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Unità di ricerca per i sistemi colturali degli ambienti caldo aridi (SCA)

Headquarter - BARI
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Unità di ricerca per i sistemi colturali degli ambienti caldo aridi (SCA)
Via Celso Ulpiani 5
70125 - BARI
Tel: +39-080-5475011 - Fax: +39-080-5475023

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The Research Unit for Cropping Systems in Dry Environments (CRA-SCA) has its origin in the Experimental Agriculture Station of Bari (established in 1918) and Modena (1871) that merged into the Experimental Agronomic Institute of Bari (established with the law decree n.1318, November 23, 1968). The Bari Station was, since 1881, the “School of oil mill and olive culture”. Upon the adoption of the CRA Reorganization Plan (according to the legislative decree n. 454, October 29, 1999 and approved by the CRA on August 8, 2008), the Research Unit SCA was affiliated with the Agronomy, Forestry and Land Use Department.



The CRA-SCA carries out research on environmental sustainability for agricultural activity. The study aims at the productivity of cropping systems in arid and semi-arid environments of the Mediterranean area.

The research objectives are the study of the role of water in the agro-ecosystem, the crop response to the water and saline stress, the conservation and optimization of natural resources and landscape, the adaptation to climate change and its mitigation and the fight against desertification.

To achieve these aims the CRA-SCA uses innovative methods to analyze the environment, the crop eco-physiology, the new agro-techniques and the mass and energy exchange into the continuum soil-plant-atmosphere. To understand the interactions between these factors and crop productions, the Research Unit develops modeling techniques and integrated approaches which include the spatiotemporal aspects of the landscape.




  1. Characterization of arid and semi-arid environments in the Mediterranean area: spatial variability of physical-hydrological and chemical soil parameters; remote sensing; applied agrometeorology; soil-atmosphere gas exchange; determination of carbon dioxide (CO2) fluxes; water vapour and greenhouse trace gases; crop evapotranspiration;
  2. Cropping system requirements in semi-arid environments: new dryland cropping systems; energy, water and nutrient balance; irrigation agronomic techniques; exploitation of waste and saline waters and crop residues; agro-techniques for the conservation of agronomic fertility and alternative fertilizers;
  3. Cropping system sustainability in the Mediterranean area: sustainable innovations; precision agriculture; site-specific agro-techniques; organic farming; conservative agriculture; introduction of alternative species; cropping systems for bio-energy;
  4. Cropping system development as a consequence of climate change: crop systems modeling; adaptation of cropping systems to future scenarios; mitigation ability of cropping systems.



  1. THE EXPERIMENTAL FARMS represent the “agronomic laboratories” on field and they are working for data production to:
    • describe physical, eco-physiological and productive processes;
    • analyze the behaviour of plants and cropping systems under environmental stress and new agro-techniques and their interactions;
    • calibrate, parameterize and verify the agro-bio-physical models.

           The CRA-SCA has three experimental farms:

    • The Maria Elisa Venezian Scarascia Farm in Rutigliano (Bari), (Dr A.D. Palumbo, team-coordinator), is oriented towards research on “water-cropping systems” relationships. It is equipped with Weight Lysimeter (4 m²), 30 Drainage Lysimeters (1,13 m²), Micro-Meteorological Stations, Sonic Anemometer and Open Top Chambers. The 24,32 hectare farm includes an agro-meteorological station, a topographic depression used for the study of water runoff, a ranger irrigation system, a rain shelter, irrigated  polyannual vegetable crops, rainfed perennial field crops for energy production, short rotation forestry crops and annual rotations.
    • The  Farm 124 in Foggia (Dr D. Ventrella, team-coordinator) carries out research on Mediterranean extensive cropping systems. Different agro-techniques are being studied:, which are the fundamentals of organic, conservative and precision farming. The farm is equipped with an Irrigation System, an Agro-Meteorological Station, Drainage Lysimeters and two Weight Lysimeters. The farm extends to 19,62 hectares and is used for long-term field trials and annual rotation trials.
    • The Piantata Farm in Bitetto (Bari) (Dr P. Losciale, team-coordinator) carries out research on almond and preservation of almond variety with particular consideration to the autochthonous germoplasm for its genetic diversity preservation, characterization and optimization. The 5,86 hectare farm has an almond variety collection of 211 cultivars and 475 new genotypes being studied.

