The Institute focuses on many aspects of plant – environment interactions carrying out both base and applied research in a large range of spatial scales from cells to large forests. The activities of the research groups have evolved from lines and expertise developed in the four Institutes which merged into IBAF in 2001 (environmental physiology, photosynthesis, carbon metabolism and population genetics, weed management, territory planning and management).
For an effective synthesis, all activities are grouped in three main areas well referred to the most current strategic vision of European research outlined in the Horizon 2020 program to exploring and sustainably exploiting the bio-world as the base for a new greener economic growth:
- fundamental high quality research on plant – environment interaction
- ecosystems sustainable management and services.
Activities in the first area play the pivotal role to create the knowledge context on which more applicative researches could, and can further develop and expand.
The second area includes research activities to valorise and tailor-making bioresources for bio-based industry of products and energy, for ensuring biodiversity of forestry and agro-forestry resources resilient to climate changes, and for tracing geographical and bioclimatic provenances using gene and stable isotope printing analysis.
These activities rely on close connections with fundamental innovative research. Important results in this area are from projects with industry on bioethanol production of second generation and on olive oil local geographical traceability. An high potential impact is on the effective exploitation of existing and presently increasing knowledge on chestnut and walnut germoplasm conserved in the IBAF experimental fields. This latter activity has a major international importance because of the uniqueness of the available bioresources in these fields. For example, the impact of gall wasp on chestnut survival could be planned to cope with by studying the specimens of the collection that show no apparent signs of attacks by this parasite. The third area is the largest group of activities that target many topics of the theme: how to build a sustainable and bio-based healthier society.
A relevant look out is deserved to activities in the Legnaro secondary seat aiming to study and develop an integrated phytosanitary management to secure all benefits of the agricultural maximization of yields but likewise to produce safe food for consumers and to maintain a healty and functional agroecosystem. The large group working on forest sustainable management, well placed in the international context of forest research, is also carrying on key activities to understand how to balance the forest ecosystem functionality with a biomass production that is needed to enhance the natural carbon sinks for contrasting all conditions that contribute to generate climate changes. Plant functionalities to the environment is also the topic of the two groups studying the first potential and real roles of green infrastructures in mitigating the air and the climate in the urban ambient and the second in remedying or securing soils and waters contaminated by heavy metals and persistent organic compounds.