The Institute was founded on January 22nd 2001 by Decree number 015771 of the CNR President.
Activities are divided into four research lines
- Problems about plant viruses and virus-like pathogens (viroids and phytoplasmas) studied by :
- Basic research (identification, classification, biological and molecular characterization of phytopathogenic agents, genomic expression, synthesis and use of biologically active transcripts, expression of recombinant proteins, plants transformation by Agrobacterium sp., etc.)
- Applied studies (epidemiological mapping, biology of vectors, infection sources, pathogens’ natural cycle, development of disease spread models, quarantine issues, etc.)
- Improvement of virological diagnostics by monoclonal and polyclonal antibodies production. Development of serological, immunoenzymatic and immunochromatographic diagnostic kits and their use for specific targets; improvement of molecular diagnostic methods (nucleic acid hybridization, PCR, Real-Time PCR, etc.), of immunolabelling and of immuno-electron microscopy
- Improvement and maintenance of the phytosanitary conditions of the propagative vegetative stocks for herbaceous (horticultural and ornamental species), bushy and woody plants (in particular, grapevine and fruit tree species). Clonal and phytosanitary selection is applied to nursery plants, using an array of methods, from the use of indexing hosts, to serological and molecular detection of specific pathogens. Prophylactic measures to keep virus-free vegetative stocks are also applied.
- Set up and implementation of environment-friendly crop protection strategies against virus and phytoplasma caused plant diseases. Survey of plant genetic stocks for virus resistance genes and their introduction in cultivated varieties through conventional and non conventional breeding methods. Design and implementation of control strategies relying on pathogen induced resistance obtained through genetic transformation.
These research subjects are often the result of funding grants from public and private institutions. In particular, they mainly concern the phytosanitary production and certification of reproductive stocks, and they involve Regional and Provincial Admisnistrations, Mountain communities, farmer associations and seed companies.
The Institute also offers technical advisory to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MiPAF: for example, setting up the strategy implemented to control the grapevine Flavescence dorée and to eradicate Pepino Mosaic Virus ) and to the Phytosanitary Inspection Services of several Italian Regions (for example, checking vegetative propagative material for virus presence).
The Institute offers training to phytosanitary officers, young graduates and extension by means of specific courses, seminars and guided visit to the Institute.
Many researchers of the Institute teach undergraduate and graduate courses at universities in Italy and are involved in open laboratory activities for Public Agencies working in agriculture, High Schools and Associations of farmers.