Agriculture and Forestry

Activities pursued

1. Ecological and molecular approaches to improve crop protection and production. (PI R Campos-Herrera)

This is a new research line leaded by a “Investigador FCT” that joinned MeditBio. It combines genomic techniques and geostatistical approaches to assess the regional diversity and function of soil food webs, using entomopathogenic nematodes as model system. 

This is to be achieved in conjunction with studies regarding the planning and management of rural areas (PI MB Costa freitas)

2. Increasing the agronomic value of selected Mediterranean crops (PI J Leitão)

Besides Citrus, representing one of the major crops of Mediterranean, other tree species as Carob and Strawberry tree are increasing in importance, while traditional species as Almond and Figs are nowadays almost circumscribed to small farmer orchards or abandoned. This line has progressed through the following:

  • Assessment of the genetic variability of the local field collections of the germplasm of Carob and other minor fruit species
  • Assessment of phytosanitary state of the plants aiming to obtain pathogen free plant material of traditional Citrus varieties. This has been done underway for D. João variety in collaboration with a citrus nurseryman association.

3. Pesticide control of agricultural/food product; development of new pesticides.

Intensive use of pesticides leads residues in food agricultural products and to environmental contamination. Monitoring of residues and degradation products is therefore required. Analytical methods for pesticide residues directly on surfaces combined with high performance tools has been applied in soil, leaves and fruits, and food, focusing on out of season strawberry production, orange, grapes, olives and products prepared thereof. In the field of new pesticides we are studying the use of organo-clays and macrocyclic nanocontainers (cucurbiturils, cyclodextrins) to encapsulate pesticides for controlled release. (PI JP Silva)

In another approach we will use anti microbial peptides obtained from insects to be delivered inside plants through modified plant viruses. Preliminary results have shown the feasibility of obtaining anti-fungal protection. A provisional patent application has been filled (PI G Nolasco).

4. Phytopatological aspects related to cork oak decline:

Genetic and biological control of the disease through antagonist bacteria and the autochnous  plant Phlomis purpurea;  molecular interactions of Phythophthora. cinamommi and Quercus suber through transcriptome analysis; role of elicitins promoting protection of Cork oak cells against the fungus (PI A Cravador). Factors driving diversity and adaptation of the plant pathogenic genus  Phytophthora  and molecular mechanisms underlying susceptibility and tolerance to Phytophthora cinnamomi in Quercus species (PI T Jung). Thomas Jung is a “Investigador FCT” researcher who joined MeditBio

5. Study of the Physiological and biochemical mechanisms of the response to nutritional stresses, namely ferric unavaliabilty  Improvement of fruit quality trough nutritional management. Study of the ecology of crops well adapted to to calcareous soils. Development of new tools for plant nutritional diagnosis (PIF Pestana and P Correia).