Sofie Goormachtig is full professor at UGent and Principal investigator at the VIB-UGent center of Plant Systems Biology. She is head of the rhizosphere group.
SG focusses on how interactions between plant roots and neighboring organisms positively influence plant growth. The nitrogen fixing symbiosis between legumes and rhizobia, resulting in the formation of new root organs, the nodules, in which the rhizobia fix atmospheric nitrogen for the plant, is a central theme. She studied the interaction between the tropical legume Sesbania rostrata and the bacterium Azorhizobium caulinodans and could unravel the early signaling events and specific adaptations that have evolved to enable nodulation upon water submergence. Next, her group studied long-distance control of nodule organogenesis in the model legume Medicago truncatula. Her group currently takes great initiatives in order to introduce soybean as a new crop in North-West Europe including Flanders.
Her research extends beyond leguminous plants. Plants engage in numerous interactions with mainly beneficial soil organisms. The team combines root microbiome analysis with proteomics, transcriptomics, genetic approaches and high throughput phenotyping to elucidate the mechanisms by which microbes communicate with plants roots resulting in beneficial effects for the plants.
By using various models, her team established a microbiome based pipeline to identify consortia of bacteria that can help plants to cope with various stresses. This pipeline is being used for fundamental but also applied research. Together with VIB and ILVO colleagues and based on this pipeline, she contributed to the start-up Aphea.Bio and Protealis.