Caspar Langenbach Receives Julius Kühn Award




Caspar Langenbach

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RWTH scientist honored for his work on the genetic and biological control of the Asian soybean rust fungus.


Dr. Caspar Langenbach from the Department of Plant Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at RWTH Aachen University has received the 2020 Julius Kühn Award of the German Phytomedical Society for his research on the genetic and biological control of the Asian soybean rust fungus (ASR). The award, worth 2,000 euros, is presented to scientists under 40 years of age who have made outstanding contributions to basic research in the field of phytomedicine.

Yield Losses of up to 90 Percent

Langenbach studied biology and received his doctorate from RWTH in 2013. Currently, he is head of the Agricultural Biotechnology working group of the Department of Plant Biochemistry and Molecular Biology led by Professor Uwe Conrath. Langenbach already conducted research on the genetic and biochemical basis of resistance to “Phakopsora pachyrhizi,” which causes Asian soybean rust (ASR), as part of his doctorate. Asian soybean rust caused by the fungus can lead to yield losses of up to 90 percent under climatic conditions that are favorable for the fungus.

At that time, Caspar Langenbach laid the foundation for insights into the role played by low-molecular secondary metabolites and the corresponding metabolism genes in resistance to the spread of the fungus in leaf tissue. These genes were demonstrated to result in the establishment of partial ASR resistance in soybeans.

In a novel approach, the biologist is now seeking to functionalize leaf surfaces for plant protection purposes with the help of rainproof, chimeric proteins. These bifunctional proteins reduce the development of ASR. The principle of rain resistance can also be used for other forms of biological or chemical crop protection. The principle could make it possible to apply active agents locally and much more precisely, helping to reduce the amount of agents used and thus also the environmental impact of crop protection products.