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Agri-food and Environmental Systems Management

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The Department of Agri-food and Environmental Systems Management (DiGeSA) was formed in October 2010 and represents a multidisciplinary group of researchers focusing on building and land engineering, mechanics and mechanization, hydraulics and watershed protection, plant pathology, applied entomology, agri-food economics, and resource valuation and environmental economics.

The mission of the DiGeSA is to produce and disseminate research of international quality which increases knowledge, skills, understanding and impact, and to enable students to develop their potential, their employability, their cultural insight and their ethical awareness. To achieve these goals the DiGeSA builds and maintains relationships and partnerships with other universities, research centers and organizations, both at a national and international level, in order to enhance knowledge transfer and innovation.

The DiGeSA houses approximately 50 tenured university teachers, several research and teaching laboratories, and three very furnished libraries providing access to thousands of specialized books, periodicals, and on-line scientific journals.


 

Teaching

Currently, the DiGeSA delivers the following course programs:

Undergradute level (laurea)

  • Planning, design and management of  land and environment

  • Food science and technologies

Master level (laurea magistrale)

  • Conservation of land, environment, and landscape

  • Food science and technologies

Research informs the content of all the course programs, ensuring students at all levels are exposed to the latest ideas, concepts and theories. Students are asked, therefore, to understand the application of skills, and are expected to exhibit critical thinking as well to apply skills in solving problems.

The DiGeSA participates to EU Erasmus program.


Research activities

 

Building and Land Engineering

Area of interest: structural, energy and functional aspects of buildings for agricultural production and for agricultural product processing and their related technological plants and equipments; traditional rural architecture; analysis, planning and assessment of land and environmental resources.

Objectives: designing and optimizing structures and equipment for agriculture, animal husbandry, protected cultivations, forestry activities, storing and processing of agricultural products; exploring energy recovery from livestock and agro-industrial wastes; analysing and modeling biological systems in relation to agricultural structures; classification, rehabilitation, reuse and valorization of rural building heritage; survey, mapping, analysis, modeling and planning of rural land; landscape and green areas design.

Main Research Topics: building solutions, systems and ICT applications for the improvement of animal welfare in livestock houses; ICT applications for the traceability of citrus-plant nursery chain and the quality improvement of citrus plants; technical solution for pest monitoring and control in buildings for cereal processing; new plastic materials for greenhouses and protected cultivations; greenhouse soil solarization; landscape design and environmental planning; integrated design of building for agri-food processing.

Mechanics and Mechanisation

Areas of interest: agricultural mechanics and mechanisation; plant and machinery for agricultural, livestock farming, dairies and agro-food bio-systems, with particular attention to the design and to constructional, operational, functional, organisational and environmental aspects, as well as to the health, safety and welfare; energy savings techniques; soil tillage and conservation.

Objectives; to provide scientific support to both agricultural farms and machine-maker firms; to try and propose solutions aimed at improving the environmental and energetic sustainability as concerns the agro-food sector; to promote the interest on health, safety and welfare in agro-food and agro-cultural systems, and the salubrity of the work places.

Main Research Topics: plant protection, harvest and post-harvest (crops and fruits), livestock, robotics (mainly as safety strategy), Mediterranean crop mechanisation, work organisation and their energetic and environmental effects, biomechanical  overloading risks.


Hydraulics and Watershed Protection

Area of interest: water resources management; hydraulics and hydrology; irrigation and drainage; ecological engineering; water sanitation; wastewater treatment and reuse.

Objectives: to promote water saving measures in agriculture; to promote natural systems for wastewater treatment and reuse in agriculture; define precision irrigation methods; to estimate and control soil susceptibility to erosion processes; to apply remote sensing techniques to analyse vegetation index and evapotranspiration process.

Main Research Topics: water resources management for agriculture, treatment and agriculture reuse of municipal wastewater, natural treatment systems, irrigation design, soil erosion and control systems, river engineering and mountain restoration, remote sensing.

Plant Pathology

Area of interest: plant pathology of tropical, subtropical, Mediterranean crops and forest plants; molecular biology applied to phyto-pathogenic fungi and bacteria; plant disease management; post-harvest biology and technology.

Objectives: improving plant production; developing pathogen identification and detection technologies; protecting agricultural and forest ecosystems from harmful organisms with environmentally-safe methods; improving storage life and quality of harvested plants and products.

