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345 Research products

  • Rural Digital Europe
  • 2013-2022
  • Doctoral thesis
  • ETH Zürich Research Collection

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  • image/svg+xml art designer at PLoS, modified by Wikipedia users Nina, Beao, JakobVoss, and AnonMoos Open Access logo, converted into svg, designed by PLoS. This version with transparent background. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Open_Access_logo_PLoS_white.svg art designer at PLoS, modified by Wikipedia users Nina, Beao, JakobVoss, and AnonMoos http://www.plos.org/
    Authors: Krishnan, Parvathy;

    Pathogenic fungi impose a great threat to the global food production. They are globally distributed and display a huge amount of phenotypic diversity. They demonstrate high adaptability to diverse environments and to fluctuating conditions within their hosts. However, not much is known about the mechanisms underlying these processes of adaptation. Deciphering the genetic basis of phenotypic diversity may help us to get a deeper insight into the mechanisms that regulate complex adaptive traits. Furthermore, these findings may help in improving strategies for an effective and sustainable management of pathogens. In my PhD study, I aimed to understand the genetic basis of adaptation to variable environments using Zymoseptoria tritici. Z. tritici causes septoria leaf blotch of wheat and is considered to be the most devastating fungal wheat pathogen in Europe. In the first chapter of my thesis, I studied the role of melanin in adaptation of Z. tritici. I, demonstrated that melanin is essential for protection against harmful chemical fungicides such as bixafen. Remarkably, I observed high phenotypic variability in melanin accumulation levels in different Zymoseptoria tritici strains, most probably reflecting its role in adaptation to variable environments. Using genetic mapping, I was able to demonstrate that variability in melanization levels between two Swiss strains of Z. tritici was mediated by differential expression of the transcription factor Zmr1 (Zymoseptoria melanin regulation 1). I identified nucleotide mutations in the promoter region and an insertion of transposable elements (TEs) upstream of the promoter region as two mechanisms responsible for this observed differential expression of Zmr1. My findings clearly demonstrated the significance of gene expression regulation, mediated by the insertion of TEs and SNPs, in optimizing the growth and adaptation of the fungus under variable environments. Furthermore, these adaptive changes are responsible for the phenotypic diversity that we observe in Z. tritici strains from all over the world. In the second part of my thesis, I analyzed the expression of several secreted peptidases of Z. tritici at distinct stages during the infection process of wheat plants. Using computational genetic methods, I also analyzed nucleotide data sets of the peptidase genes for evolutionary signatures of genetic adaptation. By combining both approaches, I aimed at obtaining a more detailed picture of the relevance and the role of each enzyme during the infection process. I was able to show that the peptidases belonging to MEROPS families A1 and G1 were significantly up regulated during the asymptomatic phase of infection and displayed signatures of accelerated evolution, suggesting their key role in suppression of plant defenses and host specialization. In the third part of my thesis, I evaluated the role of a cellulase-encoding gene (JGI Prot. ID: 76589) using molecular biology techniques. This cellulase was only expressed during the final necrotrophic phase of Z. tritici infection and the nucleotide sequences of the gene showed signatures of diversifying selection. This pattern is consistent with the hypothesis of evasion from host recognition during the first phases of infection and subsequent induction of host-cell death by the secretion of an array of different cellulase isoforms by the fungus. To test this hypothesis, I constitutively expressed the cellulase-encoding gene in Z. tritici during all infection stages by inserting a constitutive promoter (originally from the Glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase gene of Aspergillus nidulans) upstream of the start codon of the cellulase gene. I was able to show that the progress of infection in this mutant was delayed compared to the non-modified Z. tritici isolates. This suggests that the cellulase acts as an elicitor molecule that is detected by the plant and triggers the defense machinery that will hinder the growth of the pathogen. In summary, my PhD work demonstrated the significance of fine-tuning of gene expression regulation of various genes in plant pathogenic fungi to facilitate adaptation to different environmental conditions and host colonization. Remarkably, I was able to show that gene expression fine-tuning resulted in large amounts of phenotypic diversity in adaptive traits.

