1. Staff

Wolf Scheible, Ph.D.


Current Research

The Problem

Phosphorus is one of the indispensable macronutrients for plant growth, development, and ultimately crop and forage yield. Millions of tons of synthetic phosphorus fertilizers are applied in agriculture to enhance soil phosphorus availability and stimulate crop yields. However, phosphorus fertilizer use poses a twofold sustainability challenge. Intensive application of phosphorus to support high yield agriculture can contribute to eutrophication of aquatic systems, while poor access to affordable fertilizer limits crop yields in developing countries. Moreover, mined rock phosphorus, the primary source of phosphorus fertilizer, is a finite resource subject to large price fluctuations and geopolitical risks. Thus, sustainability of phosphorus is vital for future food security. Achieving phosphorus sustainability will require improvements in phosphorus acquisition and use by plants, thus allowing reductions of phosphorus fertilizer use.

The Approach

To improve phosphorus acquisition and use by plants, a multitiered research approach is necessary. Research is conducted to expand the understanding about how different model plant species (Arabidopsis thaliana, Medicago truncatula, Brachypodium distachyon, Panicum virgatum) react to changes in phosphorus availability at the molecular level. Cutting-edge, high-throughput (OMICS) technologies are employed in this regard to identify, for example, uncharacterized and even unknown, gene transcripts with strongly phosphorus-status dependent abundance. Interesting molecular components are being investigated using reverse genetic and molecular biology methodologies, and forward genetics is pursued by phenotyping, for example, Medicago truncatula accessions for naturally existing variation with regard to P efficiency, followed by molecular investigation of well and poor performing accessions. Gained knowledge is finally applied to crop/forage plant species using marker-assisted breeding and gene-editing technology in collaboration with colleagues from the Forage Improvement and Agricultural Research Divisions under greenhouse and field conditions.

Current Projects

  • Comparative transcriptomics during phosphorus or nitrogen limitation in grasses, legumes and Brassicaceae
  • Functional analysis of genes with strongly phosphours-status responsive transcript abundance in Arabidopsis thaliana, Medicago truncatula and Brachipodium distachyon.
  • Improving phosphorus acquisition/use efficiency in Medicago spp. and wheat using candidate genes and natural variation
  • Identification and functional investigation of small signaling peptides in Medicago truncatula with an emphasis on macronutrient regulation of root and nodule development
  • Doctor Rerum Naturalium (Doctor of Natural Sciences) University of Heidelberg, 1996
  • German Diploma (equivalent to Master of Science) in Biochemistry, University of Bayreuth, 1992
  • French Maitrise in Biochemistry, University of Paris VII, 1991

Project Title: Genome-wide analysis of small signaling peptides in Medicago truncatula with an emphasis on macro-nutrient regulation of root and nodule development
Source: National Science Foundation Division of Integrative Organismal Systems Plant Genome Research Program
Term: August 2015 to July 2019

Project Title: Establishment to senescence: plant-microbe and microbe-microbe interactions mediate switchgrass sustainability
Source: U.S. Department of Energy
Term: January 2016 to December 2019

Project Title: Improving phosphorus acquisition/use efficiency in Medicago spp. and wheat using candidate genes and natural variation
Source: Noble Research Institute, Forage 365
Term: January 2015 to December 2017

Project Title: Comparative transcriptomics in macronutrient limitation
Source: Noble Research Institute and Alliance of Independent Plant Institutes
Term: April 2013 to March 2015

Project Title: MORD, A Mobile RNA Database
Source: Max-Planck Society
Term: May 2012 to April 2014

Project Title: Plant phosphate signaling – identification and functional analysis of novel players. Plant KBBE Project FOSSI
Source: German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)
Term: May 2008 to April 2011

Project Title: Identification and characterization of thaxtomin resistance genes in Arabidopsis and genetic engineering of scab-resistant potato
Source: German Science Foundation
Term: November 2004 to October 2006

Project Title: Functional genome research for improvement of nitrogen use in crop plants by the identification of key genes and metabolic markers (GABI FUTURE Project FUNCIN)
Source: German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)
Term: February 2004 to January 2008

Project Title: The role of transcription factors in heterosis for superior growth and biomass production in Arabidopsis thaliana (SPP1149 Heterosis in plants)
Source: German Science Foundation
Term: June 2003 to May 2006

Project Title: Analysis of biological function specificity and interactions of cellulose synthases
Source: German Science Foundation Arabidopsis Functional Genomics Network
Term: November 2001 to October 2004

Project Title: Postdoctoral Fellowship
Source: German Science Foundation
Term: August 1997 to July 1999

  • Plant Genome Research Program Award as Principal Investigator, National Science Foundation, 2015
  • Highly Cited Researcher, Plant and Animal Science, Thomas Reuters, 2014
  • Recognized by the American Society of Plant Biologists as one of the most influential authors, 2010
  • Top 40 "Most Highly Cited Scientists" in the Plant and Animal Sciences, Institute of Scientific Information, 2010
  • Max-Planck Professorship following internal review by the Max-Planck Society, 2008
  • Group Leader Position, Max-Planck Society, 2001
  • DFG Postdoc Fellowship, 1997
  • Somerville, et al., Modified cellulose synthase gene from Arabidopsis thaliana confers herbicide resistance to plants. U.S Patent No. 7,241,878 (issued Jul 10, 2007).