The Vegetable Crops Section undertakes research principally in the fields of Vegetable Crop Science, Postharvest Physiology-Technology and Plant Genetic Resources. Our core research group comprises three officers, supported by four technicians and three labor staff members, of which one officer and one technician are further tasked with the management of the Tochni Experimental Station, where most of ARI’s horticultural research is hosted. The Section’s research activity is supported by its own analytical facilities: The Postharvest Technology Laboratory (PTL) and the Genebank/ Herbarium. The Section further carries an extensive network of collaborators outreached through joint research programs with local and international research/ academic institutions. The Section’s officers participate in academic advisory committees offering supervision to undergraduate, graduate and intern students. The Section also actively supports the extension service of the Department of Agriculture by addressing emerging demands for applied research, by facilitating the training of extension officers and farmers and through the dissemination of its research output through the publication of popularized articles/bulletins.
The Postharvest Technology Laboratory (PTL) is set up to perform 360° assessments of physicochemical composition, sensory and functional quality of fresh horticultural commodities. Its competences are aimed mainly at the study of the ripening physiology of climacteric and non-climacteric fruits and vegetables with respect to the configuration of quality and postharvest performance. The PTL maps the farm-to-fork etiology of product quality by appraising the impact of pre- and postharvest treatments on the sensory, bioactive and nutritive aspects of quality and on the shelf-life of horticultural commodities. Particular emphasis is placed on assessing the implications of harvest maturity for product physiology, on deducing objective indices of physiological and commercial maturity and on the analytical characterization of the physicochemical-bioactive nexus of fresh product quality attributes. Current research activity at the PTL addresses the implications of minimal processing for product quality and shelf-life; the effectiveness of select spectral bandwidths, non-chemical and GRAS postharvest treatments combined with MAP packaging for controlling pathological and physiological loss of quality. Moreover, the PTL partakes in several joint research programs extending to Vegetable Crop Science, which examine issues such as: rootstock-scion relations in the context of vegetable grafting used to alleviate biotic/abiotic plant stress and their impact on product quality and shelf-life; the appraisal of factors configuring the concentrations of undesirable health-implicated constituents such as nitrate and nitrite ions in raw salad vegetables; the agronomic performance and quality of landraces/ heirloom vegetable varieties (e.g. tomato) and wild crop relatives (e.g. Asparagus) under low/high input environments. It also participates in joint research aimed at the characterization of oleogenesis in indigenous and introduced olive varieties.
The Postharvest Technology Laboratory in joint action with the ARI Genebank also spearhead the characterization of genetic resources and the creation of ex situ genetic collections at the ARI for tree crops of long-standing importance in the agrarian landscape and economy of Cyprus, such as the pomegranate and carob. Comprehensive characterization of these genetic resources is performed through assessment of phenotypic polymorphism, based mostly on the physicochemical characterization of fruit traits, combined and juxtaposed with genetic polymorphism employing microsatellite markers (SSRs).
The ARI Genebank is operational in the collection, ex situ conservation, regeneration, characterization, evaluation and utilization of native plants of the flora of Cyprus and local landraces. Emphasis was given over the last years to the collection and conservation of rare and endemic species, crop wild relatives of cereal, legume and vegetable crops, wild edible plants and indigenous species with aromatic and pharmaceutical properties. The ARI Genebank also participates in joint inter-departmental actions within the Ministry of Agriculture, Rural Development and Environment aimed at the regeneration and in situ conservation of endangered native flora. The Genebank actively participates in regional programs and networks aiming at the conservation and the sustainable use of plant genetic resources, such as the ECPGR, ENSCONET and GENMEDA. Finally, the ARI Herbarium, which is an extension of the Genebank, is dedicated to the collection and documentation of botanical specimens of the Cyprus flora.
The Vegetable Crops Section has successfully participated in/coordinated several state or externally funded research programs such as the following:
The research output of the Vegetable Crops Section can be accessed in the form of scientific publications archived in bibliographic databases such as Scopus and ScienceDirect, technical reports, popularized articles and producers training material archived in ARI’s website. All research output and extension material can be readily provided by the Section’s officers upon request. A list of selected publications of the Vegetable Crops Section is provided.
Marios Kyriakou, Georgios Soteriou, Angelos Kyratzis