. E., & van der Heijden, M. G.A. (2019). Fungal-bacterial diversity and microbiome complexity predict ecosystem functioning. Nature Communications 10(1), 1-10.
  • Kompost Experiment Ehrendingen: We established a new field experiment and test the impact of compost application on soil carbon storage, soil biodiversity and nutrient use efficiency. Funded by Stiftung Mercator Schweiz.

September 2019

  • Sam Banerjee, former postdoc and teamleader in our group starts his new position as assistant professor at North Dakota State University
  • 4 September: Marcel van der Heijden gave a Russell lecture in Sheffield and was distinguished by the British Soil Science Society for this scientific work. 

August 2019

  • For the third year we simulate climate change (drought) in our farming system and tillage experiment (FAST). The result show that drought has a major impact on plant yield (yield was reduced with approximately 25%). This is a research collaboration with the group of Prof. Nina Buchmann. Funding by Stiftung Mercator Schweiz and the World Food Systems Centre der ETHZ.
    See interviews with Raphael Wittwer:
    SRF Tagesschau
    Radio Télévision Suisse
    SRF Einstein (6.12.2018)

June & August 2019

  • Our Day of Subterrean Life (Tag des unterirdischen Lebens), including soil your undies (Unterhosen verbuddeln) received a lot of attention in the Swiss media. It was reported on Television (SRF Schweiz aktuell and SRF Glanz & Gloria), various radio stations (e.g. SRF Morgengast, Radio24, Energy Radio, Radio Central, Radio Toxic, Radio Sunshine, Radio Rottu Oberwallis, etc.) and many newspapers (e.g. Tagesanzeiger, Bauernzeitung, Blick, 20 Minuten, Aargauer Zeitung) and blogs. Aim of this event was to reach the general public and raise the importance of soil quality, soil health and soil life (soil biodiversity) for agriculture and natural processes.
    Radio SRF1
    SRF Schweiz Aktuell
    SRF Glanz & Gloria

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