Expert Details

Expert in Agriculture Biologicals | Plant Microbe Interaction | Regenerative Agriculture | Soil Microbiology | Soil Health | Microbiome| Ecotoxicology | Restoration Biology

Expert ID: 737051 Oklahoma, USA

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Expert's research is focused on increasing the productivity of agronomically important crop by the usage of endomycorrhizal fungi Serendipita vermifera (=Sebacina vermifera). Serendipita vermifera imparts extraordinary biomass gains to plants under normal or stressed conditions with little or no host specificity. However, the agronomic utility of Serendipitaceae is hampered by the paucity of strains available, the large majority being isolated from Australian orchids. Expert has addressed this constraint by isolating the first North American strain of Serendipita, named Serendipita vermifera ssp. bescii.

Multi-location field trials with Serendipita bescii on a variety of agronomically important crop for consecutive years has shown a significant increase in their crop productivity. A native US strain, (unlike the Australian strains) reduces the likeliness of invasiveness or other adverse effects on the native soil microbiome. For this reason, the discovery of S. bescii not only fills a major gap for field application for improving crop productivity in USA but also opens up new opportunities for commercial product development.

In parallel, he had extensively studied the metabolism and symbiotic lifestyle of Serendipita bescii to elucidate the underlying mechanism behind plant growth promotion and nutrient acquisition efficiency by dissecting its transcriptome and proteome. These studies provide novel insight into the variety of mechanisms employed by Serendipita bescii for mycorrhizal symbiosis, nutrient mobilization, and subsequent crop improvement in agronomically important crops.

Expert's career interest is to bring together his knowledge and skills in plant-microbe interaction for the development of microbial products for sustainable agriculture. Specifically, he is interested in harnessing the power of microbes, particularly mycorrhizae, not only to increase the productivity of crop plants but also to understand their impact on the plant microbiome. Such an understanding will help to exploit them more efficiently for harnessing their pleiotropic effects on plant fitness for specific agro-climatic conditions.

TECHNICAL EXPERTISE
Plant-Soil-Microbe interactions | Mycorrhizal inoculum production | Plant health and nutrition| Microbial seed coating | Microbial Discovery Pipeline | Proteomics | Transcriptomics | Confocal Microscopy | Microbiome Data Analysis | R | QIIME 2 | NGS Data Analysis

Education

Year Degree Subject Institution
Year: 2006 Degree: Ph.D. Subject: Microbiology Institution: TERI University
Year: 2000 Degree: MSc Subject: Microbiology Institution: Vikram University
Year: 1998 Degree: BSc Subject: Microbiology Institution: Bangalore University

