Research lines

ppv

Production systems and best farming practices

This line of research looks at the effect of different abiotic factors and agronomic techniques (fertilisation, irrigation, soil-less production and rootstock) that have an impact on productivity, the sustainability of the activity and the sensory and nutritional quality of the product.
From the point of view of fertilisation, we are working on the use of nitrogen diagnostic tools in the field, which make it possible to adjust the application of nitrogen on the cover. These types of tools are useful when organic by-products are used in fertilisation. In this sense, the mineralisation dynamics (what they have) of these organic fertilisers are being studied to adjust the dose and time of application to the needs of the plants and avoid unwanted losses.
Moreover, in the case of irrigation, we are working in the field of programming and estimating the water needs of the crops, using different mathematical models and tools based on artificial intelligence, which make it possible to increase irrigation efficiency, minimising losses through run-off, drainage and direct evaporation.
In parallel to this line of research, we are developing hydroponic crops under greenhouses, that represent intensive plant production systems which, as well as fertigation, allow us to modulate the weather conditions with the aim of achieving the best production and quality. We are characterising the effect of environmental factors and fertigation on the sensory and nutritious quality of our products, such as tomatoes, peppers and lettuces. We also test with rootstock, where its effect is analysed on the production and quality of some vegetables, as they represent an effective, economic option to fight against certain pathogens and adverse weather conditions.
Finally, this line of research also addresses agrometeorological studies and calibration and evaluation studies of agronomic models, in order to improve tools for agronomic advice and in this way try to reduce the uncertainties inherent in the agricultural activity.
All of this knowledge is transferred to the sector thanks to comprehensive “on-line” advice tools, in some cases, with geographic information systems. Carrying out field tests to evaluate the influence of different agronomic factors on the production performance and quality of crops enables the validation and adjustment of these tools.

Researchers:

AIZPURUA INSAUSTI, ANA
LANDERAS SANCHEZ, GORKA
RIGA SULTANA, PATRICK

Technologists:  

BENEDICTO GARCIA, LEYRE
CASTELLON HERNAEZ, ANDER
PEREZ PARMO, ROBERTO
RELLOSO BARRIO, JUAN BAUTISTA

Asistants/Analysts: 

ANGULO ALONSO, BEGOÑA
CUESTA OCHOA DE ZUAZOLA, M ANGELES
DE LA LLERA GLZ. DE DURANA, IKER
GARCIA D ALBNIZ ARTANO, ANDONI
GARCIA DE VICUÑA MTNEZ D ANTOÑANA, MANUEL
HEPPE FERNANDEZ, ENRIQUE
MARIÑO MARTINEZ, MANUEL
MARTIN GARCIA, PASCUAL
ORTIZ VADILLO, ALBERTO

Improving plant genetics

The work related to improving plant genetics involves maintaining germplasm banks of different species as a base (maize, beans, tomato, potato and pepper) with genotypes that serve as parents for developing new varieties with value added features. These parents are characterised, evaluated and documented, making it possible to select the most appropriate cultivars depending on the improvement objectives, focusing mainly on performance, quality and resistance to biotic and abiotic factors. Our objective is the development of new varieties of high quality and nutritional value through traditional genetic improvement. The availability of our own new varieties adapted to our ecological conditions leads to a reduction in external dependency, thus increasing the competitiveness and sustainability of the crops.

A the same time, through the use of genomic tools, the existing variability is analysed with regard to the genetic resources of the species, in order to detect useful genes for agricultural production, analysing their interest and potential applications. The construction of genetic maps, detection of candidate genes and marker-assisted selection are used in the development of models that allow us to predict the agronomic performance of progeny and mapping collections to select the most promising genotypes.

Moreover, we characterise the sensory and nutritional quality of local varieties, such as the tomato, with the objective of commercially enhancing this product, which is increasingly demanded by consumers.

Finally, specifically in the forestry area, the application of biotechnological tools, such as somatic embryogenesis, has allowed us to develop production systems for plants that have been selected and adapted to different environments. In addition, we are studying the physiological mechanisms by which some species “tolerate” or respond more adequately to certain types of stress. We are continuing research to contribute to the development of methods that can be used within the genetic enhancement programmes for forest species such as radiata pine, with a strong economic dimension at a global level and in the Basque Country.

