Simeon Rossmann

Post Doctor

(+47) 481 04 743

Ås H7

Visiting address
Høgskoleveien 7, 1433 Ås


I conduct research on various applied aspects of plant pathology. I have considerable experience working with Pectobacteriaceae, ubiquitous bacterial pathogens with a broad host range and the cause of potato soft rot and blackleg. I am particularly interested in insects associated with these bacteria and other bacterial plant pathogens in the field, as well as the molecular mechanisms underlying these diverse associations.

Recently, my work has focused on practical and bioinformatics implementations of metabarcoding or amplicon sequencing as a tool for the detection and identification of plant pathogenic fungi, oomycetes, nematodes and bacteria, as well as invasive plant and insect species.

I obtained my BSc and MSc from the University of Tübingen, where I discovered my passion for plant pathology at the Center for Plant Molecular Biology (ZMBP). During my PhD period (2015-2018), I studied potato soft rot in Norway under the main supervision of Prof. May Bente Brurberg (NIBIO/NMBU).

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Invasive alien species and new plant pests are introduced into new regions at an accelerating rate, due to increasing international trade with soil, plants and plant products. Exotic, plant pathogenic oomycetes in soil from the root zone of imported plants pose a great threat to endemic ecosystems and horticultural production. Detecting them via baiting and isolation, with subsequent identification of the isolated cultures by Sanger sequencing, is labour intensive and may introduce bias due to the selective baiting process. We used metabarcoding to detect and identify oomycetes present in soil samples from imported plants from six different countries. We compared metabarcoding directly from soil both before and after baiting to a traditional approach using Sanger-based barcoding of cultures after baiting. For this, we developed a standardized analysis workflow for Illumina paired-end oomycete ITS metabarcodes that is applicable to future surveillance efforts. In total, 73 soil samples from the rhizosphere of woody plants from 33 genera, in addition to three samples from transport debris, were analysed by metabarcoding the ITS1 region with primers optimized for oomycetes. We detected various Phytophthora and Pythium species, with Pythium spp. being highly abundant in all samples. We also found that the baiting procedure, which included submerging the soil samples in water, resulted in the enrichment of organisms other than oomycetes, compared to non-baited soil samples.


Potato soft rot Pectobacteriaceae (SRP) cause large yield losses and are persistent in seed lots once established. In Norway, different Pectobacterium species are the predominant cause of soft rot and blackleg disease. This work aimed to evaluate the potential of real-time PCR for quantification of SRP in seed tubers, as well as investigating the status of potato seed health with respect to SRP in Norway. A total of 34 seed potato lots, including certified seeds, was grown and monitored over three consecutive years. All seed lots contained a quantifiable amount of SRP after enrichment, with very few subsamples being free of the pathogens. A high SRP prevalence based on a qPCR assay, as well as a high symptom incidence in certified seeds were observed, suggesting that current criteria for seed certification are insufficient to determine tuber health and predict field outcomes. Pectobacterium atrosepticum was the most abundant species in the examined seed lots and present in all lots. Consistently good performance of first generation seed lots with respect to blackleg and soft rot incidence, as well as low quantity of SRP in these seed lots demonstrated the importance of clean seed potatoes. Weather conditions during the growing season seemed to govern disease incidence and SRP prevalence more than seed grade. The impact of temperature, potato cultivar and Pectobacterium species on tuber soft rot development were further examined in tuber infection experiments, which showed that temperature was the most important factor in nearly all cultivars. Large-scale quantification of latent infection and predictive models that include contributing factors like weather, infecting bacterial species and cultivar are needed to reduce soft rot and blackleg.


Pathogenic soft rot Enterobacteriaceae (SRE) belonging to the genera Pectobacterium and Dickeya cause diseases in potato and numerous other crops. Seed potatoes are the most important source of infection, but how pathogen-free tubers initially become infected remains an enigma. Since the 1920s, insects have been hypothesized to contribute to SRE transmission. To validate this hypothesis and to map the insect species potentially involved in SRE dispersal, we have analyzed the occurrence of SRE in insects recovered from potato fields over a period of 2 years. Twenty-eight yellow sticky traps were set up in 10 potato fields throughout Norway to attract and trap insects. Total DNA recovered from over 2,000 randomly chosen trapped insects was tested for SRE, using a specific quantitative PCR (qPCR) TaqMan assay, and insects that tested positive were identified by DNA barcoding. Although the occurrence of SRE-carrying insects varied, they were found in all the tested fields. While Delia species were dominant among the insects that carried the largest amount of SRE, more than 80 other SRE-carrying insect species were identified, and they had different levels of abundance. Additionally, the occurrence of SRE in three laboratory-reared insect species was analyzed, and this suggested that SRE are natural members of some insect microbiomes, with herbivorous Delia floralis carrying more SRE than the cabbage moth (Plutella xylostella) and carnivorous green lacewing larvae (Chrysoperla carnea). In summary, the high proportion, variety, and ubiquity of insects that carried SRE show the need to address this source of the pathogens to reduce the initial infection of seed material.


The genus Pectobacterium, which belongs to the bacterial family Enterobacteriaceae, contains numerous species that cause soft rot diseases in a wide range of plants. The species Pectobacterium carotovorum is highly heterogeneous, indicating a need for re-evaluation and a better classification of the species. PacBio was used for sequencing of two soft-rot-causing bacterial strains (NIBIO1006T and NIBIO1392), initially identified as P. carotovorum strains by fatty acid analysis and sequencing of three housekeeping genes (dnaX, icdA and mdh). Their taxonomic relationship to other Pectobacterium species was determined and the distance from any described species within the genus Pectobacterium was less than 94% average nucleotide identity (ANI). Based on ANI, phylogenetic data and genome-to-genome distance, strains NIBIO1006T, NIBIO1392 and NCPPB3395 are suggested to represent a novel species of the genus Pectobacterium, for which the name Pectobacterium polaris sp. nov. is proposed. The type strain is NIBIO1006T (=DSM 105255T=NCPPB 4611T).