Agriculture and Forestry
1. Increasing the agronomic value of selected Mediterranean crops.
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:
Identification and validation of SSR and SNP markers of strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo) and carob (Ceratonia siliqua) by next generation partial genome sequencing aimed to the unequivocal identification of clones (in particular of the propagated by the SME Cortevelada).
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.
2. 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.
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.
3. 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. Factors driving diversity and adaptation of the plant pathogenic genus Phytophthora and molecular mechanisms underlying susceptibility and tolerance to Phytophthora cinnamomi in Quercus species.
4. Abiotic stress in Mediterranean environment.
Current research deals with specific abiotic stress frequent in Mediterranean environment, such as iron deficiency and salinity stress. Iron metabolism (omics approach) is studied in Nicotinana and tomato plants using VIGS technique. In parallel, salinity stress is evaluated in several ornamental plants in cooperation with University of Almeria (Spain).