A doctor in Plant Physiology (Integrative biology of potassium channels in the guard cell: electrophysiological activity and role in the plant’s adaptation to its environment), Anne worked in scientific teams at INRA and IBGC before she joined Staphyt in 2015. She now supervises the R&D laboratory team at Staphyt.
In this interview, Anne presents her background as well as her current R&D activities at Staphyt.
Q1 – Anne, can you tell us more about your scientific background and what you did before you joined Staphyt?
A1 – I did my Ph.D. thesis in the laboratory of Biochemistry and Molecular Physiology of Plants in Montpellier, under the supervision of Hervé Sentenac and Thierry Simonneau. My project consisted of studying the role of potassium channels in the control of stomatal movements in Arabidopsis thaliana.
My work has made it possible to identify the cellular function of these proteins and to determine their roles at the whole plant level. The integrative nature of my project allowed me to acquire a diversified and in-depth training in various disciplines (molecular biology, genetics, electrophysiology, physiology…).
I then decided to join a research program on Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast at the Institute of Cellular Biochemistry and Genetics in Bordeaux, under the supervision of Isabelle Sagot. This change in theme is due to my desire to favour greater scientific openness and to satisfy my long-time interest in a multidisciplinary approach. This project gave me the opportunity to discover a new study model and to extend my technical skills to cell biology and microscopy. My work has led to major advances in the understanding of the mechanisms underlying the transitions between quiescence and cell proliferation.
Finally, I did a post-doctoral internship in the Fruit Biology and Pathology laboratory under the supervision of Alain Blanchard. This project mainly focused on the development of a vaccine strain of Mycoplasma mycoides subspecies mycoides, the bacteria responsible for contagious bovine pleuropneumonia, a severe respiratory disease that mainly affects African cattle. In addition to its socio-economic interest, this project also allowed me to work on a new study model and to apply the latest genome manipulation techniques using synthetic biology approaches.
Q2 – What made you join Staphyt ?
R2 – After 9 years of scientific journey in fundamental research, I wanted to integrate a structure that would allow me to manage short and medium term development projects in close connection both with the field and with companies in the agricultural sector.
5 years ago, Staphyt opted for a strong development of its R&D in order to innovate and diversify its services. This is how I took the position of supervisor of the R&D department at Laboratory & Glasshouse service of Staphyt on the Martillac site. I now work in the laboratory with technicians and project managers, more specifically on experimental themes under controlled conditions.
I’m particularly enjoying my new missions as they allow me to lead projects right at the crossroads between methodological development and applied research. Designing tests based on customer demand and supporting these customers in the characterization of their products (mode of action, resistance mechanism, etc.) are all aspects of my work that have motivated my decision to join Staphyt.
Q3 – What benefits does Staphyt’s R&D bring to the company’s clients?
R3 – We design new study protocols to support our customers in selecting, testing and developing new substances or formulations for plant protection and nutrition, under controlled conditions.
We work either proactively, through technological and scientific monitoring of our sector, or in response to specific requests from our customers.
The development of R&D at Staphyt Lab allows us to anticipate the demands of our customers and thus to go ever further in the characterization of conventional or biocontrol products (evaluation of their effectiveness, of their resistance to leaching, of their compatibility, of their activity as an elicitor….). We also work on the detection and monitoring of resistance linked to the use of these products.
Once the protocol has been designed, I supervise its transfer from R&D to the laboratory’s technical team and then manage and monitor the project all the way through with the client. These past few years, our R&D activities have significantly contributed to the growth of the Martillac laboratory’s activity through the diversification of our trial services.
Q4 – Could you tell us about some of the services under controlled conditions developed by Staphyt’s R&D?
A – Design of new pathosystems to assess the efficacy of in planta products
We have developed methods that allow us to evaluate in planta the efficacy of fungicide products against leaf blight of wheat (S. tritici) or Fusarium head blight. Martillac’s laboratory has thus extended its range of services to include the study of products that specifically target cereals.
Consequently, standardized protocols under controlled conditions have been developed for these 2 patho-systems in order to determine the doses and number of applications required to assess the products’ positioning.
Resistance to leaching can also be tested using rain simulators that provide either standard or more sustained regimes (more than 80 mm / h), whether continuous or fractionated.
In addition, we have also established growing conditions that enable us to obtain plants whose phenotype is closer to that obtained in the field.
We have thus completed our product evaluation system by offering our customers the screening of their products / formulations through our in vitro and in planta tests under controlled conditions until the validation of these products through in planta tests in conditions that are close to actual field conditions.
B- Molecular tests for the detection of resistance to Active Substances
Extended use of certain active substances can lead to the development of resistance in pathogen populations. Numerous studies have already made it possible to progress in the understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying these resistances to fungicides.
These studies have led to the development of rapid and effective methods for the detection and quantification of resistant genotypes. These techniques now offer an interesting and promising alternative to conventional biological tests and trials which, although reliable / robust, require a lot of work and time. We then developed molecular biology tools (notably PCR and Q-PCR) in order to detect and monitor the emergence of resistance to fungicides in several pathogens.
We are already able to detect strains that are resistant to cyazofamide or QOI in Plasmopara viticola (downy mildew) and to quantify these resistances. We are also developing methods to detect strains of Septoria tritici (Septoria blight in wheat) and Sclerotinia sclerotiorum (rapeseed sclerotiniosis) that are resistant to SDHI.
C- Installation of a fluorescence module to assess the quality of spraying
Spraying is a key step in the use of plant protection products. The quality of spraying is therefore an essential prerequisite for a treatment’s efficacy.
We then developed a method to assess the quality of product spraying which consists in mixing these products / formulations with a fluorophore, spraying these mixtures on the plants, then observing the size of the fluorescent droplets and the extent of coverage of the plants. Variations can thus be observed depending on the products, their adjuvant, the spraying pressure and the type of nozzles.
D- Design of bacterial viability tests for biostimulants
The laboratory has been equipped with incubators to increase its capacity in microbiology. We are now able to monitor microbial cultures and therefore assess their activity as a biostimulant or fungicide. Our systems and our expertise also allow us to evaluate the viability of products formulated on the basis of microorganisms, some of which having biostimulant or biocontrol properties.