Dr. Sofie De Meyer

Dr. Sofie De Meyer's picture
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The family of leguminous plants is one of the major plant families in the world and the symbiosis between leguminous plants and certain bacteria, collectively called rhizobia, is well known since the 19th century. The plant supplies nutrition and a safe shelter for the bacteria. In return the bacteria fix nitrogen and deliver this to the plant, enabling it to grow well in nitrogen-limited conditions. This symbiosis is thus of agricultural and economic importance, especially in challenged environments.

During her PhD work, Sofie De Meyer studied the diversity of root nodule bacteria (RNB) present in indigenous and exotic legumes in Flanders (Belgium). Within the investigated root nodules the majority of the bacteria belonged to traditional rhizobia (85%), (Bradyrhizobium, Ensifer (former Sinorhizobium), Mesorhizobium and Rhizobium). Additionally several non-rhizobial endophytes belonging to several genera in the Alphaproteobacteria, Betaproteobacteria, Gammaproteobacteria, Actinobacteria, Firmibacteria, Flavobacteria and Sphingobacteria were isolates from root nodules. This large collection of bacteria revealed the presence of several novel species which were studied using a polyphasic approach and described as novel species, Bosea lupini, Bosea lathyri, Bosea robiniae and Tardiphaga robiniae. Additionally, on a selection of strains symbiosis genes were investigated which revealed the presence of several symbiovars, including genistearum, glycinearum, loti, meliloti, officinalis, trifolii and viciae.

Sofie De Meyer is involved in an international collaboration with Murdoch University (Australia), Ghent University (Belgium) and University of Cape Town (South-Africa) studying the potential agricultural role of fynbos plant species. The fynbos in the western cape of South Africa contains plant species which are adapted to acid, sandy soils with low annual rainfall.  After her PhD, Sofie De Meyer established a collaboration with Prof. John Howieson (Centre of Rhizobium studies, Murdoch University) studying Lebeckia ambigua and its Burkholderia symbionts. This indicated the presence of several novel species and two promising strains for potential inocula production.  Furthermore, collaborations were established with Dr. Samson Chimphango (University of Cape Town, South-Africa) and Prof. Peter Vandamme (LM-UGent, Ghent University, Belgium), where the role of UCT is to identify novel fynbos plants for agriculture purposes and the role of LM-UGent is to identify and characterize the root nodule bacteria using polyphasic approach.