Researchers:

GONZALEZ GOICOECHEA, PABLO
MONCALEAN GUILLEN, PALOMA
RIGA SULTANA, PATRICK
RITTER AZPITARTE, ENRIQUE
RUIZ DE GALARRETA GOMEZ, JOSE IGNACIO

Technologists:

BARANDALLA URTIAGA, LEIRE
HERNANDEZ MUÑOZ, MONICA

Specialists:
MONTALBAN PEREZ, ITZIAR
HERRAN CEREZO, ANA BELEN
GARCIA MENDIGUREN, OLATZ

Asistants/Analysts:
ABAUNZA AGUIRREZABAL, LEIRE
CASTAÑO MORENO, CARLOS
ELORRIETA ARANA, FCO. JAVIER
GUTIERREZ GALIANO, ISIDRA
HERRAN SALVIDEA, CARLOS
ISASMENDI GALDOS, ANDER
SAENZ-URTURI RODRIGUEZ, PATXI

Treatment and recovery of waste

“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure”. In this regard, we have been working since 1995 by providing technological solutions for the organic waste generated in the agri-food sector. Energy production, generation of fertilisers with a high added value, beyond the conventional treatments, obtaining biomolecules for different purposes and direct use in alternative sectors are, among others, the solutions that we propose to achieve agri-food value chains with zero waste, where what some people discard becomes the raw material for new green business in the framework of the circular economy.
Our objective in this line is the design of a strategy for the integrated management of organic by-products that allows the conversion of waste materials from certain processes into raw materials for other economic/business activities, in order to create a sustainable space through recovery. We have established different forms of integrated non-hazardous waste management that take advantage of the synergies between them, in order to adopt the most economically and environmentally profitable solution in the framework of a concept of a “circular symbiotic economy”.
We are also developing processes in which we work with a focus on sustainability, through the integration of crops, with the use of different agri-food waste and industrial effluents. These processes include biotechnological methodologies such as enzymatic hydrolysis, which we use on waste from the agri-food industry, in order to recover nutrients (proteins and sugars) which are used in the preparation of culture media. The integration of these hydrolysates (1) makes it possible to recycle and re-evaluate the nitrogen and carbon present in the waste into new biomass with a value in different markets, (2) improves the sustainability of the processes developed and (3) conforms to the principles included under the concept of “bio-refinery”.

Researchers:
CASTAÑON DE LA TORRE, SONIA
PINTO TOBALINA, MIRIAM

Technologist:  
SUAREZ ALVAREZ, SONIA

Specialists: 
URRETA GOMEZ, IRATXE
VIRGEL MENCHACA, SUSANA

Biomolecules of agri-food interest

We actively integrate new technologies and trends, through the generation of new production activities, promoting our primary products to compete in other sectors, identifying and searching for alternatives for producing biomolecules which are healthy and of interest. This line of research is aimed at optimising and establishing bio-processes for alternative crops of plant cells and micro-organisms (micro-algae, bacteria and cyanobacteria), for production aimed at biomolecules of interest with agri-food applications (production of essential Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids, natural pigments and antioxidant compounds). From these crops we get different flours, destined, depending on the process, for enriching feed and developing fertilisers and/or functional foods.
In addition to optimising cultivation processes and using natural micro-organisms, our objective includes the insulation, selection, identification and cultivation of new species of micro-organisms that accumulate molecules of interest used in the agri-food and/or nutraceutical industry. Also, sometimes we need and have the technology necessary for establishing heterologous growths of plant cells, used as platforms for the production of bioactive proteins and molecules.
These growth processes can also be used to produce molecules of interest in the bioenergy sector, where the aim is to establish cultivation conditions which make it possible to increase the energy content of the algae biomass, promoting the accumulation of oils and/or carbohydrates in cells of different species.
All of our cultivation processes are carried out with a focus on sustainability, thanks to the possibility of integrating different agri-food waste and industrial effluents into the cultivation process. For this reason, our group is working to develop methodologies that allow us to recover nutrients from agri-food waste, which are used as health supplements in the preparation of means to cultivate micro-organisms (micro-algae, bacteria and cyanobacteria).

Researchers:
CASTAÑON DE LA TORRE, SONIA
Specialists:
SUAREZ ALVAREZ, SONIA
Technologists:
HERRAN CEREZO, ANA BELEN
URRETA GOMEZ, IRATXE

Life Cycle Assessment

The Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) makes it possible to obtain information synthetically and objectively on the environmental impact during all phases of a product or service. The objective of this line of research is to support the agri-food sector to be more sustainable through the management of the main environmental impacts of resource use and waste generation.
Using the LCA methodology, Neiker is working to promote more sustainable diets involving a transition to agricultural production which is linked more closely to the climate, health and the environment. In addition, sustainable diets promote the use of food biodiversity, including traditional and local foods.

Researchers:
DEL HIERRO, OSCAR
UNAMUNZAGA GALARZA, OLATZ