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    ETH Zürich Research Collection
    Doctoral thesis . 2018
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      ETH Zürich Research Collection
      Doctoral thesis . 2018
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    Authors: Bader, Cédric;

    Organic soils develop under waterlogged conditions, leading to a reduced decomposition of biomass. Over the last millennia this led to the development of a large carbon (C) pool in the global C cycle. Drainage, necessary for agriculture and forestry, triggers rapid decomposition of soil organic matter (SOM). While undisturbed organic soils are C-sinks, drainage transforms them into C-sources. Climate, drainage depth and land-use are considered the main factors controlling SOM decomposition. However, there is still a large variation in decomposition rates among organic soils, even when climate, drainage and land-use conditions are similar. This thesis investigates the role of SOM composition on peat decomposability in a variety of differently managed drained organic soils. Peat samples from 21 organic soils managed as cropland, grassland and forest soils situated in Switzerland were incubated at 10 and 20 °C for more than 6 months. During incubation, we monitored CO2 emissions and related them to soil characteristics, including bulk density, soil pH, soil organic carbon (SOC) content, and elemental ratios (C/N, H/C and O/C). The incubated samples lost between 0.6 to 1.9% of their SOC at 10 °C and between 1.2 to 42% at 20 °C over the course of 10,000 h (>1 yr). This huge variation occurring under controlled conditions suggests that, besides drainage depth, climate and management, SOM composition is an underestimated factor that determines CO2 fluxes measured in field experiments. In contrast, correlations between the investigated soil characteristics and CO2 emissions were weak. Furthermore, there were no land-use effects. Such effects were expected based on the measured SOM characteristics and IPCC data. Temperature sensitivity of decomposition decreased with depth, indicating an enrichment of recalcitrant SOM in topsoils. This finding stands in contrast to findings in studies of undisturbed organic soils and Further it suggests that future C loss from agriculturally managed organic soils will be similar considering warmer climate conditions. Cultivation of organic soils is accompanied by inputs of young organic carbon (YOC) from plant residues. The amount of YOC inputs, their potential to compensate for oxidative peat loss as well as their lability are unknown. Studying the δ13C signatures in the topsoil of a managed organic soil revealed that at least 19 ± 2.4% of the SOC originate from YOC being accumulated recently. Yet, the accumulation rates are substantially smaller than average peat loss rates on the studied soils. Remarkably, the percentage of YOC in decomposing SOC was 53 ± 0.1%, indicating that YOC is more labile than bulk SOC. These findings are supported by the 14C age of emitted CO2 being younger than that of SOC. Inputs of fresh organic matter (FOM) to soil are known to induce priming effects, i.e. an altered decomposition of resident SOM. The effect of FOM addition on peat decomposition of agriculturally used organic soils has seldom been quantified experimentally. Therefore, we incubated soil samples from managed organic soils over three weeks with and without adding corn straw as FOM. The 13C and 14C signatures of SOC and emitted CO2 enabled us to apportion the amount of decomposed corn, as well as to estimate relative effects of corn addition on the decomposition of SOC from old peat and from YOC. FOM addition induced negative, positive and neutral priming of SOC decomposition. Further, the relative contribution of peat SOC to the overall CO2 release consistently decreased after FOM addition, suggesting that young and old C pools in managed organic soils respond differently to the addition of fresh plant residues. A combination of those two findings indicates that FOM addition can effectively reduce the decomposition of old peat. The results of this thesis suggest that agricultural use of organic soils has a tremendous effect on the composition and decomposability of SOC in organic soils. Furthermore, they show that also crop species known for their carbon sequestration potential are not likely to counteract peat losses caused by drainage. Therefore, agricultural management of organic soils without the risk of losing vast amounts of SOC seems unrealistic and thus, CO2 emissions from organic soils are not likely to decrease in the future. This means that they remain a big issue of concern for future generations in order to counteract climate change.

