Research is conducted in collaboration with both National and International research centres and includes the following research themes:
A) Fodder production and environmental sustainability
Foddering in agronomic contexts; productivity and sustainability of natural and artificial pastures; cultivation, harvesting and storage of fodder; sustainable fodder systems; qualitative and nutritional traits of green and stored fodder; biotechnology for enhancing the nutritional characteristics of foods for livestock and for the exploitation of by-products; use of wild plant species for the production of bioenergy and multipurpose uses.
B) Animal systems, biological sustainability and production quality
Physiological basis for the maintenance of the animal welfare; innovative technologies for the improvement of productive and reproductive efficiencies; microbiological biotechnologies and study of microorganisms having veterinarian/agricultural interest; response to physiological/environmental stresses, environmental adaptation and thermoregulatory mechanisms in livestock animals; breeding technologies, nutrition and product quality in ruminants; composition of animal products (wool, milk, body tissue); fodder-livestock biological systems.
C) Biodiversity and genetic improvement
Collection, conservation, characterisation and valorization of animal and plant genetic resources; germplasm promotion of Mediterranean forage, pasture and grass species; animal genetics, cytogenetics and gene mapping; biochemistry; proteomics and molecular biotechnology applied to the study of species having veterinarian/agricultural interest.
D) Optimization models and economic sustainability
Organization, planning and optimization of feeding and grazing systems; models for using local animal and plant resources; optimization models for productive/reproductive/organ biological functions; farm management optimization models.
Scientific areas of Excellence
This section covers the three laboratories that have currently achieved levels of excellence in their related fields:
1) Animal cytogenetics and genetics
The laboratory of animal cytogenetic and gene mapping is focalised on the genetic improvement of animals by several areas of research:
- clinical cytogenetics: selection of reproducers free of chromosome abberrations;
- study of chromosomal abnormalities and their relation to fertility;
- evolutionary cytogenetics: study of the cytogenetic evolution of animal species;
- environmental cytogenetics: cytogenetic tests in animals reared in risky environments for the presence of mutagenic compounds;
- molecular cytogenetics: extension of cytogenetic maps in domestic bovids through loci mapping containing expressed and unexpressed genes using the FISH technique;
- chromosomal characterization of mitotic chromosomes of domestic animal by high resolution banding techniques;
- construction of standard karyotypes in domestic bovids;
- genetic and cytogeneitic studies on oocytes, sperms and embryos of farm animals;
- specific whole chromosome painting probes production for farm animals by chromosome microdissection and DOP-PCR amplification.
2) Biochemistry and Proteomics of species having bio-agricultural interest
The scientific activity of this laboratory lies in different areas of Biochemistry and Biotechnology applied to agrifood sciences, and it is mainly focused on expression proteomics studies and structural/functional characterization of proteins from species having bio-agricultural interest. In particular, the main activities are:
- proteomic analysis of tissues/body fluids from animals/plants or of cell extracts from microorganisms having veterinary/agricultural interest;
- study of proteins from raw materials having animal/plant origin and/or protein modifications originated by food processing Technologies;
- study of post-translational modifications in bioactive proteins/peptides from species having bio-agricultural interest;
- identification of molecular markers of pathophysiological conditions in species having bio-agricultural interest;
- characterization of protein complexes from species having bio-agricultural interest;
- development of advanced micro-analytical methodologies for expression proteomics and functional proteomics studies.
3) Native plant species for forage and multipurpose uses
Bio-agronomic studies are developed in the frame of European, National and Regional projects. Research topics are:
- identification of forage germplasm with superior agronomic characteristics and potential for a wide range of utilizations for Mediterranean areas;
- characterization of forage germplasm for high tolerance to summer drought, persistence and improved quality;
- nitrogen-fixation, hardseededness and secondary metabolites quantification in pasture and grain legumes, and study of plant-rhizobia interactions;
- study of grass-legume mixtures to improve the resilience of sustainable farming systems based on pastures and forage crops;
- evaluation of multipurpose suitability of native herbaceous species for conventional forage uses, ecosystem services, bioenergy production, obtainment of natural products from secondary metabolites.