Arne Mertens

PhD student at

  • Lab of Tropical Crop Improvement, Division of Crop Biotechnics KU Leuven
  • Meise Botanic Garden, Research Department

Speciality: Musaceae, population biology, conservation biology
Research themes: Diversity of crop wild relatives (CWRs)


Phone: +32 498 79 02 07

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My research focuses mainly on wild species of banana, one of the most important fruit crops in the world. With global change and the continuously increasing world population, breeding and cultivation of bananas have been put under serious pressure. More research is needed to discover novel or superior alleles in wild species as they hold the key to resistance against various diseases and against abiotic stresses such as water deficit.

In this project, we look at the native distribution area of wild banana species and evaluate the wild banana genetic resources (Musa sp.) already available in ex-situ conservation programs. Additionally, we investigate the species rich forests of Vietnam, which is a big part of the evolutionary hotspot of the genus. It is also here where Musa balbisiana found its origin, a wild species of banana that contributed its so-called B genome to many edible banana cultivars. By investigating the genetic resources of Vietnamese populations of Musa balbisiana, we want to provide a link between genetic diversity and the occurrence of these useful alleles on the one hand and resistance to abiotic stress (drought) and biotic stress (Fusarium wilt) on the other hand.



MSc, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium, 2016   

Employment history

PhD student, Meise Botanic Garden, 2018 - ongoing

Research scientist, Plant Conservation and Population Biology, KU Leuven, 2017


Next to the PhD project on Musa balbisiana, I also collaborate with a project on population genetics and phylogeography of other wild banana species, research that is also conducted in Meise Botanic Garden. I am also greatly interested and involved in projects that assess the impact of mating system, floral morphology, and pollinators on species diversification.