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    ETH Zürich Research Collection
    Doctoral thesis . 2017
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      ETH Zürich Research Collection
      Doctoral thesis . 2017
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    Authors: Stieger, Jacqueline;
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    ETH Zürich Research Collection
    Doctoral thesis . 2013
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      ETH Zürich Research Collection
      Doctoral thesis . 2013
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    Authors: Kreft, Cordelia Sophie;

    Global agricultural production contributes around 20% of total anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. At the same time, agriculture has large potential to reduce its emissions and additionally sequester carbon. Hence, the agricultural sector has an important role to play in mitigating further climate change and achieving international and national climate policy goals. Simultaneously, agriculture must provide sufficient food for a growing world population. To tackle this challenge, numerous mitigation measures to reduce GHG emissions from livestock and crop production have been proposed, including adaptation of farm management and technological innovations. However, successful climate change mitigation under current agricultural production levels relies on farmers who are willing to change farming practices and adopt respective measures. The goal of this thesis is to provide insights into the determinants of mitigation adoption in agriculture with a focus on the role of behavioural economic factors such as farmers’ individual characteristics and social interactions. A thorough understanding of farmers’ decision-making in this context is key to design effective and efficient policies aiming to reduce agricultural GHG emissions. To explore the behavioural aspects of farmers’ adoption of climate change mitigation practices and assess the effect of respective agricultural policies, the thesis applies different quantitative methods including social network analysis, which build on each other and ultimately flow into an agent-based model. The analyses are based on a Swiss case study and use a combination of farm census, survey, and in-depth social network data, which were specifically collected for this purpose. The introductory chapter provides general background information, motivates the goals of the thesis, and presents the conceptual framework and research questions. The following chapters represent the main body of the thesis and contain the original research articles. More precisely, the second chapter uses an OLS regression based on census and survey data of 105 farmers to investigate the role of noncognitive skills, namely perceived self-efficacy and internal locus of control on the adoption of on-farm climate change mitigation measures. Farmers who are convinced of their capability to effectively reduce on-farm GHG emissions and generally believe to be in control over life’s outcomes are more likely to adopt climate change mitigation measures on their farms. The underlying mechanism is farmers’ innovativeness, which is positively associated with high non-cognitive skills and ultimately leads to mitigation adoption. The third chapter of the thesis uses social network analysis based on personal interview data of 50 farmers to explore the features of social networks and their role in agricultural climate change mitigation. The regular exchange of relevant knowledge among connected peers positively affects the uptake of mitigation measures. In particular, strong social ties to others who are perceived as knowledgeable in agricultural climate change mitigation can enhance adoption. Moreover, connections to members of a local farmers’ initiative for GHG reduction in agriculture (“AgroCO2ncept Flaachtal”) are found to be associated with mitigation uptake. This indicates that local grassroot initiatives can have spillover effects on the wider region. The fourth chapter integrates the findings of the previous chapters in an agent-based modelling approach and quantifies the effect of farmers’ individual characteristics and social networks in terms of overall reduction of GHG emissions and farm-level marginal abatement cost. For the analysis, the data of a subsample of 49 dairy and beef cattle farmers is used. Knowledge exchange among socially connected farmers can substantially increase overall GHG reduction. Moreover, farmers’ social networks can reduce marginal cost of agricultural climate change mitigation. The fifth chapter comparestwo differently designed policy incentives (action- and results-based designs) to achieve a certain GHG reduction goal, accounting for heterogeneous cost and benefits of mitigation measures as well as farmers’ individual preferences, reluctance to change and social interactions in an agent-based modelling approach. Specifically, the role of a so-called win-win measure that reduces GHG emissions and at the same time increases farm income is investigated. The analysis uses the same model parametrization based on the data of 49 Swiss dairy and beef cattle farmers as presented in the fourth chapter. Depending on whether the win-win measure is included in the policy scheme, result- or action-based designs are more efficient from a governmental perspective. Independent of that, resultsbased designs lead to lower marginal abatement cost on farm level. With both action- and results-based policies, behavioural factors and especially farmers’ reluctance to change lead to a substantial decrease of overall GHG reduction as compared to a situation where farmers strictly optimize farm income. The findings of the thesis reveal some relevant policy implications. When assessing policies for agricultural climate change mitigation, decision-makers should account for farmers’ behavioural characteristics. Particularly, farmers’ sense of self-efficacy related to successful on-farm GHG reduction should be strengthened by providing relevant knowledge and advisory service. Moreover, social learning among farmers should be fostered by supporting adequate platforms of knowledge exchange. Regarding the choice of policy designs for mitigation adoption, farmers’ individual preferences, social interactions as well as cost and benefits of the considered mitigation measures should be equally considered.

