Our department aims to contribute to the higher sustainability, productivity and resilience of smallholder farming systems in tropical and subtropical regions through increased use of diversity in plant resources.
In teaching the department focuses on the production and agroecology of tropical crops with special orientation towards traditional and ecological agricultural systems (e.g. agroforestry) as well as modern production methods (e.g. plant biotechnologies) including specialized scientific disciplines, such as ethnobotany and chemoecology.
Through its research, the department aims to identify novel crops (underutilized species with promising economic value), encourage their conservation/domestication and explore opportunities for their commercial use. With this approach we would like to contribute to the food security, nutrition and health of the smallholder farming communities in the developing world. We conduct ethnoecological studies of smallholder farming systems with the aim of determining both cultivated and wild plant diversity along with traditional practices related to the production and use of plant resources.
Two of our three laboratories focus on crop improvement through the application of biotechnology in the plant sciences. The Molecular Biology Lab is specialises in the genetic characterization of plant resources, whereas the Laboratory of Plant Tissue Cultures focuses on the development of novel micropropagation methods for the production of genetically identical and healthy planting materials. Nutritional, phytochemical and pharmacological research performed by the Laboratory of Ethnobotany and Ethnopharmacology is focused on the identification of new foods with increased nutritional and health benefits as well as on the development of high added-value products for potential useu in the food and pharmaceutical industries.