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Plasma Agriculture

The research group "Plasma Agriculture" examines and develops plasma-based treatment methods, both for seeds and for growing plants. The application- and basic-oriented research topics include:

  • Investigations regarding the influence of direct and indirect plasma treatments on germination and growth processes of seeds
  • Investigations regarding the influence of plasma treatments on plant stress adaptation, taking into account plant’s antioxidative metabolism
  • Investigations regarding the microbial decontamination of seeds using plasma-based technologies
  • Design, construction and characterization of plasma sources taking into account various adjustable process parameters

An interdisciplinary team of scientists and technicians is working on these tasks, contributing expertise from plant biology, microbiology, plasma physics and constructive plant engineering. The research group examines the effects of physical plasmas on plants at the laboratory scale and develops suitable plasma sources for seed and plant treatment. The results from these tests form the basis for applications in agricultural crop production. Against the background of the planned stricter EU regulations for pesticides and with regard to climate changes, alternatives are to be developed that make it possible to reduce the use of agrochemicals. The research group also focuses on investigations of plasma effects based on reactive nitrogen and oxygen species (RONS). Depending on the dose of the corresponding plasma source, reactive species can trigger oxidative and/or nitrosative stress reactions, but it can also have stimulating effects on plants. Plasma treatments of seeds and growing plants can positively influence their respective growth and developmental processes. RONS produced by plants themselves, are important signal substances and have a decisive function within the redox regulation over the entire plant life cycle and especially in abiotic and biotic stress responses.

In order to work on the various research topics, the working group uses its own laboratories for plant cultivation, plant physiological analysis, plasma treatments and for physical analysis of plasma sources. In addition, the laboratory work of the research group is interconnected with the facilities and expertise of other departments and application laboratories. These include the departments Plasma Sources and Plasmabiotechnics of the Decontamination research program, the Microbiological Laboratory of the department Plasma Life Science as well as the Surface Diagnostics Laboratory of the department Plasma Surface Technology.

Head of Research Group „Plasma Agriculture“: 
Dr. Henrike Brust
Phone: +49 3834 554-3971

Project Topics

The work at INP within the projects “Physics for Seeds” and “Physics for Crops” of the joint project “WIR! Physics for Food – Eine Region denkt um! ” encompass the testing and development of innovative plasma processes with the aim of creating the basis for future upscaling of plasma treatment systems that can be used in agriculture to secure crop yield and, in special cases, to increase them. For this purpose, the agricultural relevant plants barley, rapeseed and lupine are extensively examined in the laboratory, suitable plasma sources and treatment parameters are defined and these are checked at field test level with the collaborative partners.

Physics for Seeds Physics4Seeds-INP
The project focuses on seed treatment using direct and indirect cold plasma treatments. For this purpose, parameters relevant to germination are monitored (germination rates, vitality and health status of the seedlings) and the microbiological decontamination ability of the cold plasma treatment on the seeds is evaluated. Furthermore, plant species with insufficient germination capacity, such as red clover and forage grasses, are examined in cooperation with the IPK in Groß Lüsewitz and Malchow on Poel.

Physics for Crops WIR-P4F-Crops-INP
The project focuses on the indirect plasma treatment of plants using plasma-treated water (PTW). The application is examined on three different test levels (laboratory, greenhouse and field). Abiotic stress adaptation (drought, flooding and heat) after PTW treatment is evaluated at the laboratory scale. For this purpose, biomass, physiological and biochemical parameters are recorded and components of the antioxidative metabolism are determined and compared with the corresponding control groups. Greenhouse and field tests comprising PTW application and determination of parameters are performed in collaboration with the University of Greifswald and the University of Applied Sciences Neubrandenburg.

Increased cultivation of alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) as a fodder plant - New impulses for the queen of fodder plants (LuzNutz- INP)

The overall goal of the project is to develop high-yielding and stable-yielding varieties for sustainable animal feeding for a valuable small-seeded, indigenous protein plant that is rarely cultivated in Germany. The focus here is on alfalfa. At the INP, the suitability of cold plasma for seed protection is determined, as well as the usage of plasma treated water (PTW) for plant fortification. The direct and indirect plasma treatment experiments are initially carried out at laboratory and greenhouse scale in order to identify suitable treatment parameters. These parameters will be further applied and evaluated at the field level for selected alfalfa gene accessions. Greenhouse and field trials take place in cooperation with the Julius Kühn Institute - Federal Research Institute for Cultivated Plants (JKI) in Groß Lüsewitz, as well as with the Leibniz Institute for Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK) Groß Lüsewitz and Insel Poel.