Matthias Erb

As an associate professor of Biotic Interactions, Matthias Erb studies the interactions between plants and insect pests at molecular, chemical, and ecological level. The focus is on biologically active plant substances that enhance the pest resistance of wild and agricultural plants and thus contribute to sustainable agriculture. In his role as Director of the Interfaculty Research Cooperation «One Health», he also has a significant part to play in closing the circle that leads from plants to the health of animals and humans.

Over the last few years, Matthias Erb has contributed to the understanding of the interaction between plants and insects through his award-winning work. Together with an international team of researchers, he has focused particularly on explaining how the corn rootworm has become a significant corn pest by adapting to the plants’ own active substances. 

His Video

flashMOOCs University of Bern, Thumbnail to the video "Control Insect Pests - The Western Corn Rootworm"

Control Insect Pests – The Western Corn Rootworm

Each year, insect pests consume enough crop to feed 600 million people. Taking the corn rootworm as an example, discover which strategies are in place to control pests, their advantages and disadvantages, and the role that basic research has to play in developing new, sustainable strategies.


Selected publications

  • Hu, L., Mateo, P., Ye, M., Zhang, X., Berset, J. D., Handrick, V., Radisch, D., Grabe, V., Köllner, T. G., Gershenzon, J., Robert, C. A. M. & Erb, M. (2018). Plant iron acquisition strategy exploited by an insect herbivore. Science, 361 (6403), 694-697.
  • Hu, L., Robert, C. A. M., Cadot, S., Zhang, X., Ye, M., Li, B., Manzo, D., Chervet, N., Steinger, T., van der Heijden, M. G. A., Schlaeppi, K. & Erb, M. (2018). Root exudate metabolites drive plant-soil feedbacks on growth and defense by shaping the rhizosphere microbiota. Nature Communications, 9, 2738.
  • Li, B., Förster, C., Robert, C. A. M., Züst, T., Hu, L., Machado, R. A. R., Berset, J.-D., Handrick, V., Knauer, T., Hensel, G., Chen, W., Kumlehn, J., Yang, P., Keller, B., Gershenzon, J., Jander, G., Köllner, T. G. & Erb, M. (2018). Convergent evolution of a metabolic switch between aphid and caterpillar resistance in cereals. Science Advances, 12 (4).
  • Erb, M., Veyrat, N., Robert, C.A.M., Xu, H., Frey, M., Ton., J. & Turlings, T.C.J (2015). Indole is an essential herbivore-induced volatile priming signal in maize. Nature Communications, 6, 6273.
  • Robert, C.A.M., Veyrat, N., Glauser, G., Marti, G., Doyen, G.R., Villard, N., Gaillard, M.D.P., Köllner, T.G., Giron, D., Body, M., Babst, B.A., Ferrieri, R.A., Turlings, T.C.J. & Erb, M. (2012). A specialist root herbivore exploits defensive metabolites to locate nutritious tissues. Ecology Letters, 15 (1), 55-64.


  • Teacher of the Year, Department of Biology, University of Bern (2017)
  • ERC Starting Grant (European Research Council, 2016)
  • Early Career Award of the International Society of Chemical Ecology (2015)
  • Prix Nexans (2013)