      - Long-term field trials

      The  Farm124 in Foggia:     

      • since 1977, continuous durum wheat cropping: comparison between burning of crop residues and different methods of straw burying; since 1987, biennial rotation: comparison between 2 burying depths of durum wheat residues;
      • since 1990; continuous durum wheat cropping and biennial rotation: comparison between two tillage systems and four straw managements;          
      • since 1990, tillage systems: comparison between four tillage systems in interaction with three levels of nitrogen fertilization on biennial rotation.

            The Experimental Farm “Piantata” in Bitetto:

      • since 1976, almond germplasm collection: comparison between three soil managements, tillage and no-tillage systems, the latter with and without green manure bean.





- Micrometeorology Laboratory (Dr G. Rana, team-coordinator) is equipped to:


  • measure energy and mass fluxes (water, carbon, nitrogen compounds and in general greenhouse trace gases);
  • model the exchange between vegetation and atmosphere;
  • measure the balance of carbon, nitrogen and water of cropping systems in standard and non-standard conditions (dry climate, complex terrains, plots on slope and of small size).


Modeling Laboratory (Dr D. Ventrella, team-coordinator). The software library includes: DSSAT, CropSyst, EPIC, AQUACROP, STICS, HYDRUS, SWAP and AQUATER.

The laboratory has the following purposes:


  • to develop and apply mathematical simulation models of soil-plant-atmosphere system;
  • to calibrate parameters of different nature, validate the model outputs;
  • to characterize sustainable crop production systems through agro-ecological indicators;
  • to apply models at both field and regional scale as a consequence of climate change and crop management scenarios.


Laboratory of chemistry, physics and soil hydrology (Dr A. M. Stellacci, team-coordinator)


           The chemical section activity concerns the determination of parameters for:

    • Plant: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, sulphur, alkaline metals, alkaline-earth metals and heavy metal, anions and cations, fibre extraction and digestibility;
    • Soil: alkaline metals, alkaline-earth and heavy metals, organic carbon (total, extractable), humic and fulvic acids, nitrogen, phosphorus, exchangeable bases, anions and cations, cation exchange capacity, electrical conductivity, pH and limestone.

           The activity of physics and hydrology sections concerns: texture, structure, water content (TDR and FDR), water retention and hydraulic conductivity functions.

- Environmental images processing laboratory (Dr A. Cactrignanò, team coordinator) for the management of georeferred spatial information acquired with Proximal and Remote sensing sensors and related to:

  • pedology, meteorology and soil use;
  • vegetation dynamics, determination of water and nutritional stress conditions, biomass and yield estimate.


Geomatics platform (Dr A. Castrignanò, team coordinator) for the:

  • optimization of soil sampling using statistical and geostatistical techniques, with the aim of surveying and analysis of environmental, agricultural and forestry resources;
  • use of Global Positioning System to georeference the observations and to create digital terrain models;
  • acquisition of spatial data with Proximal and Remote Sensing using geophysical and radiometric sensors on the ground or on board aircraft and/or satellite (measurements of soil and vegetation properties);
  • processing of environmental variables with geostatistical techniques for the production of thematic and risk maps;
  • agro-ecoregionalization using geographical clustering techniques;
  • management of space-time variability and development of site-specific agro-techniques in the perspective of precision agriculture.


The library includes over 27.000 volumes covering all areas of agronomy. The newspaper library has more than 20.000 volumes.



Translated by Dr Giacoma Girone

Home Page AGRISOLAR il sito energetico del CRA-SCA:
Home Page Progetto AQUATER: "Supporti decisionali per la conservazione e la gestione territoriale delle risorse idriche in aree vulnerabili del Sud d'Italia":
Home Page Progetto CLIMESCO:
Progetto STAMINA - MM Model. STAbility and MItigatioN of Arable systems in hilly landscape:
Programma Operativo Multiregionale. Attività di sostegno ai Servizi di Sviluppo per l'Agricoltura:
Tesi di dottorato in Agronomia Mediterranea. Agricoltura di precisione e biologico nel Sud Italia: ico-nel-sud-italia.htm
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