Microbiomics research can be leveraged to develop innovative solutions towards food systems research and development. International domain experts recently convened to deliberate the opportunities and blind spots in the soil-plant-food-human gut microbiomics nexus. The event was inclusive of domain experts in each of the areas in the food system, from production to consumption. Countries and institutions represented were South Africa (University of Pretoria, University of Stellenbosch and CapeBio Technologies), Austria (Graz University of Technology), Netherlands (Wageningen University and Research), Germany (Julius Kühn Institut and the Helmholtz German Research Center for Environmental Health), as well as the USA (University of Pittsburgh).
The workshop was chaired by Professor Lise Korsten, Co-Director of the DSI-NRF Centre of Excellence in Food Security. The workshop’s main aims were:
- to formally introduce this group of AgriMicrobiomics scientists from all over the globe to each other to encourage the creation of an AgriMicrobiome network
- to create a specialist group to collaborate on AgriMicrobiome research
- identify areas of collaboration amongst group members
- to seek and secure financial support for collaborative endeavours.
The trans-disciplinary and complementary approach of the speakers allowed for the identification of multiple opportunities to explore the role of microbes along the whole food system. The diversity of technical approaches and expertise housed at the various institutions were clearly indicative of the collective strength of the group, who indicated goodwill and a strong willingness to collaborate on the interdependent issues the One Health concept is facing. Several possible multi-institutional projects were identified, and progress is already underway to conceptualize and submit programmes for financial support.
The future focus of the group will be on the soil/water/commercial and indigenous crops/human gut interdependencies, following a One Health approach. The proposed work under discussion was relevant to multiple Sustainable Development Goals; including SDG1 (No Poverty), SDG 2 (Zero Hunger), SDG 4 (Quality Education), SDG 6 (Clean water and sanitation) as well as SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production).
The African Centre for Gene Technologies and the DSI/NRF Centre of Excellence in Food Security would like to thank the following speakers for their time and highly constructive inputs during the event:
- Professor Lise Korsten, University of Pretoria
- Professor Don Cowan, Centre for Microbial Ecology and Genomics, University of Pretoria
- Professor Gabriele Berg, Graz University of Technology
- Professor Leo van Overbeek, Wageningen University and Research
- Professor Kornelia Smalla, Julius Kühn Institut
- Professor Michael Schloter, Helmholz Center Munich
- Stephen O’Keefe, African Microbiome Institute, University of Stellenbosch and University of Pittsburgh
- Dr Mubanga Kabwe, CapeBio Technologies
- Dr Jarishma Gokul, Department Plant and Soil Sciences, University of Pretoria.
The Organising Committee:
Prof Lise Korsten
Dr Jarishma Gokul
Mr Molati Nonyane
Dr John Becker