Could a native fungus be key to sustainable agriculture? Check out Dr Khalil Kariman's research

09/12/2021 | 2 mins

Producing innovative work in the plant-fungus symbiosis field, soil microbiologist Dr Khalil Kariman recently took second place in the UWA’s 2021 Rising Stars competition, which recognise the advanced work of early career scientists. 

Completing his PhD studies at UWA in 2013, his discovery of a novel plant-fungus symbiosis, dubbed 'feremycorrhiza', has led to the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) awarding Dr Kariman with a prestigious three-year Postdoctoral Fellowship.

Sharing a symbiotic relationship with more than 80 per cent of all plant-life on earth, the mycorrhiza is one of the most widespread and beneficial symbioses to exist, and supports some plant species almost entirely.

Currently titled Exploiting the potential of a novel fungal biofertiliser, Dr Kariman’s project tackles the global challenge around food security and reducing the use of chemical inputs in agriculture, through exploring the application of a biofertiliser made from a native fungus Austroboletus occidentalis.

“The intensive use of synthetic fertilisers has led to serious or even irreversible damages to the environment including the contamination of soil and groundwater as well as elevated carbon dioxide emissions," he said.  

"This native fungal biofertiliser can provide nutrients (e.g. phosphorus) to plants and protect them against environmental stresses such as drought, leading to reduced use of synthetic fertilisers and long-term sustainability of agroecosystems while maintaining economic viability."

Dr Khalil Kariman

Though Dr Kariman is an early career scientist, his body of work includes credit on over 20 research articles, review papers and reports, particularly within the plant-fungus symbiosis field.

His advice for other burgeoning scientists remarked on the importance of focusing on current global challenges.

“Early career scientists should follow their dreams, have a can-do attitude and develop their networks with both academia and industries in order to achieve long-term success and career advancement and focus primarily on major national and global challenges,” he said.

Dr Kariman’s project is set to conclude by the end of next year. To find out more about his project, read GRDC’s article, or find Dr Kariman’s research profile and publications here.

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