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Cecile Thonar banière site ULB.jpg
Cecile Thonar profil site ULB.jpg

Prof. Cécile Thonar

Associate Professor — Chargée de Cours

Chair of Agroecology at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), Belgium


Profile & curriculum

  • MSc in Agricultural Sciences (1996-2001, Gembloux AgroBioTech, ULiège, Belgium)

  • PhD in Sciences (2005-2009, Polytechnical School of Zurich, ETH Zurich, Switzerland)

  • SNF-Postdoctoral Research Associate (2010-2011, CIAT Africa, Nairobi, Kenya)

  • Group Leader “Plant symbioses in Soil Sciences Department” (2011-2017, FiBL, Switzerland)

  • Senior Scientist in the group of “Plant Genetics and Rhizosphere Processes” at Gembloux Agro-Bio Tech, Belgium

  • Co-founder of BRIOAA (Belgian Research Institute of Organic Agriculture and Agroecology

Research interests

  • Rhizosphere ecology and physiology

  • Arbuscular mycorrhiza

  • Rhizospheric functions of associated plants (pre-crops, companion crops, mixed crops, border plants…)

  • Microbiome and rhizosphere management trough agroecological approaches

  • Plant genetic determinants of improved associations with beneficial soil microorganisms

  • Nitrogen and phosphorus management for improved uptake and use efficiency by crops

  • Soil biodiversity and functions as affected by climate change

  • Organic agriculture and agroecology

Current research projects

  • PlantaGO (2024-2028): Biological nitrification inhibition by Plantago lanceolata to reduce nitrogen losses from agroecosystems:
    Funding: WEAVE Program (SNF and FNRS)

  • BioMycNet (2024-2029): Réseau de recherche et d'innovations en inoculation microbienne des cultures comme levier de la transition agro-écologique du sénégal
    Funding: ARES

  • FertiGO (2024-2027): Improving fertilizing strategies by innovative use of Plantain (Plantago lanceola) in agricultural systems.
    Funding: Green-Era-Hub

  • CATCH-BNI (2021-2024): Improved nitrogen use efficiency in agriculture by CATCH crops as producers of Biological Nitrification Inhibitors. /
    Funding: SUSCROP ERA-NET

  • BIOFAIR (2021-2024): Biodiversity of soils and farming Innovations for improved resilience in European wheat agrosystems.
    Funding: BiodivERsA ERA-NET

  • SEA2LAND (2021-2025): Producing advanced bio-based fertilizers from fisheries wastes.
    Funding: Horizon 2020 (European Union)

  • GAIN (2018-2024): Gestion des Adventices par Innovations de la Nutrition azotée.
    Funding: Regional Government of Belgium (DGO3)

  • CASSAVABIOME (2020-2023) Advanced genetics and soil microbiome contribution for drought tolerance in cassava (Indonesia).
    Funding: Global Minds Fellowship (KU Leuven, Belgium); co-supervision

  • MyVIP (2020-2022): MYcorrhizae-enabled network and communication between Virus-Infected Plants.
    Funding: FNRS; co-supervision


  • From September 2022: BINGF404, Agroecology and crop/soil microbiology

  • From September 2023: BINGF301 General and environmental microbiology (Main teachers: Isabelle George and Sigrid Flahaut)

Five key publications

  • Jauregui, I., Vega-Mas, I., Delaplace, P., Vanderschuren, H., Thonar, C. (2022). An optimized hydroponic pipeline for large-scale identification of wheat genotypes with resilient biological nitrification inhibition activity. New Phytol.

  • Mathu Ndungu S., Messmer M., Ziegler D., Gamper H., Mészáros E., Thuita M., Vanlauwe B., Frossard E., Thonar C. (2018)
    Cowpea (Vigna unguiculata L. Walp) hosts several widespread bradyrhizobial root nodule symbionts across contrasting agro-ecological production areas in Kenya
    Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, 261, 161-171.

  • Symanczik S., Gisler M., Thonar C., Schlaeppi K., Van der Heijden M., Kahmen A., Boller T, Maeder P. (2017)
    Application of mycorrhiza and soil from a permaculture system improved phosphorus acquisition in naranjilla.
    Frontiers in Plant Science, 8, 1263.

  • Thonar C., Frossard E. Smilauer P., and Jansa J. (2014). Competition and facilitation in synthetic communities of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi.

  • Molecular Ecology, 23(3): 733-746.

  • Thonar C., Erb A., and Jansa J. (2012)
    Real-time PCR to quantify composition of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal communities – marker design, verification, calibration, and field validation.
    Molecular Ecology Resources, 12(2): 219-232.

All publications are available upon request or through ResearchGate

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