Navigation auf


Department of Plant and Microbial Biology

Welcome to Marcel van der Heijden's group

Our research bridges “Agroecology” and “Plant-Microbiome-Interactions”. We investigate agro-ecosystems and crops and study how plant microbiomes, mycorrhizal fungi and soil biodiversity influence plant growth and ecosystem functioning. Our aim is to develop sustainable agro-ecosystems that are environmentally friendly and productive. The research in our group is a collaboration between the University of Zurich and Agroscope, the Swiss centre of excellence for agricultural research. 



Key questions that we study include:

  1. What is the role of soil micro-organisms and plant microbiomes in determining plant growth and ecosystem functioning?
  2. What is the ecological significance of mycorrhizal fungi and mycorrhizal diversity and is it possible to promote plant yield by introducing or promoting beneficial mycorrhizal fungi in the field.
  3. How do microbiomes function and is there a link between microbiome richness and composition with plant growth and ecosystem multifunctionality.
  4. Is it possible to use soil ecological engineering and microbiome management to improve the sustainability and productivity of agro-ecosystems.
  5. What is the impact of agricultural management (organic, conservation and conventional agriculture, pesticides) on soil life, soil biodiversity and ecosystem services delivered by soil biota.
  6. What is the agronomic, ecological and environmental performance of the main Swiss/European farming systems.

Further information and an introduction is given in the “research section.


Agroecology and Plant-Microbiome Interactions: We investigate how soil microorganisms such as mycorrhizal fungi (right), nitrogen fixing bacteria (left), earthworms (middle) and a wide range of other microbes influence plant growth and ecosystem functioning. Photo © Agroscope (Gabriela Brändle, Urs Zihlmann) and LANAT (Andreas Chervet).

Weiterführende Informationen


Teaser text