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    ETH Zürich Research Collection
    Doctoral thesis . 2022
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      ETH Zürich Research Collection
      Doctoral thesis . 2022
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    Authors: Mehta, Devang; id_orcid0000-0002-8911-1174;
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    ETH Zürich Research Collection
    Doctoral thesis . 2018
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      ETH Zürich Research Collection
      Doctoral thesis . 2018
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    Authors: Mannerheim, Neringa;
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    ETH Zürich Research Collection
    Doctoral thesis . 2018
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      ETH Zürich Research Collection
      Doctoral thesis . 2018
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    Authors: Ferre, Marie;

    Cultivated organic soils or peatlands are an important example of emission hotspots. Intensified agricultural activities requiring drainage of peatland lead to the degradation and ultimately in many regions already to the disappearance of these soils. These drained peatlands in turn emit substantial shares of greenhouse gas. Therefore, their conservation in the form of actively rewetting drained peatlands are an important pillar of climate change mitigation policies. This thesis addresses peatland conservation in Switzerland from an economic and policy perspective. The study region for this thesis is the “Seeland” region located in the canton of Bern and characterized by intensive vegetable farming on organic soils. Chapter 1 contributes to a better understanding of the inherent complexities of the management and conservation of cultivated organic soils and provides an overview of the institutional context of peatland utilization and preservation in Switzerland. This chapter draws upon qualitative expert interviews and a literature review. Chapters 2 and 3 focus on the design and evaluation of economic incentives to promote sustainable management of organic soils. Economic experiments conducted with students and farm apprentices are used to test and compare different policies for peatland conservation. Chapter 4 contributes to the academic debate on the role of framing and use of different subject populations with respect to the external validity of experiments. Chapter 1 provides an overview of the current farming situation in the study region and the historical development of the management of organic soils with respect to the institutional and environmental context. It compares the environmental and economic consequences of two land-use development scenarios, namely: pursuing current management practices and adopting sustainable management practices enabling the preservation of the peat. By doing so, chapter 1 contributes to an understanding of the complexity of the issue and provides concrete insights for the Swiss context. It identifies the main challenges that need to be tackled in order to promote a change in current management practices to a more sustainable use of these soils. These challenges include, amongst others, the high profitability of the soils in vegetable farming and the lack of systematic data on the properties and exact distribution of soils in the region. In conclusion, chapter 1 argues for the need of a long-term and comprehensive vision of the management problem supported by a clear policy framework that is able to facilitate a change in the management of organic soils. Chapters 2 and 3 address the policy question by capturing the management issue of organic soils in an innovative economic experiment that is computerized, framed, and interactive. The experiment simulates the decision situation of vegetable producers on organic soils and particularly accounts for the fact that (i) regulation of the water table on these soils requires cooperation among farmers, and (ii) farmers within the same peatland area differ substantially in the soil production potential, and thus in their opportunity costs of adopting sustainable practices. The experiment investigates the potential behavior of farmers when facing the trade-off between continuing vegetable farming versus adopting sustainable use of organic soil that necessitates restricting soil drainage. It combines several complexities that have not been addressed in the broader literature on the design of PES: (i) a two-stage decision problem consisting of a collective choice and an individual land use decision; (ii) the heterogeneity among farmers in opportunity costs for adopting sustainable land use; and (iii) the option for farmers to make side payments within their group. Two basic scenarios were evaluated: without policy intervention and with an agri-environmental payment scheme allocated in exchange for adopting sustainable use of the soils. These scenarios were tested with a static and a dynamic experiment. The static experiment (chapter 2), conducted with university