PERN, more than just another website

PERN stands for Pan-European Rhizosphere Network. It is a network of specialized collections focused on the rhizosphere. The PERN-website which opened in spring 2014 proposes raw material, data, information, advices, products and services. It also offers the possibility to interact and collaborate with the network researchers.

PERN was set up via the BRIO project, Banking Rhizosphere Micro-Organisms, an initiative of Belgian, Swiss and Russian collections of microorganisms to combine force and to build a scientific grouping with the financial support of the European Commission DG Research and Innovation.

The partners are Russian collections from Perm, Saratov and Pushchino, the Swiss Rhizosphere collection, the Italian collection of the University of Torino, the Belgians teams of the BCCM/MUCL collection and of the Laboratory of Microbiology of the University of Ghent. The project BRIO was coordinated by the Belgian Science Policy office that also hosts the PERN network website and is in charge of the Belgian Coordinated Collections of Microorganism.     


Response to a need

Soil microbes play key roles in ecosystems and exert multiple functions, from detrimental (as pathogens) to beneficial (e.g. plant growth promoters and pathogen antagonists), impacting yield and quality of food.

Rhizosphere and endophytic microbes play a central role in promoting plant growth and health via acquisition and recycling of nutrients, modulation of plant hormonal balance, direct or indirect protection of the plant from detrimental organisms (e.g. pathogens), protection against abiotic stress (e.g. drought, heavy metals), and improvement of soil structure.

There is a need to have a holistic view of the rhizosphere microbiome to increase the knowledge about all micro-life interacting with the roots and with each other. Such understanding helps improving the effectiveness of solutions against stress induced by biological (pests and diseases) as well as non-biological (water shortage, pollutants, etc.) factors, offering opportunities for agro-environment sustainable management.

There is a need for optimised pool of technically as well as legally fit for use, easily accessible microbial material, data, information and know how to support the study of the rhizosphere microbiome.  PERN aims at providing scientists with access to such a large array of rhizosphere micro-organisms, related data and expertise.


Major activities and outcomes for customers

Facing the need for preservation and provision of microbial material isolated from plants' rhizosphere, PERN partners have built a common pool of rhizosphere micro-biodiversity exploitable by research and industry. 

The selected strains are listed in the online catalogue of the network. The original design of the database structure allows searches to be performed on the basis of the properties of the strains: biofertilizers, biopesticides or bioremediants on diverse pollutants, including hydrocarbons. Facilitating the preservation and use of well documented, quality micro-organisms of the rhizosphere will foster the sustainable exploitation of renewable biological resources, a major objective of the European Knowledge Based Bio-Economy.

Besides the microbial resources, PERN constitutes an initial pool of rhizo-microbiome related data and human expertise available. Conceived as a resources hub, PERN wants to:

  1. underpin and contribute to research on conservation of micro-organisms associated in the plant-microbes-soil systems, facilitating further use by scientists from academies and enterprises (including SME) in EU and Russia;
  2. underpin and contribute to research on better understanding of rhizosphere diversity and its effect on soil fertility and suppression of pathogens. That will generate research outcomes useful for the development of eco-efficient technologies and management practices, reducing the adverse effects of human activities on the environment;
  3. share knowledge and strengthen capacities in the area of upstream and downstream research in soil microbiology;
  4. organise and generate resources and knowledge applicable globally; it will also improve knowledge on exploitation of the beneficial properties of rhizosphere micro-organisms.


The outcomes of the project BRIO that has led to the set up of PERN are relevant for those who are looking for

  • soil micro-flora for R&D;
  • expertise in management of fungal and bacterial germplasm;
  • solutions for developing eco-efficient products using rhizosphere micro-organisms and communities, promoting plant growth, suppressing soil borne disease and priming plant biotic defences.


PERN partners are looking for collaborative synergies with industries, long-term collaborative activities underpinning cumulative research between Russian and EU partners.