ERC-Starting Grant Award for Prof. Sara Kleindienst

October 1, 2023 / Daniel Raja-Nigl

Surfactants from Glyphosate Application might Impact Microbial Performance with potential Implications for the Environment and Climate

Glyphosate, the world's most widely used herbicide, has raised concerns due to its potential toxicity and environmental persistence. While microbial degradation of glyphosate exists, it is important to consider that glyphosate is not applied in isolation but as part of a formulation, which includes surfactants as a major component. Surfactants have long been considered inert, but a critical knowledge gap exists regarding their effects on environmental microorganisms.

To systematically investigate these effects, a multidisciplinary research effort is planned including:

  1. Pure Isolate and Enrichment Culture Studies: Cultures will help to understand the fundamental impacts of surfactants and glyphosate on microorganisms.
  2. Microcosm Experiments: Controlled experiments will be established to replicate natural conditions and assess the effects of surfactant-glyphosate mixtures on microbial communities and their functions.
  3. Field Experiments: Real-world scenarios will be studied, both in the presence and absence of surfactants, to identify key microbial players, quantify their activities related to glyphosate degradation, biogeochemical cycles, and greenhouse gas formation.

This pioneering research endeavors to comprehensively reveal the effects of surfactants on environmental microorganisms, while also advancing our understanding of the complex interactions among human activities, changes in the environment, and climate.

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