Dr Davide Bulgarelli


Plant Sciences, School of Life Sciences

Portrait photo of Davide Bulgarelli
On this page





+44 (0)1382 385405


Davide Bulgarelli comes from Italy where he obtained a PhD in Plant Biology and Crop Production from the University of Milan, prior working as a post-doctoral researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research in Cologne (Germany). In 2013, Davide secured a prestigious Royal Society of Edinburgh personal research fellowship and established his own group at the University of Dundee where is currently a Senior Lecturer and Principal Investigator at the Division of Plant Sciences. Davide is also Public Engagement Champion for his Division, Programme Lead for the CSC scholarships within the School of Life Sciences and a member of the coordinating committee of the International Phytobiomes Alliance.


Plants thrive in association with remarkably rich and diverse microbial communities, collectively referred to as the plant microbiota. Similar to the microbiota inhabiting the digestive tract of vertebrates, the plant microbiota can promote the growth, development and health of their hosts. For example, the microbiota populating the rhizosphere, the interface between plant roots and soil, can facilitate mineral uptake from soil and enhance pathogen protection, effectively providing a more sustainable alternative to agrochemicals. Despite the sheer complexity of soil, microbes populating the root-soil interface are not stochastically assembled, rather the composition of these communities is the result of a selective process mediated, at least partially, by the plant itself [Figure 1]. My team is interested in deciphering the structure function and host control of the microbiota populating the root-soil interface, using crop plants as experimental models. To achieve this ambitious task, we use an innovative research framework encompassing seemingly unrelated disciplines including plant genetics, microbial ecology and computational biology. Our long-term ambition is gaining a precise understanding of plant genes shaping the microbiota and capitalise on this knowledge to develop innovative solutions to decouple crop production from non-renewable inputs in agriculture.

Drawing of a plants roots sitting under the soil with colourful cells surrounding the roots

Figure 1: Plant cell material and organic compounds released by the roots influence the growth of certain microbes (coloured shapes) in the general soil microbiota. The plant’s genetics further fine tunes the microbial community that grows in the rhizosphere and roots. Modified from The Scientist (2018) 32:27.

Selected Publications

  • Escudero-Martinez, C., Coulter, M., Alegria Terrazas, R., Foito A, Kapadia R, Pietrangelo L, Maver M, Sharma R, Aprile A, Morris J, Hedley P, Maurer A, Pillen P, Naclerio G, Mimmo T, Barton G, Waugh R, Abbott J,  Bulgarelli D.  2022. Identifying plant genes shaping microbiota composition in the barley rhizosphere. Nat Commun 13, 3443. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-022-31022-y
  • Robertson-Albertyn S, Abbott JC, Concas F, Brown LH, Orr JN, George TS, Bulgarelli D. 2022 Genome-Annotated Bacterial Collection of the Barley Rhizosphere Microbiota. Microbiol Resour Announc. 11(2):e0106421. https://journals.asm.org/doi/10.1128/mra.01064-21
  • Mahdi LK, Miyauchi S, Uhlmann C, Garrido-Oter R, Langen G, Wawra S, Niu Y, Guan R, Robertson-Albertyn S, Bulgarelli D, Parker JE, Zuccaro A. 2021. The fungal root endophyte Serendipita vermifera displays inter-kingdom synergistic beneficial effects with the microbiota in Arabidopsis thaliana and barley. ISME Journal. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41396-021-01138-y
  • Maver M, Escudero-Martinez C, Abbott J, Morris J, Hedley PE, Mimmo T, Bulgarelli D. 2021. Applications of the indole-alkaloid gramine modulate the assembly of individual members of the barley rhizosphere microbiota. PeerJ. 9:Article e12498. https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.12498
  • Passera A, Follador A, Morandi S, Miotti N, Ghidoli M, Venturini G, Quaglino F, Brasca M, Casati P, Pilu R, Bulgarelli D. 2021. Bacterial Communities in the Embryo of Maize Landraces: Relation with Susceptibility to Fusarium Ear Rot. Microorganisms. 9(11):Article 2388. https://doi.org/10.3390/microorganisms9112388
  • Alegria Terrazas R, Balbirnie-Cumming K, Morris JA, Hedley PE, Russell J, Paterson E, Baggs EM, Fridman E, Bulgarelli D. 2020. A footprint of plant eco-geographic adaptation on the composition of the barley rhizosphere bacterial microbiota. Scientific Reports. 10(1):Article 12916. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-69672-x
  • Caradonia F, Ronga D, Catellani M, Azevedo CVG, Alegria Terrazas R, Robertson-Albertyn S, Francia E, Bulgarelli D. 2019. Nitrogen Fertilizers Shape the Composition and Predicted Functions of the Microbiota of Field-Grown Tomato Plants. Phytobiomes Journal . 3(4):315-325. https://doi.org/10.1094/PBIOMES-06-19-0028-R
  • Escudero-Martinez C, Bulgarelli D. 2019. Tracing the evolutionary routes of plant-microbiota interactions. Current Opinion in Microbiology. 49:34-40. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mib.2019.09.013
  • Pietrangelo L, Bucci A, Maiuro L, Bulgarelli D, Naclerio G. 2018. Unraveling the Composition of the Root-Associated Bacterial Microbiota of Phragmites australis and Typha latifolia. Frontiers in Microbiology. 9:1-13. https://doi.org/10.3389/fmicb.2018.01650
  • Robertson-Albertyn S, Alegria Terrazas R, Balbirnie K, Blank M, Janiak A, Szarejko I, Chmielewska B, Karcz J, Morris J, Hedley PE, George TS, Bulgarelli D. 2017. Root Hair Mutations Displace the Barley Rhizosphere Microbiota. Frontiers in Plant Science. 8:1-15. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpls.2017.01094, https://doi.org/10.3389/fpls.2017.01094
View full research profile and publications


I teach molecular plant-soil microbes interactions in the Level 3 course BS32008 (Plant Sciences) and the Level 4 course BS42005 (advanced Plant Sciences).

Public Engagement

Animating Science Project

Animating Science uses stop motion animation to create animated films about Life Science concepts and processes. This film was produced by members of the public in collaboration with my group and animator Andrew Low as part of our annual Plant Power Day 2019 at the University of Dundee Botanic Garden. This project was funded by BBSRC.

Plant Microbiome to the Rescue is a short animation examining the interaction between soil microbes and plants in our very own plant microbiome. It shows the good, the bad and the ugly of the soil microbe world and how they can contribute to the health of many plants.

Other projects

Article, How can understanding plants and microorganisms help feed the world?, aimed at school pupils about the research of Davide Bulgarelli and his career to date in plant sciences. Includes a worksheet for pupils to complete in class.

This article was produced by Futurum, a magazine and online platform aimed at inspiring young people to follow a career in the sciences, research and technology. For more information, teaching resources, and course and career guides, see www.futurumcareers.com

Media availability

I am available for media commentary on my research.

Structure, function and host control of the plant microbiota

Contact Corporate Communications for media enquiries.

Areas of expertise

  • Agriculture
  • Environment


Award Year
International Science Prizes awarded since 1990 / Applied Microbiology International Dorothy Jones Prize 2022
Fellow of Learned Societies and Colleges / RSE Young Academy of Scotland 2016
Personal Fellowships / RSE Personal Fellowship (Marie Curie) 2013