Plant Soil Interactions

Soils are highly diverse. A hand full of soil contains billions of bacteria and tens of thousands taxa of bacteria, fungi and other soil biota. In other words, microbes represent the unseen majority of life on Earth. The significance of soil microbial diversity for plants and for the functioning of agricultural and natural ecosystems is still poorly understood. In our work we investigate how changes in soil microbial biodiversity and land use impact plants and ecosystem functioning. Specific attention is given to one of the oldest and most widespread symbiosis on the Earth, the symbiosis between plants and arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi. We investigate effects of AM fungi and AM fungal diversity on plant growth, nutrient cycling and ecosystem sustainability. Our results demonstrate that soil microbial communities enhance the sustainability of agro-ecosystems by promoting plant nutrient uptake and reducing nutrient losses. Our recent results revealed that the loss of soil biodiversity impairs ecosystem functioning and reduces ecosystem multifunctionality.


Recent Publications

  • Soil microbiomes and one health
    Banerjee, Samiran; van der Heijden, Marcel G. A.
    Nature Reviews Microbiology, 10.1038/s41579-022-00779-w  AUG 2022
  • Agricultural management and pesticide use reduce the functioning of beneficial plant symbionts
    Edlinger, Anna; Garland, Gina; Hartman, Kyle; Banerjee, Samiran; Degrune, Florine; Garcia-Palacios, Pablo; Hallin, Sara; Valzano-Held, Alain; Herzog, Chantal; Jansa, Jan; Kost, Elena; Maestre, Fernando T; Pescador, David Sanchez; Philippot, Laurent; Rillig, Matthias C; Romdhane, Sana; Saghai, Aurelien; Spor, Ayme; Frossard, Emmanuel; van der Heijden, Marcel G. A.
    Nature Ecology & Evolution, 10.1038/s41559-022-01799-8  AUG 2022
  • Establishing a quality management framework for commercial inoculants containing arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi
    Salomon, Matthias J.; Watts-Williams, Stephanie J.; McLaughlin, Michael J.; Bucking, Heike; Singh, Brajesh K.; et al.
    Iscience,  10.1016/j.isci.2022.104636  JUL 15 2022
  • Phylotype diversity within soil fungal functional groups drives ecosystem stability
    Nature Ecology & Evolution, 10.1038/s41559-022-01756-5  JUL 2022
  • Pedoclimatic factors and management determine soil organic carbon and aggregation in farmer fields at a regional scale
    Geoderma, 10.1016/j.geoderma.2021.115632  MAR 1 2022
  • Water uptake patterns of pea and barley responded to drought but not to cropping systems
    Sun, Qing; Klaus, Valentin H.; Wittwer, Raphael; Liu, Yujie; van der Heijden, Marcel G. A.; et al.
    Biogeosciences, 10.5194/bg-19-1853-2022  APR 1 2022
  • Arbuscular mycorrhizal inoculation and plant response strongly shape bacterial and eukaryotic soil community trajectories
    De Gruyter, Johan; Weedon, James T.; Elst, Evelyne M.; Geisen, Stefan; Van der Heijden, Marcel G. A.; et al.
    Soil Biology & Biochemistry,  10.1016/j.soilbio.2021.108524  FEB 2022
  • Lower relative abundance of ectomycorrhizal fungi under a warmer and drier climate is linked to enhanced soil organic matter decomposition (vol 232, pg 1399, 2021)
    Querejeta, Jose Ignacio; Schlaeppi, Klaus; Lopez-Garcia, Alvaro; Ondono, Sara; Prieto, Ivan; et al.
    New Phytologist, 10.1111/nph.17986  MAY 2022
  • Land-use intensification differentially affects bacterial, fungal and protist communities and decreases microbiome network complexity
    Environmental Microbiome, 10.1186/s40793-021-00396-9  JAN 6 2022
  • Reduced tillage in organic farming affects soil organic carbon stocks in temperate Europe
    Krauss, M.; Wiesmeier, M.; Don, A.; Cuperus, F.; Gattinger, A.; et al.
    Soil & Tillage Research 10.1016/j.still.2021.105262 FEB 2022
  • Global evaluation of commercial arbuscular mycorrhizal inoculants under greenhouse and field conditions
    Salomon, M. J.; Demarmels, R.; Watts-Williams, S. J.; McLaughlin, M. J.; Kafle, A.; Ketelsen, C.; Soupir, A.; Bucking, H; Cavagnaro, TR; van der Heijden, MGA
    Applied Soil Ecology 10.1016/j.apsoil.2021.104225  JAN 2022
