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TOPICS for XXXIII Cycle

 

1 - Research topic: DEVELOPMENT OF MATHEMATICAL MODELS SUPPORTING SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE IN EUROPE

1 (one) position with grant

Scientific tutor: Prof. Gianni Gilioli; co-tutor Prof. Lara Maistrello

Development and use of mathematical models in crop protection is becoming an important field of research and application for the implementation of the Directive 2009/128/EC. Model development is a complex procedure and requires knowledge in various sectors (e.g., plant and pest biology, applied ecology, population dynamics and epidemiology, mathematics etc.): Model characteristics have to be suitable for the development of practical solutions in sustainable agriculture.
PhD Student will focus on some of aspect of modelling to support sustainable pest management. This will include mechanistic models development and parametrization, use of the plant and environmental information to model the pest population dynamics, use of model in the context of Decision Support Systems (DSS). The research will also consider methods to evaluate and quantify cost/benefit analysis associated to the use of DSS in sustainable pest management.

 

2 - Research topic: COMPARATIVE LABORATORY TECHNIQUES FOR ANALYTICAL DETERMINATION ON DIFFERENT FOODS SAMPLES

1 (one) position without grant

Scientific tutor: Prof. Andrea Pulvirenti

 

3 - Research topic: QUANTITATIVE MODELS SUPPORTING RISK ASSESSMENT IN THE FOOD CHAIN

1 (one) position without grant

Scientific tutor: Prof. Gianni Gilioli; co-tutor Prof. Andrea Pulvirenti

Statistical and / or mathematical models can contribute in all the phases of risk assessment: hazard identification, hazard characterization, exposure assessment, risk characterization. The aim of the research is to develop, analyze and evaluate options for implementation of quantitative approaches to risk assessment in the food chain.
PhD Student will focus on some of the current criticalities of quantitative approaches including the proper consideration of the variability of the analyzed processes, the use of different information sources, the elaboration and presentation of the model results to be easily interpreted by end users, the integration of these models with other approaches used in the risk analysis.

 

4 - Research topic: SEARCH FOR NEW INGREDIENTS AND FOOD ADDITIVES TO IMPROVE FOOD SHELF LIFE

1 (one) industry-financed position

Scientific tutor: Prof. Andrea Pulvirenti

 

5 - Research topic: ECOLOGY AND FUNCTION OF GUT MICROBIOTA

1 (one) position with grant

Scientific tutor: Prof. Maddalena Rossi; co-tutor Prof. Stefano Raimondi

 

6 - Research topic: CHARACTERIZATION AND WINEMAKING OF ANCIENT GRAPE CULTIVARS

1 (one) position with grant

Scientific tutor: Prof. Andrea Antonelli

In Italy many ancient cvs are neglected or not fully exploited despite they have high potentiality. The cv composition (manly flavours and polyphenols) and the best technological approach will be the aim of this study with the involvement of different concerns operating in oenological field.

 

7 - Research topic: BACTERIAL CELLULOSE SYNTHESIS BY ACETIC ACID BACTERIA

1 (one) position with grant

Scientific tutor: Prof. Maria Gullo

Bacterial cellulose (BC) is an extracellular polysaccharide produced by bacteria of different genera, the most known of which are acetic acid bacteria. BC is a highly pure form of cellulose with the same chemical structure as plant cellulose, but it exhibits superior physical and chemical properties (e.g. high mechanical tensile strength, strong stability at high temperature, purity, biodegradability and water holding capacity).
The aim of this project is to select new acetic acid bacteria strains for BC synthesis and to enhance BC productivity. The approach will include microbiology, molecular biology and analytical tools.
Key steps of the project are: the evaluation of synthetic media and byproducts of food industry as substrates enhancing BC yield; genome sequencing of the best BC producers as well as the analysis of the gene regions involved in BC synthesis; scale-up of BC production by the best strains.
Required skills: working in a team, academic writing, critical thinking, recognizing research problems. Essential Background: microbiology, molecular biology and biological data management.