students, represents the resource management problem in general terms. The dynamic experiment (chapter 3), conducted with farm apprentices, more closely represents the management situation by accounting for dynamic changes in soil productivity and opportunity costs. Both chapters evaluate the effectiveness of three payment designs: a uniform agglomeration payment, a differentiated agglomeration payment, and a uniform individual payment. In the static experiment, the uniform payment corresponds to an average of the conservation costs of participating farmers, whereas in the dynamic experiment, it is based on the initial opportunity costs of players. The differentiated agglomeration payment is aligned to players’ opportunity costs. While the difference between the players’ opportunity costs is fixed in the static setting, opportunity costs of players may vary in the dynamic setting. The thesis evaluates the performance of the alternative agri-environmental payment schemes along three main criteria: environmental effectiveness, cost effectiveness, and distributional effects. Using individual surveys, the thesis also examines the links between players’ behavior in the experiment and their social preferences and other individual socio-economic characteristics. Chapters 2 and 3 show that players are more willing to implement sustainable use of organic soils when a payment scheme is present than when this is not the case. Chapter 2 (static experiments) assumes a constrained budget of the governmental agency allocating the subsidies. A uniform payment scheme that is set as average between the costs of players only provides an incentive to players with low costs to cooperate. Despite this and due to payment redistribution via side payments, the environmental effectiveness of uniform payments does not differ from that of the differentiated payment. However, the differentiated payment appears to be more cost effective. Thus, in the presence of asymmetry between farmers and a limited budget, differentiated payments may be more promising in promoting sustainable practices than uniform payments. Chapter 2 also shows that the uniform agglomeration payment induces a higher rate of peat preserved and is more cost-effective than the uniform individual payment. The experiment in Chapter 3 which reflects the temporal dynamics of peat degradation shows that a constant agglomeration payment scheme which is aligned to the players’ initial opportunity costs is more cost- and environmentally-effective than a variable payment scheme that mirrors the respective opportunity costs of farmers over time. This result can be explained by the fact that in the constant payment treatment, players are incentivized to cooperate early on and are then also able to maintain high cooperation levels over the course of the game. The constant payment also results in lower inequality with respect to players payoffs than the variable payment. Therefore, with respect to the promotion of sustainable use of organic soils in Switzerland, constant agglomeration payments appear to be the most promising option. It is acknowledged that in both experiments a significant share of players do not opt for sustainable usage of organic soils even though they have an economic incentive to do so. Possible explanations for this include the risk associated with each of the agglomeration payment types, the considerable opportunity costs characterizing the management problem, and players’ heterogeneity. Furthermore, the social preferences of players as well as other personal characteristics such as risk aversion, opinion of cooperative approaches, farming identity, and care for personal reputation, are identified as important factors that influence the decision and behavior of players. Finally, Chapter 4 explores the robustness of the results obtained in the previous chapters by comparing the behavior of farm apprentices to the behavior of university students and by using a framed and unframed version of the very same experiment. The framed experiment corresponds here to the introduction of a particular context issue related in this case to farming and to the management of organic soils in particular. Thus, it contributes to the discussion on the external validity of results generated by abstract and unframed experiments generally conducted with university students. Chapter 4 shows that the type of subject significantly affects experimental outcomes, particularly in the more and realistic dynamic version of the experiment. This study shows that cooperation is on average significantly higher among university students than among farm apprentices. Nevertheless, subject pool effects do not appear to affect treatment differences as the ranking of the policy instrument with respect to their environmental and cost effectiveness as well as distributional outcomes is similar notwithstanding who participates. Furthermore, comparing behavior of university students in the framed experiment to their behavior in an unframed (abstract) experiment reveals no important differences along the tested criteria.