  • Soil composition and plant genotype determine benzoxazinoid-mediated plant-soil feedbacks in cereals
    Cadot, Selma; Gfeller, Valentin; Hu, Lingfei; Singh, Nikhil; Sanchez-Vallet, Andrea; Glauser, Gaetan; Croll, Daniel; Erb, Matthias; van der Heijden, Marcel G. A.; Schlaeppi, Klaus
    Plant Cell And Environment  10.1111/pce.14184  DEC 2021
  • Lower relative abundance of ectomycorrhizal fungi under a warmer and drier climate is linked to enhanced soil organic matter decomposition
    Ignacio Querejeta, Jose; Schlaeppi, Klaus; Lopez-Garcia, Alvaro; Ondono, Sara; Prieto, Ivan; van Der Heijden, Marcel G. A.; Mar Alguacil, Maria
    New Phytologist 10.1111/nph.17661  NOV 2021
  • Microbial interkingdom associations across soil depths reveal network connectivity and keystone taxa linked to soil fine-fraction carbon content
    Banerjee, Samiran; Zhao, Cheng; Kirkby, Clive A.; Coggins, Sam; Zhao, Shuai; et al.
    Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment 10.1016/j.agee.2021.107559  OCT 15 2021
  • Ancient lineages of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi provide little plant benefit
    Sale, Verena; Palenzuela, Javier; Azcon-Aguilar, Concepcion; Sanchez-Castro, Ivan; da Silva, Gladstone Alves; et al.
    Mycorrhiza 10.1007/s00572-021-01042-5  OCT 2021
  • Contrasting Responses of Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungal Families to Simulated Climate Warming and Drying in a Semiarid Shrubland
    Alguacil, Maria Del Mar; Schlaeppi, Klaus; Lopez-Garcia, Alvaro; van der Heijden, Marcel G. A.; Querejeta, Jose Ignacio
    Microbial Ecology 10.1007/s00248-021-01886-6  OCT 2021
  • Impact of land use type and organic farming on the abundance, diversity, community composition and functional properties of soil nematode communities in vegetable farming
    Yang, Bing; Banerjee, Samiran; Herzog, Chantal; Ramirez, Andrea Corona; Dahlin, Paul; et al.
    Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment 10.1016/j.agee.2021.107488 SEP 15 2021
  • Organic and conservation agriculture promote ecosystem multifunctionality
    Wittwer, RA; Bender, SF; Hartman, K; Hydbom, S; Lima, RAA; Loaiza, V; Nemecek, T; Oehl, F; Olsson, PA; Petchey, O; Prechsl, UE; Schlaeppi, K; Scholten, T; Seitz, S; Six, J; van der Heijden, MGA
    Science Advances 10.1126/sciadv.abg6995  AUG 2021
  • Specific and conserved patterns of microbiota-structuring by maize benzoxazinoids in the field
    Cadot, Selma; Guan, Hang; Bigalke, Moritz; Walser, Jean-Claude; Jander, Georg; Erb, Matthias; van der Heijden, Marcel G. A.; Schlaeppi, Klaus
    Microbiome 10.1186/s40168-021-01049-2  MAY 7 2021
  • A coumarin exudation pathway mitigates arbuscular mycorrhizal incompatibility in Arabidopsis thaliana
    Cosme, Marco; Fernandez, Ivan; Declerck, Stephane; van der Heijden, Marcel G. A.; Pieterse, Corne M. J.
    Plant Molecular Biology 10.1007/s11103-021-01143-x  Early Access: APR 2021
  • Humidity and high temperature are important for predicting fungal disease outbreaks worldwide
    Romero, Ferran; Cazzato, Sabrina; Walder, Florian; Vogelgsang, Susanne; Bender, S. Franz; et al.
    New Phytologist, 10.1111/nph.17340,  APR 2021
  • Diversity and asynchrony in soil microbial communities stabilizes ecosystem functioning
    Wagg, Cameron; Hautier, Yann; Pellkofer, Sarah; Banerjee, Samiran; Schmid, Bernhard; et al.
    Elife, 10.7554/eLife.62813, MAR 23 2021
  • Erosion reduces soil microbial diversity, network complexity and multifunctionality
    Qiu, Liping; Zhang, Qian; Zhu, Hansong; Reich, Peter B.; Banerjee, Samiran; et al.
    Isme Journal, 10.1038/s41396-021-00913-1,  MAR 2021
  • Widespread Occurrence of Pesticides in Organically Managed Agricultural Soils-the Ghost of a Conventional Agricultural Past?
    Riedo, Judith; Wettstein, Felix E.; Rosch, Andrea; Herzog, Chantal; Banerjee, Samiran; et al.
    Environmental Science & Technology, 10.1021/acs.est.0c06405, MAR 2 2021
  • Relative qPCR to quantify colonization of plant roots by arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi
    Bodenhausen, Natacha; Deslandes-Herold, Gabriel; Waelchli, Jan; Held, Alain; van der Heijden, Marcel G. A.; et al.
