Stress limits growth and yield in crop plants worldwide. Environmental stress is very commonly experienced by crop plants, and its intensity and frequency is increasing due to competition for fertile land with other uses, and to global climate change. Wild plants have a strong ability to react to stress, while most crop plants have lost these characteristics upon breeding. Understanding the mechanisms that underlie resistance to stress is pivotal to identify traits that can be inserted into crop plants to increase their resilience in a stressful environment. Our mission is to contribute to this endeavour, with the ultimate goal to provide knowledge and tools that may integrate in solutions for farmers and policymakers.
Strigolactones and stressStrigolactones are carotenoid-derived plant metabolites with a multitude of functions, both in the plant and in the biotic surrounding environment. They have a prominent role as hormones, influencing whole-plant morphology and development also in response to environmental stress. Understanding their biology may help to improve plant yield and resilience in stressful environments.1. We want to understand what the local and systemic changes of strigolactone levels - observed in different organs of plants undergoing osmotic stress - mean for whole-plant hormonal balance, physiology and water relations.2. We are elucidating the molecular underpinnings of strigolactone effects in stress resilience, focusing on cross-talk with ABA and miRNAs.3. We feed our knowledge into crop management tools such as biostimulants, that may improve plant performances and yield under environmental stress.
contact: Francesca Cardinale
Drought stress in grapevineAdaptation of grapevines to water deficit is a wide and complex biological process that implies global changes in plant hydraulics, carbon distribution within the plant, signaling among plant organs, gene expression and primary and secondary metabolite biosynthesis and accumulation.Our research aims to understand how plant signals drive grapevine adaptation to water availability with consequences on growth and fruit quality. In grapevine, the rootstock and the scion concur to whole-plant resistance to drought. These plant components interact through a complex of hydraulic, hormonal (especially abscisic acid, ABA) and molecular (miRNAs) signal exchange. We are interested to discover how xylem development, whole plant hydraulic conductance, and carbon allocation are affected under stress and in different grapevine genotypes.
contact: Claudio Lovisolo
Grapevine responses to phytoplasma disease
Flavescence dorée (FD) is a severe grapevine phytoplasma disease causing severe damage to European viticulture. Control strategies for FD are still unsatisfactory, partly because of insufficient knowledge of basic biological aspects, on the plant responses responses to infection. Also the molecular triggers of spontaneous recovery, often observed in the field, are not known, and this hinders management and exploitation of this natural phenomenon.We study the molecular responses of grapevine to FD using non-targeted approaches (transcriptomics) and with the targeted study of specific metabolic and signaling pathways, in particular those related to soluble sugar metabolism.
Contact: Andrea Schubert
Xylem recovery from water stressRecent episodes of anomalous drought and heat have caused tree mortality and crop failure, raising interest into processes underlying plant resistance and resilience to water stress. Reduction of plant hydraulic efficiency, due to presence of embolisms, is a major cause of drought-induced plant death. It has been demonstrated that many plant species can counter embolism formation with a fast refilling process; however a full understanding of the biology behind embolism recovery is currently lacking. Our research aims to elucidate the biological mechanisms at the base of xylem repair adopting a multidisciplinary approach, which integrates molecular, biophysical, chemical and physiological techniques.
Contact: Francesca Secchi