The Research Unit for Cereal Quality (CRA-QCE) retains the scientific competencies of the headquarter of the previous Experimental Institute for Cereal Research (ISC), which was established in 1927, November 23, by the decree D.P.R. No. 1318, as a fusion between the National Institute of Genetics for Cereal Crops in Rome , the Rice Experimental Station in Vercelli and the Maize Experimental Station in Bergamo, to lead research in genetics, genetic improvement and agro-techniques for cereal crops such as wheat, maize, rice and minor cereals. The prestigious National Institute of Genetics for Cereal Crops was founded in turn by Nazareno Strampelli in 1919 and consisted of a headquarter in Rome and some phyto-technical stations spread throughout the country, including the Inviolatella farm, which is still part of the Research Unit for Cereal Quality.
The research unit focuses on the development of analytical methods for the biochemical characterization and qualitative evaluation of cereals and their end-products, on the analysis of nutritional and technological quality of post-harvest grain (including some phyto-pathological traits), and the improvement of biologically active compounds (fibers, proteins, starch, sugars, fats and antioxidants), also through genetic and agronomical approaches.
Furthermore, it develops and updates databases to support research and innovative tools for dissemination and exploitation of the achieved results of its research activities.
The R.U. leads both basic and applied research for grain quality improvement. The main research topics concern the identification as well as the qualitative/quantitative evaluation of bioactive compounds, which characterize the durum wheat varieties and other minor cereals, to define their role in the functional properties and technological quality of the flour.
The R.U. studies different quality aspects of cereal production, including agronomic yield, phytopathological, technological, health and safety-related issues (mycotoxins), in both conventional and biological systems, and also the changes in kernel components as a result of technological processes.
The R.U. coordinates the national network for the comparison of durum wheat varieties, which assesses the response of the cultivars present in the Varietal Register in terms of agronomic yield and quality, in diverse Italian pedo-climatic environments, keeping updated every year the scenery of the Italian varieties, to allow operators to foresee the impact of various experimental factors on the durum wheat agronomic, epidemiological and qualitative behaviour. The R.U. also coordinates the national network of storage facilities, representing the reference laboratory for validating the accuracy of analytical tools that use the near-infrared spectroscopy for rapid and accurate analyses of wheat batches. The Inviolatella farm, located about 1 km away from the headquarter, is also part of the R.U. and is where many trials on the main cereals, especially durum wheat, are lead. The Inviolatella is supplied to perform agricultural trials for both conventional and biological systems, for which it holds the appropriate certification.
Instrumentation. The R.U. has fields, greenhouses, laboratories, agricultural machines and experimental equipment to lead the tests. It also has laboratories equipped for the cereal qualitative characterization at the genetic/biochemical level (electrophoresis, PCR amplification, sequencing, HPLC, ELISA, NIR, NIT, GC/M) and at the technological one (alveograph, farinograph, SKCS, MIXOlab, Glutomatic, Glutograph, Falling Number, TAXT2). The R.U. is provided of a technology platform for the cereals processing, comprehending pilot plants for hard and soft wheat milling, pilot plants for the pasta making (experimental press and low and high temperature drying cells), a pilot plant for baking and plants for micronization and turboseparation.
The R.U. is responsible for the curation and implementation of the databases with the national comparison tests on durum wheat varieties results, for the quality monitoring in the grain storage centres as well in the farms.