Greenlight from HES-SO for the MALDIVES project

The HES-SO allocated 249’950 CHF for the MALDIveS project – Next-Generation Sequencing, Bioinformatics and Machine Learning as a Diagnostic Tool for Soil Health.

The impact of farming practices and pesticides on soil quality and health is a growing concern for consumers, farmers and land managers. To evaluate this impact, bioindicators such as protists have great potential but their use is limited because current methods do not allow for the analysis of soil samples in a detailed and rapid manner. To overcome these disadvantages, the identification of species based on DNA sequences coupled with the new next-generation sequencing techniques represents a promising approach, but the enormous amount of sequences and their large complexity makes it difficult to treat them by conventional means.

The CI4CB group of the IICT, led by Prof. Carlos Peña, will be in charge of selecting bioindicators and developing computational models for the diagnostic of vine soils health and quality. The basis for this development will come from a laboratory experiment where the impact of a mixture of pesticides, temperature and soil moisture content on protist communities will be tested in microcosms and a field study where the impact of environmental factors on protist communities will be evaluated in a network of 33 vineyards from Valais.

Based on a collaboration with Dr Thierry Heger from the Changins engineering school, this interdisciplinary project was extremely well received and evaluated by the HES-SO, which awarded him 249,500 Francs.