 

8 - Research topic: INNOVATIVE STRATEGIES FOR THE SUSTAINABLE MANAGEMENT OF THE BROWN MARMORATED STINK BUG HALYOMORPHA HALYS, AN INVASIVE PEST OF HORTICULTURAL CROPS IN SOUTHERN EUROPE

1 (one) position with grant

Scientific tutor:  Prof. Lara Maistrello

The invasive brown marmorated stink bug Halyomorpha halys is a serious pest of many agricultural crops and also a household nuisance, that is rapidly spreading in Italy and many European countries. The project aims to develop innovative sustainable solutions for its improved management both in the field and in urban contexts. The PhD student will focus on the insect-plants relationships, explore the potential of native biocontrol agents, investigate the stimuli to be used in behavioral manipulation strategies.

Required skills
Degree in Biology, Natural Sciences, Agricultural Sciences or similar. Background and experience in insect rearing, behavioral studies and field trials with insects, skills in statistical analysis.

 

 

General Topics of the School

The research activity of the School of Doctorate concern production, processing, as well as chemistry, technology, quality and safety of food. Each topic is developed in a particular course. Vegetal and animal production, including growing techniques, cattle breeding, pest control are the main topic of the course of Science, Technology, and Biotechnology in Agriculture. Consumer and environment respect along with high quality production and food industry needs are the main concerns of these topics. The new applications of molecular genetics in agriculture are also extensively studied.

Process and product innovation are the main topics of the Food Science, Technology, and Biotechnology course. Food technology, microbiology, chemistry, biochemistry, and molecular biology are the main fields involved in these topics. Raw material quality and its aptitude to processing is also matter of concern, as well as innovative food packaging technologies.

SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, AND BIOTECHNOLOGY IN AGRICULTURE

Crop physiology: research of crop plant ideotype for low-input farming

The need to reduce inputs in modern farming systems must necessarily go together either the maintenance or the increase of yields for crop plants, because of the increasing world demand of commodities. It is asked to agronomic research not only to find ways to optimize and save inputs, but also to design new physiological ideotypes of crop plants that are more responding in the field to this double objective. This is the object of the research, to individuate physiological types that are more suitable to stabilize yields in low input conditions, in a chosen species, and for the Italian environments.

Product innovation for diversification strategies and business development in agribusiness

The international trade liberalization of agricultural products cuts down the business income of European farmers. It is necessary to develop diversification strategies in farm productions in order to have new opportunities, for example different uses of agricultural commodities and new particular consumer demands. Product innovation is increasingly important for the European agriculture. This is a very complex subject, a lot of elements are involved in it: technical knowledge, management, marketing, business strategies, political decisions, agricultural policy. The first purpose of this research is to analyse these arguments using economic theory and empirical analysis in the agricultural sector. The second purpose is to give indications and to define operating rules to indentify, check, transfer, implement the product innovations in the agricultural sector.

Fine mapping of resistance genes to root-knot nematodes

The goal of the ph.D project will be the study of the genes involved in the resistance to Root-Knot Nematodes (RKN, Meloidogyne spp.) in common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.). Starting point of the research will be the genetic materials (breeding lines, segregating progenies, etc.) developed by the Centro per le Colture Industriali di Bologna (CRA-CIN, Research Center for Industrial Crops) and the derived molecular markers associated to the different resistance sources studied during the last years. The multidisciplinary project will try to connect breeding experience and different genomic tools with the final aim to identify the genes that are regulating the nematode resistance, for example by saturating the flanking regions surrounding the genes with different molecular markers, and trying to clarify the regulation and the expression of those resistance genes.

Construction of a high resolution map of wheat chromosome 5A

The goal of the project is the construction of a high density molecular map that is needed for anchoring BAC contigs to a genetic map, in order to obtain a physical map for sequencing. Several mapping populations will be used during the project, and different parallel marker development approaches. The model species Brachypodium dystachion will be used for searching orthologous sequences. The computational effort for the map construction, together with the association of markers found with agronomically relevant traits will be part of the project.

