Understanding the Microbiomes of Green Leafy Vegetables using Multi-omics Approaches

Food security is a very important issue nowadays. It is an already complex issue made worse by climate change, and the growing scarcity of arable land due to rapid urbanisation. The UN has reported that “815 million people are hungry today, and the additional 2 billion people expected to be undernourished by 2050”. Goal 2 (Zero Hunger) of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) calls for an increased investment in agricultural research to increase the agricultural productive capacity, particularly in developing countries.

Genetic engineering of food crops has the potential to provide the promising solutions, by providing the technology to develop higher yield, drought resistance, and nutritionally-enhanced food crops. However, the public perception of genetically-modified organisms (GMO) and transgenic plants has hampered the acceptance of many GM products.

Advancements in microbiology and microbial ecology has shed light on the importance of plant-associated microorganisms, particularly the community around the root region (rhizosphere). It is now known that there is a complex network of interactions between plants and their root microbes, increasing the plant nutrient uptake, and provide resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses. The rhizosphere is populated by a diverse range of microorganisms, and rhizobacteria are the bacteria colonizing this habitat with the ones that promote plant growth are called plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR) (Beneduzi et al., 2012). These PGPR can be used to enhance agricultural productivity without using plant genetic modifications, or synthetic fertilisers. But understanding these PGPR and how they interact with their plant hosts requires the latest technologies in microbial ecology, molecular biology, plant sciences and chemical analysis.

I joined the Swarup Lab at the National University of Singapore (NUS) in January 2019, as part of my post-doctoral training, to learn more about these latest technologies. My work here involves the use of multi-omics analysis (metagenomics, metatranscriptomics and metabolomics) to study plant-microbial interactions, particularly how the PGPR at the root region affect the growth of green leafy vegetables. Multi-omics analysis uses information obtained from DNA, RNA and small chemical molecules (known as metabolites) found in the plant rhizosphere. I will also use advanced culturing tools to culture and characterise the complex bacterial communities in the rhizosphere. Bacteria found to have beneficial plant improvements traits can be applied to enhance the yield of agricultural products, in this case the leafy vegetables commonly used in urban farming. This microbial-assisted plant growth enhancement technology can lead to a more sustainable agriculture, lowering the use of chemical fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides.



UN Sustainable Development Goals (https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/)

Beneduzi et al., 2012. Plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR): Their potential as antagonists and biocontrol agents. Genet Mol Biol. 35(4 Suppl): 1044-1051.

Call for Abstract: Taiwan-Malaysia Workshop on Clean Water and Sustainable Energy 2019

The Taiwan-Malaysia Innovation Centre for Clean Water and Sustainable Energy (WISE Centre) will organize the inaugural Taiwan-Malaysia Workshop on Clean Water and Sustainable Energy, to be held at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, Johor Bahru, on 5-6 … [Continue reading]

UTM Delegation Visited Taiwanese Universities and Research Institute

Our involvement in the Taiwan-Malaysia Innovation Centre for Clean Water and Sustainable Energy (WISE Centre) continues with the study and networking trip to NTHU Taiwan and the affiliated institutes in March 2019. Read more about the trip here. … [Continue reading]

Congratulations Abdullahi!

Abdullahi Mohammed has successfully submitted his final thesis for PhD award. He was working on isolating and characterising psychrotolerant bacteria from Antarctic environment for lower temperature biohydrogen production. Psychrotolerant bacteria … [Continue reading]

Congratulations Lily!

Lily Suhana Ayoub has successfully completed her MPhil thesis correction and awarded the MPhil degree in Biosciences in January 2019. Lily was working on identification and characterisations of biohydrogen-producing bacteria from cassava-processing … [Continue reading]

UTM and National Tsing Hua University established the Malaysia-Taiwan Innovation Centre for Clean Water and Sustainable Energy

We are happy to be part of the newly-formed Malaysia-Taiwan Innovation Centre for Clean Water and Sustainable Energy (abbreviated as WISE), with the other UTM partners being RISE and IPASA. National Tsing Hua University (NTHU) is the Taiwanese … [Continue reading]

UTM Synergy 4.0: Faculty Consolidations

Effective of 1 July 2018, the existing 18 faculties of UTM will be merged into only 7. The Vice Chancellor Prof. Datuk Ir. Dr. Wahid Omar was quoted as saying "This major transformation is meant to open up more opportunities for synergy and … [Continue reading]

New ÄKTA pure for our Protein and Proteomic Needs

The Faculty has acquired an ÄKTA pure system, which has a higher capability for protein purification than the current ÄKTAprime plus available in the lab. It also comes equipped with His-tag, ion exchange, and gel chromatography columns. Members of … [Continue reading]

Malaysian Educational Module on Responsible Conduct of Research

The Young Scientists Network-Academy of Sciences Malaysia (YSN-ASM) has launched the Malaysian Education Module on Responsible Conduct of Research, in February 2018, in conjunction with the Regional Conference on Safe and Secure Science at Sunway … [Continue reading]

Congratulations Nurain and Tan!

Congratulations to Nurain M Tahir and Tan Sing Ngoh on successfully presenting their reports during the recent Final Year Undergraduate Project (FYUP) Seminar. Nurain also received the best presenter award. Well done! … [Continue reading]