Arboriculture and Plant genetics
Research themes and Projects
The main research topics include agronomic, physiological, propagation and breeding aspects of woody plants. The activities focusing the conservation and characterization of agro-biodiversity are also accomplished. As concerns the agronomic aspects, studies oriented towards the choice of both varieties and rootstocks are carried out upon the main fruit tree species, particularly upon citrus. The analysis of the influence of certain cultural practices, such as the irrigation management and pruning as well as the use of plant growth regulators, has been performed paying remarkable attention to the yield and the physiological behaviour of citrus and peach tree. In addition, experimental activity has been performed to address the qualitative characterization and post-harvest management of fruits belonging to different species. The research activities also cover aspects of propagation and ecophysiology in some fruit tree species of the Mediterranean area and the analysis of biotic and abiotic factors such as light, water stress, water salinity. The scientific interest is also directed towards certain species of Opuntia for the production of biomass. For the genetic improvement, several techniques have been applied, such as in vitro culture, histology, genetic transformation, analysis of gene expression and molecular characterization. The research topics include the genetic transformation of citrus trees for the establishment of genotypes characterized of a modified growth habit or showing an increased resistance to fungal pathogens. In addition, the analysis of tolerance to abiotic and biotic stress has been investigated by the generation and characterization of tobacco plants overexpressing resistance genes belonging to the Citrus genus. The research activities related to the cloning and in vitro expression of recombinant proteins and to the engineering of mutate proteins by site-specific mutagenesis have been performed. Several genes involved in the mechanisms of pollen-pistil interaction, in the processes of fruit ripening, in the anthocyanin biosynthetic pathway and the response to abiotic stress have been identified in citrus both by the use of mutants and by the application of differential expression analysis techniques. Part of the research activity has also been focused on the molecular characterization by the application of various techniques in numerous tree species and particularly for the recovery and development of germplasm accessions of citrus, grapes, olive, cherry, pear, apple, almond, hazelnut, pomegranate, prickly pear, and carob.