The mission of Di3A is to produce high quality scientific research, with relevant social and economic impacts, with particular reference to the areas of agricultural and food production and environmental protection in the Mediterranean Basin.
The research lines developed by the Department are summarized below:
Agronomy and herbaceous crops: influence of natural and agronomic factors on the quantity and quality of yield of crops for the Mediterranean agroecosystems; sustainable agronomic techniques for food, forage and non food crops; ecophysiology response of plants to abiotic stresses; soil erosion control in Mediterranean cropping systems; seed production of crops in Mediterranean environment; collection and enhancement of native germplasm; biomass crops for energy production; evaluation of the carbon cycle in phytodepuration systems made with perennial herbaceous plants; agrometeorology and simulation models in herbaceous crops; definition of conventional, integrated, low input, biological cropping systems.
Arboriculture and fruit culture: the main fields of analysis interest the study of the biology and physiology of the tree crops, the choice connected to the set-up of novel orchards, both traditional and marker-assisted breeding schemes (MAS), the use of in vitro techniques for the selection, the propagation and sanitation of tree species and the use of molecular markers both for the germplasm characterization and for the detection of genetic regions linked to trait of agronomical interest.
Agricultural chemistry: soil fertility, reuse of waste biomass in agriculture, studies on soil organic matter and humic fractions, behaviour of agrochemicals in soil and water, effects of biotic and abiotic factors on soil microorganism diversity, biodegradability of plastic material nanocomposites, soil microflora response to cover crops and biodegradable mulching.
Building and land planning: the research activity mainly concerns buildings and infrastructures for agriculture, animal husbandry, protected crops, rural housing, forestry and faunal activities and related to the conservation and processing of agro-zootechnical, agri-food and agro-forest products, waste management and possible reuse of livestock waste and by-products; analysis, modelling and planning of rural areas and landscape and biological systems related to rural buildings; planning, design and recovery of rural infrastructures and rural landscape, including green areas.
Agricultural Economics and Valuation: production, transformation, distribution, market and consumption of agri-food products; agri-food and agri-energy and biofuels systems; agri-food and environmental public policy; market and non-market valuation methods; economics tools for nature conservation..
Applied Entomology: systematics and biology of arthropod pests and their antagonists with particular reference to Hemiptera Sternorrhyncha; insects molecular analysis for systematics and vector/plant interactions studies; sustainable strategies control of arthropods Mediterranean crop pests and agri-food industries; use of biopesticides; eco-toxicology of insecticides; studies of ecological and food webs interactions of pollinators and other beneficial insects.
Plant Genetics: the research activity mainly concerns the molecular characterization of the plant-environment interaction in both herbaceous and arboreal species, the application of -omic techniques for the identification of differentially expressed genes, the analysis of epigenome modifications under stress conditions, the application of molecular markers for the characterization of cereal germplasm, mutagenesis and in vitro expression of proteins.
Economic and Political Geography: quali-quantitative analysis of territorial processes such as regeneration and gentrification, urban green and public space, smart city and the “right to the sustainable city”; critical analysis of place branding strategies in urban and rural areas; multi-method analysis of transcalar food policies and practices (food geography, urban food planning, new consumption foodscapes); socio-economic and territorial analysis of innovation in urban and rural areas (participatory digital mapping, e-planning/e-democracy; milieux of innovation).
Agricultural Hydraulics and Soil Conservation: design and management of extensive natural systems for the treatment of urban and agro-industrial wastewater, application of micro-meteorological and energy balance techniques, soil erosion, irrigation, integrated management of water resources, soil conservation techniques; hydrological processes monitoring techniques in agro-forestry systems, bio-engineering techniques; techniques for wastewater reuse for irrigation.
Mathematics education and history of mathematics: Analysis of problematic situations in the field of teaching/learning mathematics at all levels of education. Research for good practices in the teaching/learning of mathematics, especially with the use of technology. Social value and efficacy of mathematics education.
Mechanics and Mechanisation: innovative interventions in the mechanisation of the cultural phases of Mediterranean crops as citrus, vineyards, olive groves, nuts, cactus pears, durum wheat; influence of machines and cultural techniques on erosion and soil safeguard; harvest and post-harvest; ergonomics and safety in workplaces; aspects and sensors of the automation of machines and processes; development of mechatronics and robotics systems..
Agri-food microbiology: Development of innovative food and/or functional beverages; Isolation, identification and characterization of microorganisms of high technological interest; Application of culture-dependent and -independent methods for studing microbial dynamics in complex matrices; Antibiotic resistance in bacteria from food and environmental sources; Selection and use of yeast strains for controlling pathogenic microorganisms; Development of starter cultures for food fermentation; In vitro assays for probiotic features of lactobacilli; Application of static and dynamic digestion model systems; Human gut microbiota analysis though molecular culture-independent approaches.
Vegetable and flower crops: characterization and protection of biodiversity; bio-productive response of vegetable, flower and officinal species to different environmental and technical conditions; sustainable and organic methods and techniques; vegetable and ornamental nursery; functional and quality characteristics of vegetable and ornamental plants; quality and nutraceutical characterization of vegetable products; response to abiotic stress; product and process innovation in vegetable and flower crops; protected cultivations; soilless cultivation; urban green areas and related functions; historical and/or traditional gardens.
Plant Pathology: plant diseases caused by pathogens and abiotic factors integrating the knowledge acquired for the development of diagnostic tools and sustainable protection methods; diagnosis and study of new pathogens and host-pathogen combinations/interactions; epidemiology; development of molecular methods of diagnosis; identification and study of pathogen populations by morphological, microbiological and molecular characters, evaluation of pathogenicity and virulence, resistance to fungicides; analysis of the risk of introduction of alien/quarantine pathogens and their vectors.
Animal production: molecular characterization of Sicilian breeds and populations; authoctonous breeds biodiversity preservation and valorisation; interaction among animal genetic polymorphisms (protein and lipid loci), cow or goat feeding systems and product quality; small ruminant grazing behaviour; use of dietary bioactive compounds from agro-industrial wastes (e.g. carob, citrus, olive oil, tomato, hazelnut, pomegranate …), forage or plant extracts and meat nutritional quality and shelf-life; authentication of animal products; hystorical Sicilian cheeses characterization and valorisation.
Food Technologies: Study of physico-chemical, enzymatic and sensory properties of raw materials/semi-finished products/food and finished food products; Mathematical modeling for control, optimization and sizing of conventional and innovative unit operations in the food industries; Study of food processes within the main sectors of Mediterranean interest and valorization of waste products to obtain bioactive ingredient; Evaluation of the suitable packaging systems and assessment of their interactions with the chemical, enzymatic and sensorial parameters of food products; Quality and safety and study of consumer food preferences.