MIE celebrates Plant Health, featuring Rebekka Sontowski
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The year 2020 is the United Nations' International Year of Plant Health (IYPH). Every month, one of our team members introduces his or her interest in plant health. June 2020 is the month of Rebekka Sontowksi:
“My name is Rebekka Sontowski and I am fascinated by the wide variety of molecular mechanisms that herbivores possess to adapt to plant defence strategies. It seems like nothing is impossible in nature! At the moment, I am a PhD student in the Molecular Interaction Ecology research group at the German Centre of integrative Biodiversity (iDiv) in Leipzig. In my PhD project, which is part of the CRC ChemBioSys at FSU Jena, I study detoxification mechanisms of plant defence compounds in belowground herbivores, using cabbage root fly (Delia radicum) as example. The larvae of these flies are specialists on the roots of crucifers, including many agriculturally important crops, such as cabbage, broccoli and oil seed rape. That makes the cabbage root fly a much dreaded pest in agriculture. I want to understand how these larvae detoxify plant defence compounds and which role gut microbes play in this process. To answer this question, I combine insect performance experiments with molecular and chemical methods. Understanding the herbivore’s adaptation mechanims is a first step to develop sustainable agricultural practices to improve the health of our daily food plants”.