Currently, crop productivity is substantially reduced by various biotic factors that reduce the quantity and quality of agricultural products, causing severe economic losses worldwide. In addition, the high dependence of modern agricultural systems on the use of chemical pesticides and nitrogen fertilizers is a hazard for the sustainability of these systems.
All these facts support the need to generate and apply basic knowledge on the interactions between beneficial and pest organisms and crop plants. The study of the ecology of pests (weeds, arthropods and pathogens) and the development of new biopesticides based on natural products should lead us to optimized integrated pest management systems focused in minimizing the damage caused by these organisms. On the other side, the study of soil microorganisms (mycorriza, N-fixing bacteria and other ryzobacteria) should lead us to a lower use of N fertilizers and contribute to the restoration of soils degraded, polluted or affected by forest fires.
The research activity of this group aims to achieve a better understanding of the factors affecting the spatial and temporal development of the major crop pests, using monitoring tools and technologies that allow obtaining and processing geospatial data (proximate and remote sensors, GIS and specific software). The joint application of new technologies and Decision Support Systems allows this information to be transferred to intelligent pest control.
Our main goal is to provide new fundamental knowledge on the transmission mechanisms of plant pathogens by their insect vectors and to develop sustainable management practices to optimise vector control and to interfere with the plant pathogens they transmit.
The research group is focused on the optimization and biotechnological production of botanical and fungal biopesticides. We address the optimization of biopesticides by means of green chemistry processes on characterized extracts of plant and fungal origin already in production (artificial / biotech culture, field cultivation, fermentation) and agricultural waste and / or lead compounds.
The group studies plant-associated microorganisms (mainly bacteria). Omic tools are used to advance our knowledge on their diversity and evolution, as well as on their negative (pathogenic) and positive (role in plant nutrition, growth and development) effects on crops, both individually and as part of plant microbiomes.
The aim of this group is to contribute to optimize the integrated management of affecting-crop pests and diseases using a multidisciplinary approach, deepening the knowledge of various compatible and incompatible interactions of plants with their plant parasitic nematodes and insects. Emphasis is made on the different types of plant resistance: congenital or innate resistance and induced resistance by biotic and/or abiotic factors.
The group's research focuses on the study of plant-insect interactions in an agroecological context. The research lines include habitat management for integrated pest management in agroecosystems, chemical ecology, biological control and conservation of pollinators.