The Agronomy and Herbaceous Crop sector is concerned with the following research topics:
- Sustainable agriculture (analysis of the agro-environmental impact of agricultural production techniques and systems through direct analysis methods and LCA).
- Organic agriculture (research of production strategies applicable to “organic” systems with particular reference to the use of cover crops and green manure as tools for the conservation of soil fertility and the containment of the weed flora).
- Biology, eco-physiology, production and technology of seeds of cultivated and weed species; conservation and enhancement of biodiversity and control and reproduction of the seed of local varieties.
- Cultivation of “food” species (study of the productive and qualitative response of herbaceous species for food use, with particular reference to grain legumes, cereals and oil species with particular acidic composition).
- Cultivation of “non-food” species (study of the productive and qualitative response of herbaceous species for industrial use, with particular reference to bioenergy, fiber and cellulose crops, natural dyes, medicinal plants and crops for biobased products).
- Phytodepuration of water (study of different phytodepuration systems on a farm scale: constructed wetlands, natural wetlands and paludiculture).
- Turfgrass (use of satellites and drones for the study of the nutritional and water status of turfgrass; study of the adaptability of macro-thermal species and their use for a reduction of water and nutritional contributions).
The above activities are carried out by researchers in the sector in collaboration with Tuscan farms and colleagues from the main national universities and research centers (Bologna, Florence, Perugia, Padua, Catania, Palermo, Sassari, etc.) and international [(i ) Cranfield (UK), Ohio (USA); (ii) Fibl (CH); UC Berkeley, CA (USA); (iii) SNES, Geves (FR); (iv) Bonn (D); (v) Louvain (Belgium); INEGI, Porto (PT); Shahrekord, IRAN; NRC, Cairo (Egypt); (vi) Greifswald (D); (vii) New Mexico, Auburn (AL), Riverside (CA), Iowa.]
Researchers in the sector use the conventional and “open-air” laboratories (experimental fields) of the Experimental Center of Rottaia, of the CeRTES (Center for Sports Turf Research) and of the Agro-environmental Research Center “Enrico Avanzi” (CiRAA), all located in San Piero d Grado. For research relating to the seed sector, the sector has the Seed Research and Analysis Laboratory (LaRAS) which also houses the Section of the Regional Germplasm Bank of the Tuscany Region.