University of Groningen-GELIFES, The Netherlands

prof dr Joana Falcao Salles





prof dr Theo Elzenga






dr Stefanie Vink






dr Xiu Jia

I am a PhD at the University of Groningen. My thesis focuses on ecological processes driving soil bacterial communities assembly across space and time, especially for the members of the rare biosphere. Currently, I am working as a postdoctoral researcher on the potatoMETAbiome. In this project, I am particularly interested in the interactions between soil microbiomes and a few selected potato genotypes, in order to increase the fitness of these potato genotypes in the field and achieve sustainable potato cropping.


Tianci Zhao

I am a PhD student in University of Groningen. I am interested in the interactions between plants and soil microbes (bacteria, fungi, phages, protozoa). I want to find the microbial community that can have more beneficial interactions with plants, thereby reducing the dependence of plants on fertilizers and pesticides. And my research aim is to link the microbiome to plant breeding.


Helmholtz Zentrum München, Germany

dr Viviane Radl






Benoit Martins






Michael Schloter

Michael Schloter is Head of the Institute for Comparative Microbiome Analysis at the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Health in Munich, Germany and Professor for Microbiology at the Technical University in Munich. The main interest of MS is the analysis of host – microbe interactions and the evolution of metaorganisms. His vision is to develop strategies for utilizing microbiota and their unique functional traits to improve environmental and human health.



University of Limerick-Biological Sciences, Ireland

dr Achim Schmalenberger






Université de Pau et des Pays de l’Adour, France

dr Eleonore Attard






Jyotsna Nepal

Currently I am doing my PhD at the University of Pau and the Pays de l’Adour (UPPA), France. I want to understand how plants interact with microbes surrounding them and how we can exploit this interaction to maintain soil health as well as protect plants from diseases and pests with minimum/ no use of chemicals.




Warsaw University of Life Sciences, Poland

dr Mariusz Maciejczak






Polish Academy of Sciences-Institute of Agrophysics, Poland

prof Magdalena Frąc

Head of the Department of Soil and Plant System, supervisor of Laboratory of Molecular and Environmental Microbiology, chair holder of the Molecular and Environmental Microbiology group with more than15 years of experience in research in the area of microbial activity and biochemical properties, including functional and genetic diversity of soil microbial communities. She is also focused on agricultural organic waste utilization, bioproducts and biofertilizers for agroecology, microbial indicators of soil quality and microbiological markers of ecological soil status. Her interests concern plant-soil microbiome interactions as well as biotechnological solutions for diagnostics, control and monitoring of key fungal pathogens in sustainable organic agriculture. Other relevant experiences include coordination and implementation of national and international research and infrastructure projects (~8 Mio €) and publication ~ 90 scientific articles in international journals (h-index: 17, cited: >970 times).

Jacek Panek

Jacek Panek, PhD Eng., assistant professor at Department of Soil and Plant System, Institute of Agrophysics, Polish Academy of Sciences. Expert in molecular diagnostics of fungal pathogens in agricultural resources. Expertise in Sanger and second-generation sequencing, bioinformatics and in BIOLOG microbial metabolic profiling.



Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology, Germany

Alexander Erban






dr Ellen Zuther





Stephanie Schaarschmidt





Joachim Kopka





In memoriam Dirk Hincha

With great sadness we have to announce the sudden death of Dirk Hincha, group leader of the central infrastructure group ‘Genomics and Transcript Profiling’ (Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology, Germany). Dirk passed away after a heart attack on the 10th of August 2020 at the age of 62.

Dirk was a well-known expert in abiotic stress research in plants and biophysical aspects of protein interactions with membranes. His current research concerned the investigation of natural genetic diversity for molecular mechanisms of cold, heat, high night temperature and drought stress tolerance in Arabidopsis, potato and rice, the identification of molecular signatures of plant stress memory, integrated omics approaches for the identification of stress tolerance markers and the exploitation of the rice transcriptome for gene discovery. His research was driven by a fusion of experimental work in molecular biology, genomics and quantitative genetic with bioinformatics and computation. In parallel, he pursued a comprehensive research program on structure-function relationships of Arabidopsis LEA proteins included modelling of membrane-protein interactions with molecular dynamics simulations. His deep knowledge together with an overview of the newest developments in all these areas was published in over 183 research articles. He additionally edited two influential method books on plant cold acclimation.

Dirk studied biology in Bochum and Wurzburg. He carried out his PhD in Wurzburg in the group of Prof. Ulrich Heber, supported by the Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes. After completing his PhD in 1988, he moved to the group of Prof. Schmitt at the Free University in Berlin, where he habilitated in 1993. He was awarded a prestigious Heisenberg Fellow of the German Research Foundation, which he used to pursue research at the Institute of Plant Physiology and Microbiology at the Free University in Berlin and at the Section of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California at Davis, USA. His next move was to the MPIMP where, after a short period as research scientist in the group of Arnd Heyer, in 2002 he was appointed group leader of the central infrastructure group ‘Genomics and Transcript Profiling’. He spent 18 fruitful years at the MPIMP, and concurrently was associated with the University of Potsdam as a lecturer.

Dirk was not only an extremely dedicated and influential researcher. He was a great collaborator. He collaborated with many groups in the MPIMP, the University of Potsdam and the Berlin Universities. He was welcomed into several huge research consortia, including two currently running projects, a SusCrop Era-Net project on the potato METAbiome with ten academic and industrial partners in six European countries, and the CRC 973 on priming and memory of organismic responses to stress with 20 regional research groups. Dirk was not only a dedicated basic scientist. He was also driven by the wish to contribute to applied projects to aid breeding and crop improvement. He repeatedly gained funding from the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development for research projects with the International Rice Research Institute or from the Agency for Renewable Resources (FNR), for drought stress projects on potato. Dirk was a member of the editorial boards of the journals Cryobiology, Plant, Cell and Environment and the Journal of Plant Physiology. He enthusiastically enjoyed working in science and could not imagine to retire from constantly creating new hypothesis, developing new methods and producing and publishing new and exciting results.

Dirk was a considerate and generous colleague and mentor who always supported younger scientists in an extraordinary way taking care not only of their scientific career, but additionally of their personal ideas and wishes. He supervised many PhD and master students and guest scientists, whose lives and careers were deeply affected by his kind advice and support. Alone in the last six years, eight PhD students, five Master students and two bachelors students completed their Theses in his group, and another four are currently working towards their PhD.

Dirk leaves behind a daughter and a son. Our thoughts are with them in this difficult time.

The institute thanks Dirk for his steady commitment and his creativity. We will miss him sorely and will always bear him in our remembrance.
Ellen Zuther
Mark Stitt (Managing director of the MPIMP)

All of the participants of the potatoMETAbiome project thank Dirk for his expertise, his input and advice in the past 1,5 years.
We will miss him.
Joana Falcao Salles

Bonin Research Centre, Laboratory of molecular diagnostics & biochemistry, Poland

Krzysztof Treder






Technical University of Graz, Austria

Gabriele Berg






Averis Seeds BV, The Netherlands

dr Johan Hopman, Manager Breeding & Research






ECOstyle Group, The Netherlands

Pier Oosterkamp, Technical Director