Quality Improvement of fruit productions

The aim of the research is to understand the critical environmental and physiological factors that can improve the fruit productions, through the interaction with the agronomic management. This will include the study of how such factors affect the fruit quality. The results of the action of the key factors will be analyzed, as quality traits as well as compounds with nutraceutical value, not only on the fresh product of the chosen species, but also on the transformed products.

Innovation and quality in organic zootechny

PhD students activity will be carried out in the agro-zootechnical field, with particular attention to the effects of innovative farming technologies, alternative to the current conventional ones, on animal products quality. In detail, the attitude of raw materials to be processed into highly safe and high value added products will be investigated. Further, attention will be paid to the relationships between organic pig farming and the quality of the finished products. Finally, the characteristics of carcass and meat obtained from local swine breeds, reared according to the organic system, will be defined.

Increase of anthocyanin production in tomato

Anthocyanins are water-soluble pigments widely distributed throughout the plant kingdom. Beside their physiological roles in plants, several positive effects of anthocyanins in the diet have been described, and interest grew in anthocyanin pigments, and in food plants containing anthocyanins, because of their possible health benefits as antioxidants. The main objective of the research will be the study of the role of anthocyanins in the response to biotic and abiotic stresses. In particular, it will be evaluated the tolerance/susceptibility to abiotic (chilling) and biotic (Alternaria infection) stresses of single and double mutants of an available collection of mutants impaired in anthocyanin content. The research will also deal with the identification of the alleles of candidate genes that could explain the mutations, selected among regulatory elements of the anthocyanin biosynthesis pathway.

FOOD SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, AND BIOTECHNOLOGY
Food Microbiology

The research activity of Food Microbiology group focuses microbial ecology associated to safety and stability of foods. The research activity includes: i) the knowledge of food ecosystems; ii) the transformation and preservation techniques; iii) the microbial activities to obtain metabolites useful for biotechnological applications.

Our experimental approaches include the integration of classical methodology and metabolomics and metagenomics to characterise the microbial diversity in food ecosystems as well as their potential exploitation in innovative microbial processes.

Yeasts, acetic acid bacteria and lactic acid bacteria involved in fermented foods production are the main microbial groups investigated through poliphasic identification and technological characterisation, and about 2,000 strains have been collected as bioresource for selection and genetic improvement of strains useful for wine, vinegar, beer, sourdough and cheese production.

Biochemistry

Biological activity and metabolism of naturally occurring compounds. In particular, their protection against oxidative stress and protein glycation and their ability to modulate the biochemical activity of digestive enzymes.

Evaluation of the food flavour profile with an electronic nose

Food flavours have been traditionally studied by gas chromatography. More recently, the use of electronic sensors is gaining interest in this field.

The study of relationships among composition, food quality, and the response of an electronic nose to several foodstuffs is the main objective of this research topic. In addition, the problem of off-flavours and taints can be considered as well for its great concern in food industry. Among the others, food taints could derive from technological process, poor storage conditions, and occasional contamination. The study of relationships among composition, food quality, and the response of an electronic nose is the main objective of this research topic. The correlations among sensory analysis, GC determinations, and electronic nose responses applied to different matrices (food, raw materials and packaging materials) will be considered.

Meat production, meat processing and quality assessment.

Pork production requires high standards of quality to meet the consumers’ expatiations and the need of transformation industry. The former requires healthy product, with low levels of fat and cholesterol; the latter look at the fatty acid composition, which is a matter of great concern for its implication in curing for its higher oxidability. In addition, the outbreak of defects in pig thighs (superficial veining, red skin, blood splash etc.) can cause a high incidence of rejects at seasoning. Hybrids and genetic selection for leaner carcasses modify lipid characteristics, becoming richer of unsaturated fatty acids. Although favourable for human nutrition, an increase of these substances may cause oxidation problems, especially for long-seasoned products such as Italian seasoned ham. Chemical composition of fat, sensory and rheological attributes of final products, the influence of farm factors, the characteristics of backfat and intramuscular fat for the improvement of ham quality in PDO dry-curing, and the study of the qualitative characteristics of the carcass and meat of farm animals are the main research objectives.