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      ETH Zürich Research Collection
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    Authors: Tito de Morais, Claire;
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    ETH Zürich Research Collection
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    Authors: Melnikov, Konstantin;
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    Authors: Imhasly, Sandro;
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    ETH Zürich Research Collection
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345 Research products
  • image/svg+xml art designer at PLoS, modified by Wikipedia users Nina, Beao, JakobVoss, and AnonMoos Open Access logo, converted into svg, designed by PLoS. This version with transparent background. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Open_Access_logo_PLoS_white.svg art designer at PLoS, modified by Wikipedia users Nina, Beao, JakobVoss, and AnonMoos http://www.plos.org/
    Authors: Krishnan, Parvathy;

    Pathogenic fungi impose a great threat to the global food production. They are globally distributed and display a huge amount of phenotypic diversity. They demonstrate high adaptability to diverse environments and to fluctuating conditions within their hosts. However, not much is known about the mechanisms underlying these processes of adaptation. Deciphering the genetic basis of phenotypic diversity may help us to get a deeper insight into the mechanisms that regulate complex adaptive traits. Furthermore, these findings may help in improving strategies for an effective and sustainable management of pathogens. In my PhD study, I aimed to understand the genetic basis of adaptation to variable environments using Zymoseptoria tritici. Z. tritici causes septoria leaf blotch of wheat and is considered to be the most devastating fungal wheat pathogen in Europe. In the first chapter of my thesis, I studied the role of melanin in adaptation of Z. tritici. I, demonstrated that melanin is essential for protection against harmful chemical fungicides such as bixafen. Remarkably, I observed high phenotypic variability in melanin accumulation levels in different Zymoseptoria tritici strains, most probably reflecting its role in adaptation to variable environments. Using genetic mapping, I was able to demonstrate that variability in melanization levels between two Swiss strains of Z. tritici was mediated by differential expression of the transcription factor Zmr1 (Zymoseptoria melanin regulation 1). I identified nucleotide mutations in the promoter region and an insertion of transposable elements (TEs) upstream of the promoter region as two mechanisms responsible for this observed differential expression of Zmr1. My findings clearly demonstrated the significance of gene expression regulation, mediated by the insertion of TEs and SNPs, in optimizing the growth and adaptation of the fungus under variable environments. Furthermore, these adaptive changes are responsible for the phenotypic diversity that we observe in Z. tritici strains from all over the world. In the second part of my thesis, I analyzed the expression of several secreted peptidases of Z. tritici at distinct stages during the infection process of wheat plants. Using computational genetic methods, I also analyzed nucleotide data sets of the peptidase genes for evolutionary signatures of genetic adaptation. By combining both approaches, I aimed at obtaining a more detailed picture of the relevance and the role of each enzyme during the infection process. I was able to show that the peptidases belonging to MEROPS families A1 and G1 were significantly up regulated during the asymptomatic phase of infection and displayed signatures of accelerated evolution, suggesting their key role in suppression of plant defenses and host specialization. In the third part of my thesis, I evaluated the role of a cellulase-encoding gene (JGI Prot. ID: 76589) using molecular biology techniques. This cellulase was only expressed during the final necrotrophic phase of Z. tritici infection and the nucleotide sequences of the gene showed signatures of diversifying selection. This pattern is consistent with the hypothesis of evasion from host recognition during the first phases of infection and subsequent induction of host-cell death by the secretion of an array of different cellulase isoforms by the fungus. To test this hypothesis, I constitutively expressed the cellulase-encoding gene in Z. tritici during all infection stages by inserting a constitutive promoter (originally from the Glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase gene of Aspergillus nidulans) upstream of the start codon of the cellulase gene. I was able to show that the progress of infection in this mutant was delayed compared to the non-modified Z. tritici isolates. This suggests that the cellulase acts as an elicitor molecule that is detected by the plant and triggers the defense machinery that will hinder the growth of the pathogen. In summary, my PhD work demonstrated the significance of fine-tuning of gene expression regulation of various genes in plant pathogenic fungi to facilitate adaptation to different environmental conditions and host colonization. Remarkably, I was able to show that gene expression fine-tuning resulted in large amounts of phenotypic diversity in adaptive traits.