Work History

Years Employer Title Department
Years: 2021 to Present Employer: Undisclosed Title: Visiting Associate Professor Department: Department of Natural Sciences
Responsibilities:
Research is focused on the regenerative production of bioenergy feedstock switchgrass. Working towards improving soil health, including soil organic carbon (SOC), nutrient cycling, and amount and resilience of switchgrass production inoculated with S. bescii and plant growth promoting rhizobacteria. Also interested in understanding how microbes modulate root architecture and chemistry, that contribute to soil organic carbon accrual, and modeling plant-microbe-soil processes to understand changes in SOC, water and nutrient dynamics related to crop yield and resilience.
Years Employer Title Department
Years: 2011 to 2021 Employer: Noble Research Institute Title: Senior Research Associate Department: Research
Responsibilities:
The research focused on enhancing the biomass of agronomically essential crops by using plant growth promoting fungi Serendipita vermifera. Has been shown to support the development of agronomically important plants effectively, the broader implementation of the fungus in agricultural contexts is limited by a paucity of suitable strains. Addressed this constraint by isolating the first North American strain of Serendipita, named Serendipita vermifera ssp. bescii, from switchgrass growing in Oklahoma (U.S. patent pending). A native U.S. strain would reduce the likeliness of invasiveness on the native soil microbiome. For this reason, discovery of S. bescii fills a significant gap for field application for improving crop productivity in USA. In addition, this strain has drawn the attention from multiple biotech companies engaged in the development and commercialization of microbes for agriculture.
Years Employer Title Department
Years: 2010 to 2011 Employer: Academia Sinica Title: Postdoctoral Fellow Department: Institute of Plant and Microbial Biology
Responsibilities:
Plants have evolved mechanisms to alleviate iron deficiency, which includes recalibrating metabolic systems to maintain the cellular iron level for proper functioning. Differential alternate splicing (DAS) of mRNA, leading to the generation of functionally distinct protein isoforms, helps the plant cope with a wide variety of stresses. Have analyzed alternative splicing events in Arabidopsis thaliana in response to stress induced by iron deficiency during my tenure in Academia Sinica. We found that mRNA isoforms that normally require greater amounts of iron for their synthesis could be manufactured via other routes requiring less iron, allowing the plant to resume nearly normal function when lacking a vital nutrient.
Years Employer Title Department
Years: 2008 to 2010 Employer: University of Lyon Title: Postdoctoral Fellow Department: Microbiologie, Adaptation et Pathogénie
Responsibilities:
Nickel and cobalt are essential nutrients for bacteria but when present at high concentrations they display toxic effects. Investigated the effect of inhibitory concentrations of Nickel or Cobalt on the model soil bacterium Pseudomonas putida KT2440 using a proteomic approach. Found that cobalt-induced stress led to the upregulation of genes that produce antioxidant proteins and reduced the damage done by reactive oxygen species, whereas nickel toxicity lead to upregulation of genes encoding superoxide dismutase and a corresponding increase in the biosynthesis of the amino acid glutamate that plays a crucial role in cell survival.
Years Employer Title Department
Years: 2006 to 2008 Employer: TERI Title: Associate Fellow Department: Centre for Mycorrhizal Research
Responsibilities:
Fly ash, which is the result of coal combustion in thermal power plants, has been recognized as a major environmental threat. F's Ph.D. dissertation, identified several ectomycorrhizal fungi that can grow in fly ash by tolerating the heavy metal toxicity in the deposits. Established a correlation between low molecular weight organic acid exudation and heavy metal uptake and validated their roles in metal tolerance. Based on this work, he subsequently received a grant entitled Development of protocol for synthesis of nanoparticles using heavy metal tolerant microorganisms from the Department of Biotechnology, Govt. of India as Principal Investigator to investigate the ability of the identified strains to synthesize nanoparticles.

Career Accomplishments

Professional Appointments
Editorial Board/Scientific Community Services:
1. Review Editor: Mycologia, Frontiers in Microbiology, Frontiers in Plant Science GCB Bioenergy, Bioresource technology, Symbiosis, Canadian Journal of Microbiology, FEMS Microbiology
2. Peer Review Committee: US Department of Energy Office for Science Graduate Student Research
3. Examiner of a higher degree research thesis: Australian National University
4. Peer Review Committee: Oklahoma State Science & Engineering Fair
Awards / Recognition
Competitive grants received as Principal/Co-Investigator: 5
Medical / Professional
Visiting PhD student
1. Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia
Project: Transcriptome analysis of the mycorrhizal roots collected from heavy metal contaminated habitat.
2. University of Neuchatel, Switzerland
Project: Community profiling of endophytic bacteria associated with Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungal spores.
3. INRA, Nancy, France
Project: Isolation of phosphate solubilizing and siderophore producing bacteria from ectomycorhizosphere.
Publications and Patents Summary
Original research and review papers: 22
Invited book chapters: 3
Extension/Producer outreach publications: 2
Manuscripts under preparation: 4

Additional Experience

Training / Seminars
Mentoring/Supervision Experience:
- Provided hands-on training to high school students from Southern Oklahoma Technology Centre on isolation, purification, and identification of arbuscular mycorrhizal spores from the soil.
- Supervises one Research Assistant and one Research Associate for day-to-day research activities.

Fields of Expertise

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