The main activities of the Plant Improvement Section concern the improvement, through breeding of barley, forage plants, seed and food legumes, and durum and bread wheat, as well as the study of genetic and environmental factors affecting their yield, quality, and resistance to diseases. Also, the Section is employed in the management of aromatic plants and turf (amenity grasses). Furthermore, methods of improving cultural practices of forage plants, grain cereals, legumes, and aromatic plants are studied, as is also the micropropagation of plants and the cleansing of propagative material of several species. In collaboration with the Molecular Biology Laboratory of the ARI, methods are being developed for molecular genetic mapping, with emphasis on microsatelite DNA analysis in cereals, medicago, and grape.
The objectives of the barley breeding program are to develop new cultivars with yield consistency under rainfed conditions, high qualitative characteristics and durable resistance to endemic foliar diseases. The work is based mainly on crosses of selected lines poccessing desirable characteristics, with commercially grown cultivars. Wild species such as Hordeum vulgare ssp. agriocrithon Aberg and landraces are used for the introduction of stress resistance genes (moisture, heat) or for special uses.
The durum wheat improvement program aims at enhancing the productivity and the economic value of the trading products (grain and straw) through hybridization and selection. Environmental and genetic factors affecting grain yield, water use efficiency and quality are within the aims of the current research work.
The cereal technology programme is complementary to the cereal improvement program and aims at identifying varieties with suitable quality to the local users' needs and to study their improvement through proper cultural practices. Furthermore, among its research priorities is the study of all factors affecting the quality of industrially made Cyprus bread.
The main problems in establishing and maintaining satisfactory turf for sport or amenity purposes has led to a research program which aims to select suitable species/mixtures either from introduced or from locally selected material. The emphasis on local material was placed on the collection and evaluation of different genotypes of Cynodon dactylon.
Christina Pitta, Dionysia Fasoula, Andreas Pallides, Constantina Stavridou