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METABOLOMICS OF PINUS SPP. RESPONSES TO PINEWOOD NEMATODE INFECTION

Pine wilt disease (PWD) is a pathogenic disease caused by the pinewood nematode (PWN) - Bursaphelenchus xylophilus - that affects the vascular system of conifers, especially Pinus spp. In Portugal, the PWN is found to be associated with P. pinaster, although this species occurs in areas with high densities of other pine tree species. The main goal of this PhD project is to gain further insight into the mechanisms by which the vascular system of pine trees is dramatically affected by PWN infection. The primary and secondary metabolomes of four families of Pinus pinaster half-siblings (with contrasting PWN infection responses) will be analyzed using MS-based metabolomics approaches (targeted and untargeted). These P. pinaster families are georeferenced, and belong to a genetic improvement program at Herdade da Comporta (Portugal) aiming at controlling this disease. Dr C. António is the Supervisor of this project. FCT PhD Grant Nr. (PD/BD/114417/2016).

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QUALATY - DECIPHERING THE GRASS PEA (LATHYRUS SATIVUS) QUALITY RIDDLE. HOW CAN THE OMICS TECHNOLOGIES CONTRIBUTE TO A DEMAND-DRIVEN IMPROVEMENT IN LEGUME QUALITY?

Consumers worldwide are concerned with food quality and environmental sustainability. The protein rich and environmentally friendly grain legumes can serve as excellent responses to consumers concerns. Grass pea (Lathyrus sativus L.) is a multipurpose robust grain legume crop with high nutritional value and a great potential for utilization in harsh environments. This robust crop is considered as a model for sustainable agriculture. However, as a result of little breeding efforts when compared to other legume crops, grass pea potential has been underexploited. The growing interest in its use in Mediterranean type environments, all over the world, is boosting a change. To increase grass pea consumption and cultivation, breeding objectives and consumers preferences should be more aligned, making the consumption of legumes an attractive, convenient and delicious option. There is an urgent need to develop breeding/selection tools for quality traits that determine consumer demand, to allow the implementation of quality breeding objectives in grass pea breeding programs. Dr C. António is the Metabolomics-assisted breeding Task Coordinator in this project and Dr Carlota Vaz Patto, Head of the Genetics and Genomics of Plant Complex Traits (PlantX) Laboratory (ITQB NOVA, Portugal) is the project Coordinator. FCT Grant Nr. (PTDC/AGR-TEC/0992/2014).

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REMIRUCULA - RESISTANCE CHARACTERIZATION TO DOWNY MILDEW IN WILD ROCKET CROP

Rocket crop is a popular Brassica baby leaf much appreciated in the Mediterranean diet, grown in Southern Europe, the Middle East and South-East Asia. The downy mildew disease is caused by the oomycete Hyaloperonospora sp., and represents an increasing threat in rocket production. The severe legislation adopted in Europe on the use and registration of new pesticides implies the need to develop an Integrated Production Management (IPM) strategies, less dependent on chemical products. This project integrates a multidisciplinary team of experts aiming to better understand wild rocket-Hyaloperonospora sp. pathosystem with the identification and characterization of wild rocket (Diplotaxis tenuifolia) varieties, and the improvement of the production technologies. The transfer of knowledge and the technological innovation will strengthen the competitiveness of the productive sector of rocket, reducing the dependence and risks associated with the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers, with national and international socioeconomic impact. The REMIRUCULA project is a joint collaborative project with scientific and academic organizations and Vitacress Portugal SA, the baby leaf Portuguese producer with great relevance located in Alentejo region. Dr C. António is the Metabolomics Task Coordinator in this porject and Dr Paula Santos Coelho is the project Coordinator (INIAV, Portugal). FCT Grant Nr. (PTDC/ASP-PLA/28963/2017).

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COFFEEOMIC'S CLIMATE - AN INTEGRATED STRATEGY TO STUDY THE IMPACT OF CLIMATE CHANGES IN COFFEA SPP

Coffee spp. have been categorized as highly sensitive to climatic changes based almost solely on climatic model studies that predicted dramatic effects on the coffee crop, including extensive reductions of yields and natural biodiversity thereby increasing agricultural, social and economic vulnerabilities. However, such climate modelling estimates were frequently restricted to predictions of rising temperatures, neglecting plant resilience to stress and the role of high [CO2]. It has been shown that coffee plants can cope with temperatures higher than usually assumed, and that high air [CO2] (a major driver of warming) mitigates the negative heat impacts, being a crucial factor to coffee warming acclimation at physiological/biochemical level. This highlighted that global warming impacts on coffee sustainability would be lower than previously assumed. This project integrates a multidisciplinary team of experts in coffee research and metabolomics in collaboration with industrial partners at NovaDELTA to investigate current climate change impacts in the coffee crop. Dr C. António is the Metabolomics Task Coordinator in this project and Dr José C. Ramalho is the project Coordinator. FCT Grant Nr. (PTDC/ASP-AGR/31257/2017).

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BREEDCAFS - BREEDING COFFEE FOR AGROFORESTRY SYSTEM

BREEDCAFS aims at creating climate change resilience in the coffee sector through comprehensive research into new sustainable breeding strategies for coffee hybrids adapted to cultivation under shade trees, in collaboration with farmers and roasters. One main objective of BREEDCAFS is to contribute to the development of new breeding strategies for coffee trees based on performance screening and studies of physiological, metabolic and transcriptomic responses to biotic and abiotic factors of new and traditional varieties. The project addresses the coffee adaptation and acclimation potential to current and future climate conditions through studies on elevated CO2, temperature and drought as well as sustainability issues through studies on the effects of shade and agroforestry systems (AFS) that have the potential to mitigate expected climatic modifications. The project takes advantage of recent genetic innovations in Arabica coffee with the creation of interspecific [Arabica x Robusta (Arabusta)] and intraspecific [cultivated Arabica x wild Arabica] hybrids or advanced progenies, and grafting on Robusta of different Arabica varieties. These genetic resources are established in experimental fields and farms under different climatic conditions (Nicaragua, El Salvador, Costa Rica and French Guiana, Vietnam and Cameroon), and in growth chambers. Dr C. António is collaborator on the Metabolomics Task in this project. H2020-SFS-2016-2 Grant Nr. (727934).