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PERN - Pan-European Rhizosphere Network

European - Russian initiative on Banking Rhizosphere Micro-Organisms


Schweizerische Sammlung für Arbuskuläre Mykorrhizapilze (SAF)
Agroscope Reckenholz-tänikon, Research Station (ART)



Research Station ART is a research institute of the Swiss Federal Government and performs research for agriculture and nature. The Ecological Farming Systems Group focuses on plant-soil interactions and the development of sustainable farming systems. Specific attention is given to arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF), a group of beneficial plant root associated microbes that form mutualistic associations with the majority of land plants, including many crops. AMF are especially interesting for sustainable agriculture due to their ability to support plant growth by acquiring limiting nutrients.

The Swiss mycorrhizal culture collection was established in 2010. This collection contains over 100 different AMF strains isolated from grassland and arable land in Middle Europe. Currently many new strains are being isolated into single spore cultures. The aim of this collection is to investigate the ecological and agronomic function of AMF and AMF diversity. An important aim is also to bring AMF taxa into culture that have not yet been brought into culture ("cultivate the uncultivable") and assess their function. Greenhouse and field inoculation trials are performed to test whether AMF and AMF diversity enhance crop yield, and to investigate whether AMF can be used for the restoration of degraded areas or harsh environments (ski-slopes, green roofs, etc.).

The ecological farming systems group is a new multidisciplinary research team of 10 people (4 scientists, 4 PhDs & 2 technicians) consisting of fungal taxonomists, ecologists, agronomists & soil scientists. Members of the ecological farming systems group have extensive experience with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and manage several projects funded by the Swiss and Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research. At ART well equipped laboratories, greenhouse and fields are available as well as excellent facilities for the morphological and molecular characterisation of fungi.


Key persons involved

Prof. Marcel van der Heijden heads the ecological farming systems group and is extra-ordinary professor on Mycorrhizal Ecology at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. He has 15 years of experience with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. He is first author of a highly cited paper which demonstrates the importance of mycorrhizal fungal diversity for plant growth, plant diversity and ecosystem functioning (van der Heijden et al. 1998, Nature 396). He edited a book "mycorrhizal ecology" and he is author of over 25 peer reviewed scientific papers on arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and nitrogen fixing bacteria.
Dr. Fritz Oehl has 10 years experience with the taxonomy of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and he is curator of the Swiss mycorrhizal culture collection. He published a range of papers on the taxonomy of AMF and described several new AMF species.
Dr. Hans-Rudolf Forrer heads the ecological plant protection group. In this group, the effects of biocontrol agents, mainly entomopathogenic fungi against soil insects in grassland and in arable farming, are being investigated for over 20 years. Population genetic and ecological aspects of these fungi are addressed in collaboration with Dr. Jürg Enkerli and Dr. Franco Widmer of the molecular ecology group at ART.



Fritz Oehl (
Marcel van der Heijden (

Postal address : Agroscope Tänikon 1, 8356 Ettenhausen, Suisse