MIE celebrates Plant Health, featuring Crispus Mbaluto
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. February 2020 is the month of Crispus Mbaluto.
“My name is Crispus Mbaluto. I am a PhD student in the research group MIE at iDiv. I came from Kenya on a personal research grant funded by the German Foreign Exchange Service (DAAD) to do my PhD research in Germany. My research project focuses on how tomato plants defend themselves against root and shoot pests. In particular, I study whether parasitic root pests, such as nematodes, affect the level of plant resistance to shoot feeding insects, such as aphids or caterpillars. Just imagine nematodes –these are very small worms – eating the roots of a tomato plant. This feeding might cause the plant to produce bitter defense compounds allover. Many insects do not like these compounds, and caterpillars feeding on the leaves may stop feeding. In effect, the nematodes may help the tomato plant to combat caterpillars, even though nematodes are pests themselves!
In my research, I combine greenhouse experiments with molecular and chemical analyses. I found that - in some cases- nematodes indeed make plants more resistant to shoot insects. My research advances our knowledge plant-mediated interactions and may help tomato growers manage pests in a more sustainable manner. This can help to reduce reliance on pesticides, which helps the economy as well as biodiversity.”