On September 19th 1942, the National Institute for Cereal Crop Genetics founded by Senator Professor Nazareno Strampelli, established the Phytotechnique Workstation of Piacenza, with a Chair in Gariga (Podenzano). On November 1958, the workstation was transferred to Fiorenzuola d’Arda at the “Ceré” farm. During this period tomato varieties for industrial processing were selected and cultivated. Following the Law 1318/68 the Phytotechnique Workstation was transformed into a section of the Experimental Institute for Cereal Crops of Rome. From 1967 to 1972 most of the experimental activity focused on the agronomic evaluation of lines and varieties of wheat and on the conservation of the pure lines of wheat of the “F” series inherited from the Institute of Plant Breeding of Bologna. Later, the section had the task of developing a breeding program for barley and increasing experimental activities on other cereal crops. In the mid '80s, the first winter variety of barley named “Arda” was bred. This was the first significant achievement of the section.
In 1990, the new offices of the Experimental Section of Fiorenzuola d’Arda were inaugurated and the section moved from the old farm into new buildings with modern laboratories. From 1991, research activity is widened and goes from conventional breeding to genomic analysis of cereals (barley and durum wheat) and other agricultural species. Research dedicated to malt and the development of functional foods is started.
In the 2007, following the CRA internal re-organization, the section was transformed into the “Genomics Research Centre” (CRA-GPG).
The Research Centre holds expertise in the fields of structural and functional genomics, proteomics and bioinformatics. The research activities aim at widening the understanding of the structure and function of genes and their products, genetically improving animal and plant species, and increasing food quality, safety and security, all within a general frame of agricultural sustainability and of product and process innovation.
The main research activities concern to the study of the genetic bases of plant response/resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses, and to the identification of genes and markers involved in determination of fundamental qualitative aspects. Additional research themes regard the characterization and conservation of genetic resources, and the identification of markers for the traceability of food products.
Straw cereals (barley, oat, triticale, durum wheat, soft wheat and rice) are the main crops considered, though having collaborations with other research centres has further increased the number of species studied (e.g. vegetables, flowers, trees, industrial crops). The laboratory in Fiorenzuola is the only one competent for malt barley analysis in Italy.
Breeding represents a basic activity that led to the registration of several successful varieties of barley, oat and triticale. Nowadays advanced breeding is carried out and assisted selection with molecular markers is now a standard process.
The Genomics Research Centre, is member of the European Consortium “Barley Genome Net” and of the “International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium” (IWGSC).
For more information: http://centrodigenomica.entecra.it
Running alongside the research are the teaching activities directed at undergraduates, Masters students and PhD students. Activities include study and field visits, specialization courses, and seminars. The range of research on different crops and the openness of the working environment has made the laboratories in Fiorenzuola a focus point for young CRA researchers from all over Italy who want to learn/extend their learning using the advanced molecular biology techniques on offer.
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