Catarina Melo: took second place in the Regional Entrepreneurship Competition, with the business idea

The researcher Catarina Melo has developed in the last 10 years pioneering work on the diversity of the community of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) in different ecosystems of the Azores archipelago.

First, during her PhD entitled "arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungal Diversity and Composition in pastures of Azores: assessing impact of management practices" which evaluated the diversity and composition of AMF in natural and semi-intensive grazing of the Island under supervision of Prof. Dr. Helena Freitas, University of Coimbra (CEF) and Prof. Dr. Paulo Borges, University of the Azores (Azores Biodiversity Group). Within the same, and in collaboration with the University of La Laguna (Tenerife) and the Canary Institute of Agrarian Investigations (ICIA) coordinated by Prof. Dr. Raimundo Cabrera and Dr. Maria Del Carmeo Jaizme-See, they tested the potential of mycorrhizal fungi in increasing the resistance of one of the most abundant plant species in the Azores pastures (Holcus lanatus) to attack the root nematode Meloidogyne incognita. In the last three years, under a post-doctoral fellowship from Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) developed at the Center of Biotechnology of the Azores (CBA), under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Artur da Câmara Machado, a work featuring the AMF community associated with endemic plants of the Azores (Juniperus brevifolia and Picconia azorica) from the perspective of using these symbionts, as inoculants of micro endemic plants in an attempt to overcome stress conditions of those in the stage of plant acclimation and transplantation.

Given the benefits of the application of AMF in the different agricultural and forestry sectors, she presented a business idea "agroecosystems promotion with application of native arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF)", to the Regional Entrepreneurship Competition, having been ranked in 2nd place. This project idea aims at the production of inoculum based on AMF, drawn from the local mycorrhizal diversity, which is well adapted to the soil and climate conditions in the region to be used in the agricultural sector with particular emphasis on organic farming. Due to its specificity, its application would increase the quality of agricultural products as it seeks a reduction in the use of fertilizers and pesticides, and an increased tolerance of plants against pests and diseases. Consequently, will allow a reduction in production costs, and simultaneously improved environmental quality and food safety.