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    ETH Zürich Research Collection
    Doctoral thesis . 2018
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      ETH Zürich Research Collection
      Doctoral thesis . 2018
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    Authors: Bader, Cédric;

    Organic soils develop under waterlogged conditions, leading to a reduced decomposition of biomass. Over the last millennia this led to the development of a large carbon (C) pool in the global C cycle. Drainage, necessary for agriculture and forestry, triggers rapid decomposition of soil organic matter (SOM). While undisturbed organic soils are C-sinks, drainage transforms them into C-sources. Climate, drainage depth and land-use are considered the main factors controlling SOM decomposition. However, there is still a large variation in decomposition rates among organic soils, even when climate, drainage and land-use conditions are similar. This thesis investigates the role of SOM composition on peat decomposability in a variety of differently managed drained organic soils. Peat samples from 21 organic soils managed as cropland, grassland and forest soils situated in Switzerland were incubated at 10 and 20 °C for more than 6 months. During incubation, we monitored CO2 emissions and related them to soil characteristics, including bulk density, soil pH, soil organic carbon (SOC) content, and elemental ratios (C/N, H/C and O/C). The incubated samples lost between 0.6 to 1.9% of their SOC at 10 °C and between 1.2 to 42% at 20 °C over the course of 10,000 h (>1 yr). This huge variation occurring under controlled conditions suggests that, besides drainage depth, climate and management, SOM composition is an underestimated factor that determines CO2 fluxes measured in field experiments. In contrast, correlations between the investigated soil characteristics and CO2 emissions were weak. Furthermore, there were no land-use effects. Such effects were expected based on the measured SOM characteristics and IPCC data. Temperature sensitivity of decomposition decreased with depth, indicating an enrichment of recalcitrant SOM in topsoils. This finding stands in contrast to findings in studies of undisturbed organic soils and Further it suggests that future C loss from agriculturally managed organic soils will be similar considering warmer climate conditions. Cultivation of organic soils is accompanied by inputs of young organic carbon (YOC) from plant residues. The amount of YOC inputs, their potential to compensate for oxidative peat loss as well as their lability are unknown. Studying the δ13C signatures in the topsoil of a managed organic soil revealed that at least 19 ± 2.4% of the SOC originate from YOC being accumulated recently. Yet, the accumulation rates are substantially smaller than average peat loss rates on the studied soils. Remarkably, the percentage of YOC in decomposing SOC was 53 ± 0.1%, indicating that YOC is more labile than bulk SOC. These findings are supported by the 14C age of emitted CO2 being younger than that of SOC. Inputs of fresh organic matter (FOM) to soil are known to induce priming effects, i.e. an altered decomposition of resident SOM. The effect of FOM addition on peat decomposition of agriculturally used organic soils has seldom been quantified experimentally. Therefore, we incubated soil samples from managed organic soils over three weeks with and without adding corn straw as FOM. The 13C and 14C signatures of SOC and emitted CO2 enabled us to apportion the amount of decomposed corn, as well as to estimate relative effects of corn addition on the decomposition of SOC from old peat and from YOC. FOM addition induced negative, positive and neutral priming of SOC decomposition. Further, the relative contribution of peat SOC to the overall CO2 release consistently decreased after FOM addition, suggesting that young and old C pools in managed organic soils respond differently to the addition of fresh plant residues. A combination of those two findings indicates that FOM addition can effectively reduce the decomposition of old peat. The results of this thesis suggest that agricultural use of organic soils has a tremendous effect on the composition and decomposability of SOC in organic soils. Furthermore, they show that also crop species known for their carbon sequestration potential are not likely to counteract peat losses caused by drainage. Therefore, agricultural management of organic soils without the risk of losing vast amounts of SOC seems unrealistic and thus, CO2 emissions from organic soils are not likely to decrease in the future. This means that they remain a big issue of concern for future generations in order to counteract climate change.

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    ETH Zürich Research Collection
    Doctoral thesis . 2017
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      ETH Zürich Research Collection
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    Authors: Stieger, Jacqueline;
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    ETH Zürich Research Collection
    Doctoral thesis . 2013
    Data sources: Datacite
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      ETH Zürich Research Collection
      Doctoral thesis . 2013
      Data sources: Datacite
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    Authors: Kreft, Cordelia Sophie;