    Mycorrhiza, 10.1007/s00572-020-01014-1, MAR 2021
  • Crop cover is more important than rotational diversity for soil multifunctionality and cereal yields in European cropping systems
    Garland, Gina; Edlinger, Anna; Banerjee, Samiran; Degrune, Florine; Garcia-Palacios, Pablo; et al.
    Nature Food, 10.1038/s43016-020-00210-8, JAN 2021
  • Soil biodiversity and crop diversification are vital components of healthy soils and agricultural sustainability
    Zhang, Junling; Van der Heijden, Marcel G. A.; Zhang, Fusuo; Bender, S. Franz
    Frontiers Of Agricultural Science And Engineering, 10.15302/J-FASE-2020336, SEP 2020
  • Enhanced root carbon allocation through organic farming is restricted to topsoils
    Hirte, Juliane; Walder, Florian; Hess, Julia; Buchi, Lucie; Colombi, Tino; et al.
    Science Of The Total Environment, 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.143551, FEB 10 2021
  • Widespread occurrence of pesticides in organically managed agricultural soils – the ghost of a conventional agricultural past?
    Judith Riedo, Felix E. Wettstein, Andrea Rösch, Chantal Herzog, Samiran Banerjee, Lucie Büchi, Raphaël Charles, Daniel Wächter, Fabrice Martin-Laurent, Thomas D. Bucheli, Florian Walder, and Marcel G. A. van der Heijden
    Environmental Science & Technology   JAN 2021
  • Soil biodiversity and crop diversification are vital components of healthy soils and agricultural sustainability
    Zhang, Junling; Van der Heijden, Marcel G. A.; Zhang, Fusuo; Bender, S. Franz
    Frontiers Of Agricultural Science And Engineering, 10.15302/J-FASE-2020336, SEP 2020
  • Agricultural diversification promotes multiple ecosystem services without compromising yield
    Tamburini, Giovanni; Bommarco, Riccardo; Wanger, Thomas Cherico; Kremen, Claire; van der Heijden, Marcel G. A.; et al.
    Science Advances 10.1126/sciadv.aba1715  NOV 2020
  • Symbiotic soil fungi enhance resistance and resilience of an experimental grassland to drought and nitrogen deposition
    Jia, Yangyang; van der Heijden, Marcel G. A.; Wagg, Cameron; Feng, Gu; Walder, Florian
    Journal Of Ecology 10.1111/1365-2745.13521  OCT 2020
  • A closer look at the functions behind ecosystem multifunctionality: A review
    Garland, Gina; Banerjee, Samiran; Edlinger, Anna; Miranda Oliveira, Emily; Herzog, Chantal; et al.
    Journal Of Ecology, 10.1111/1365-2745.13511 OCT 2020
  • Cover crops as a tool to reduce reliance on intensive tillage and nitrogen fertilization in conventional arable cropping systems
    Wittwer, Raphael A.; van der Heijden, Marcel G. A.
    Field Crops Research, 10.1016/j.fcr.2020.107736, APR 1 2020
  • Cropping practices manipulate abundance patterns of root and soil microbiome members paving the way to smart farming (vol 6, 14, 2018)
    Hartman, Kyle; van der Heijden, Marcel G. A.; Wittwer, Raphael A.; Banerjee, Samiran; Walser, Jean-Claude; et al.
    Microbiome  DOI: 10.1186/s40168-020-00855-4  Published: MAY 17 2020
  • Establishment success and crop growth effects of an arbuscular mycorrhizal fungus inoculated into Swiss corn fields
    Bender, SF; Schlaeppi, K; Held, A; Van der Heijden, MGA
    AGRICULTURE ECOSYSTEMS & ENVIRONMENT, 273 13-24; 10.1016/j.agee.2018.12.003 MAR 1 2019
  • Petunia- and Arabidopsis-Specific Root Microbiota Responses to Phosphate Supplementation
    Bodenhausen, Natacha; Somerville, Vincent; Desiro, Alessandro; Walser, Jean-Claude; Borghi, Lorenzo; et al.
    Phytobiomes Journal   DOI: 10.1094/PBIOMES-12-18-0057-R  2019
Van der Heijden Marcel

Prof. Dr. Marcel van der Heijden
University of Zurich
Department of Plant and Microbial Biology (IPMB)
8008 Zurich

Tel: +41 (0)58 468 72 78

  • Soil biodiversity and ecosystem functioning
  • Mycorrhizal ecology
  • Ecosystem sustainability 
  • Microbial control of nutrient cycling and plant nutrient uptake


  • Ecosystem ecology and ecosystem multifunctionality
  • Molecular cross-talk between plants and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi
  • Plant-microbe interactions
  • Responses of plants and soil organisms to agricultural management and environmental change