Main Research Topics: detection and description of new plant pathogens or new plant diseases; molecular characterization of Colletotrichum, Phytophthora, Calonectria, Botrytis, Rhizoctonia, Sclerotium,Fusarium, and Pseudomonas populations; host-pathogen interaction of bacteria/fungi-plant pathosystems; control of soilborne pathogens with soil solarization, antagonistic microorganisms, chemicals and fumigants; fungicide resistance; post-harvest disease management.  

Applied Entomology

Area of interest: bio-ecology, harmfulness and sustainable control strategies to contain the animal organisms (especially insects, mites and nematodes) which are harmful to agricultural production, animal husbandry and food chains, extending even to systematic groups containing species which in many ways interfere with the health of man, as well as with his productive activities and his living environment.

Objectives: to achieve detailed knowledge on the bio-ecology and physiology of animal organism sharmful to man, his food and agricultural production and his living environment, in order to improve the chances of retaining their populations within tolerance limits, through the application of integrated strategies which, while reducing the economic and environmental costs of the interventions, also show a higher level of respect for human health.

Main Research Topics: integrated pest management strategies and applications of biological and integrated control of pests; gradations of pests in forest and urban green areas; pests of food production chains; bio-systematic studies on insects, with special emphasis to Hemiptera Sternorrhyncha; systematic studies and bio-utilization of entomophagous Hymenoptera; integrated control of mites and nematodes harmful to agricultural production.

Agro-food Economics

Area of interest: socio-economic analysis and management issues of agricultural and food firms; economic, political and managerial aspects of production, processing, distribution, market and consumption of agro-food products; management and control of quality and safety of food products.

Objectives: to develop models and implement empirical analysis to investigate the profitability and efficiency of firms; to compare the profitability of conventional and “alternatives” techniques of agricultural production; to investigate agricultural policies and analyze their impacts on local development and on utilization of resources; to implement interpretative schemes on the role of multifunctional agriculture in the context of the modern economy and society; to identify constraints and opportunities concerning local development; to set up models for the governance of the rural territory in the context of current European policies.

Main Research Topics: analysis of policies for the agricultural and food sector; analysis of agro-industrial production processes, and valorization strategies; competitiveness and markets of agricultural and agro-food products; analysis of processes for sustainable rural development; analysis of socio-economic problems in the protected areas; analysis of tools for territorial marketing; analysis of anthropogenic activities and quality of life in rural areas; economics and politics of agro-energy; analysis of risk and strategies for food safety; characterization and technology of typical regional food products.

Resource Valuation and Environmental Economics

Area of interest: economic valuation of environmental resources; natural resource damage assessment; benefit-cost analysis; economics and management of ecosystems and biodiversity; theory and practice of environmental regulation; management of renewable resources; international environmental economics and policy; economics of landscape; agricultural externalities; land use and global climate change; economics of natural disasters; real estate appraisal methodologies; land market analysis.

Objectives: to develop and implement valid and reliable economic conceptual framework, methods and tools for the optimal allocation of natural and environmental resources, and offer sound economic arguments to decision and policy makers for conserving and managing natural heritage, ecosystems services, biodiversity, and landscape to maximize net benefits for present and future generations.

Main Research Topics: rationality in choice experiments and contingent valuation studies; recreation demand systems models; valuing and mapping ecosystems services; benefits from restoring Mediterranean wetlands; meta-analysis of the recreational value of ecosystems in Italy; design of efficient payments for ecosystem services; valuing benefits of preserving endangered indigenous livestock breeds; accounting forest externalities in decision making tools; conservation and biodiversity banking; public benefits of water resources; costs of natural disasters; impacts of climate change on agriculture and ecosystems; equivalence analysis and natural resource damage assessment; real estate appraisal; land market studies.



Department's Office

Via Santa Sofia, 100 | I-95123 Catania

e-mail: digesa@unict.it

phone: (+39) 095 7147571

Website

 

Director

prof. Giovanni Cascone (gcascone@unict.it)

 

Erasmus and Internationalisation Delegate

prof. Giovanni Signorello (g.signorello@unict.it)



University of Catania

P.zza Università, 2
I - 95124 - CATANIA

C.F./VAT N. 02772010878
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