    Global agricultural production contributes around 20% of total anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. At the same time, agriculture has large potential to reduce its emissions and additionally sequester carbon. Hence, the agricultural sector has an important role to play in mitigating further climate change and achieving international and national climate policy goals. Simultaneously, agriculture must provide sufficient food for a growing world population. To tackle this challenge, numerous mitigation measures to reduce GHG emissions from livestock and crop production have been proposed, including adaptation of farm management and technological innovations. However, successful climate change mitigation under current agricultural production levels relies on farmers who are willing to change farming practices and adopt respective measures. The goal of this thesis is to provide insights into the determinants of mitigation adoption in agriculture with a focus on the role of behavioural economic factors such as farmers’ individual characteristics and social interactions. A thorough understanding of farmers’ decision-making in this context is key to design effective and efficient policies aiming to reduce agricultural GHG emissions. To explore the behavioural aspects of farmers’ adoption of climate change mitigation practices and assess the effect of respective agricultural policies, the thesis applies different quantitative methods including social network analysis, which build on each other and ultimately flow into an agent-based model. The analyses are based on a Swiss case study and use a combination of farm census, survey, and in-depth social network data, which were specifically collected for this purpose. The introductory chapter provides general background information, motivates the goals of the thesis, and presents the conceptual framework and research questions. The following chapters represent the main body of the thesis and contain the original research articles. More precisely, the second chapter uses an OLS regression based on census and survey data of 105 farmers to investigate the role of noncognitive skills, namely perceived self-efficacy and internal locus of control on the adoption of on-farm climate change mitigation measures. Farmers who are convinced of their capability to effectively reduce on-farm GHG emissions and generally believe to be in control over life’s outcomes are more likely to adopt climate change mitigation measures on their farms. The underlying mechanism is farmers’ innovativeness, which is positively associated with high non-cognitive skills and ultimately leads to mitigation adoption. The third chapter of the thesis uses social network analysis based on personal interview data of 50 farmers to explore the features of social networks and their role in agricultural climate change mitigation. The regular exchange of relevant knowledge among connected peers positively affects the uptake of mitigation measures. In particular, strong social ties to others who are perceived as knowledgeable in agricultural climate change mitigation can enhance adoption. Moreover, connections to members of a local farmers’ initiative for GHG reduction in agriculture (“AgroCO2ncept Flaachtal”) are found to be associated with mitigation uptake. This indicates that local grassroot initiatives can have spillover effects on the wider region. The fourth chapter integrates the findings of the previous chapters in an agent-based modelling approach and quantifies the effect of farmers’ individual characteristics and social networks in terms of overall reduction of GHG emissions and farm-level marginal abatement cost. For the analysis, the data of a subsample of 49 dairy and beef cattle farmers is used. Knowledge exchange among socially connected farmers can substantially increase overall GHG reduction. Moreover, farmers’ social networks can reduce marginal cost of agricultural climate change mitigation. The fifth chapter comparestwo differently designed policy incentives (action- and results-based designs) to achieve a certain GHG reduction goal, accounting for heterogeneous cost and benefits of mitigation measures as well as farmers’ individual preferences, reluctance to change and social interactions in an agent-based modelling approach. Specifically, the role of a so-called win-win measure that reduces GHG emissions and at the same time increases farm income is investigated. The analysis uses the same model parametrization based on the data of 49 Swiss dairy and beef cattle farmers as presented in the fourth chapter. Depending on whether the win-win measure is included in the policy scheme, result- or action-based designs are more efficient from a governmental perspective. Independent of that, resultsbased designs lead to lower marginal abatement cost on farm level. With both action- and results-based policies, behavioural factors and especially farmers’ reluctance to change lead to a substantial decrease of overall GHG reduction as compared to a situation where farmers strictly optimize farm income. The findings of the thesis reveal some relevant policy implications. When assessing policies for agricultural climate change mitigation, decision-makers should account for farmers’ behavioural characteristics. Particularly, farmers’ sense of self-efficacy related to successful on-farm GHG reduction should be strengthened by providing relevant knowledge and advisory service. Moreover, social learning among farmers should be fostered by supporting adequate platforms of knowledge exchange. Regarding the choice of policy designs for mitigation adoption, farmers’ individual preferences, social interactions as well as cost and benefits of the considered mitigation measures should be equally considered.

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    ETH Zürich Research Collection
    Doctoral thesis . 2022
    Data sources: Datacite