Volatile Communication

How plants and microbes talk

Wednesday April 19th

19:45 live music 
20:15 speakers
Café Loburg





Spring is in the air, the prime season in which all our senses get stimulated by cheerful sounds, colors, and odors. It is easy to conceive how humans perceive their environment but did you ever wonder how microbes, plants and insects perceive each other? How do plants and microbes attract their best friend and repel their enemies? The answer is blowing in the wind… Volatile Communication! Signals in air can travel aboveground and belowground and work at day and night. No wonder that communication via volatiles is common and all around us even though we as humans perceive only a tiny fraction of this.

In this Science café we will dive into the hidden world of volatile communication, below- & aboveground! Our first speaker, Dr. Paolina Garbeva, will discuss how soil microbes ‘talk’ to each other and to plants, and how relevant this is in the development of plant protection against soil borne diseases. Our second speaker, Dr. Bob Douma, will enlighten us on how volatile communication aboveground between plants and insects works, and how experiments from controlled conditions can be translate to the field in the context of bio-control and breeding for indirect plant defenses.

Dr. Paolina Garbeva is Senior Scientist in the department of Microbial Ecology at NIOO-KNAW. The focus of her work is to understand the fundamental mechanisms of microbial chemical interactions and communication with particular attention for volatile and water-soluble secondary metabolites. She uses omics-based tools, advanced analytical chemistry and novel imaging techniques to decipher, explore and exploit the so far unknown belowground microbe-microbe and plant-microbe chemical interactions and communication.

Dr. Bob Douma is Assistant Professor at Centre for Crop Systems Analysis at Wageningen University (WU). He studies the ecology of plants in the context of pests and diseases (primarily aboveground) and uses advanced modelling tools to unravel the interaction between pests/pathogens and plants. Bob Douma did his BSc in Groningen & Wageningen, obtained his MSc at WU and his PhD at the VU. He (re)joined WU in 2012 to work on a project funded by the EFSA on models that predicts the entry of alien plant pests and obtained a NWO VENI grant to study the role of plant-plant communication through volatiles when subjected to herbivory through modelling and experimentation. Dr. Douma seeks to do research that has implications for practice. For example, in one of his projects he tries to find out how crop mixtures can be used to suppress diseases, and which factors contribute to this diseases suppressive effect of crop mixtures.


Exploring and discussing science with professionals, funky music and a drink.