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Environment and Agronomy

​The Department of Environment and Agronomy studies the influence of environmental factors on agricultural activity as well as the effects of such activity on the environment.

​ANTONIO MARTÍN ESTEBAN

​jefe departamento​

Ubicación

​Ctra. de La Coruña, km 7,5, 28040 Madrid

Noticia

The mission of the Department of Environment and Agronomy is the multidisciplinary study of the possible effects of agricultural activity (understood in a broad sense and including agricultural, livestock and forestry activity) on the environment as well as the influence of environmental factors on the agricultural systems. Alterations caused by pollutants and residues generated or used in agriculture or livestock on ecosystems are subjected to study, as well as the effect of pollutants and residues of diverse origin on agricultural systems, with special emphasis on emerging and persistent pollutants. Furthermore, in order to understand the observed effects, the molecular mechanisms of toxicity underlying the action of pollutants are studied. Besides, the development of new chemical analysis methods and their application allows identifying and evaluating the concentrations of a wide variety of substances. Changes in agronomic yield are also studied depending on the application of different kinds of agricultural amendment or different types of tillage, moving towards organic farming systems. All the knowledge generated is used in conducting risk assessments for various chemical products and for advising regulatory authorities in various international organizations (OECD, EU).

Research

The research at the Department of Environment and Agronomy is focused on finding a balance between the demand for production and its environmental effects. Thus, the optimization of the use of water and soil, as well as the reduction of pollution of agricultural origin, all aimed at achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, are priority objectives of our department.

    Crop productivity and efficiency

    We study the efficiency of crops in the use of water and nutrients, as well as the physiological characteristics of the responses to abiotic stresses in crops, genotypes and wild species.

    Control of greenhouse gas emissions

    We evaluate the impact of management practices on emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrous oxide (N2O) from the soil to the atmosphere. We try to discern which abiotic and biotic soil factors are the main determinants of the magnitude of greenhouse gas emissions.

    Organic waste management

    We carry out agronomic, analytical and economic feasibility evaluations of organic by-products and sewage sludge for application and use in agriculture and for the recovery of contaminated and eroded soils.

    Management of weed vegetation

    We investigate the population dynamics of the weed flora and its seed banks in crops in a changing climate, optimizing the integrated control strategies of weed species in agricultural systems. We study the functional traits of weed species that relate agricultural biodiversity to climate.

    Soil microfauna

    We study the diversity of microfauna and analyze the structure and functionality of edaphic food webs. We use soil diversity as an indicator of agricultural sustainability and study its relationship with agroecosystem processes and services, including maintenance of soil fertility and nutrient cycles, control of diseases and pests, and crop yield. We study the response of biodiversity to agents of environmental change and look for forms of agricultural management that maximize the resilience of food webs and their functions in the soil.

    Soil microbiome

    We investigate the diversity of the soil microbiome (bacteria, archaea and fungi) using omic, phylogenetic and functional approaches. We try to understand the relationship between the diversity of the microbiome and the essential functions that soil performs in ecosystems, such as the decomposition of organic matter and the cycling of nutrients. We also investigate the influence of the microbiome on the resilience and restoration capacity of plant communities against agents of environmental change.

    Development and application of analytical methodology

    We develop analytical methods for the determination of organic pollutants in environmental and food samples.

    Application of nanoparticles and molecularly imprinted polymers for the determination of organic pollutants.

    We prepare different materials that offer an improvement to the sample preparation stage for the analysis of contaminants in different matrices.

    Distribution, persistence, absorption and degradation kinetics of organic pollutants

    We carry out degradation, resistance, absorption and degradation kinetics studies of organic pollutants in different matrices and environmental conditions.

    Study of the improvement of beekeeping production conditions.

    In response to the risk situations created by the residues of veterinary treatments used for the control of Varroa in the beekeeping sector.

    Development of methodologies for the monitoring of biophysical and biochemical traits in green roofs.

    Use of optical sensors to monitor and predict the functioning of agroforestry ecosystems in semi-arid environments.

    Study of the mechanisms underlying toxicity and bioaccumulation

    We study the mechanisms underlying the toxicity and bioaccumulation of pollutants (nanomaterials, agri-food waste, mycotoxins, biocides) in aquatic organisms.

    Assessment of the hazards of pollutants to the environment

    We develop tools to assess the dangers of pollutants (nanomaterials, agri-food waste, mycotoxins, biocides) for the environment

    Ecotoxicological characterization of pollutants

    We apply and develop bioassays for assessing pollutant sublethal effects on soil invertebrates and plans, as well as on freshwater algae, invertebrates and vertebrates. Bioassays are performed following standardized protocols and implementing new research outcomes such as biomarkers, in vitro methods and multi-species and microcosms tests.

    Effect-based methods and chemical analysis for environmental assessment of emerging pollutants and their joint effects

    We research on how emerging pollutants (personal care products, pharmaceuticals, nanoparticles and micro/nanoplastics) and their complex mixtures in the environment or in reused waste (manure/ reclaimed water) can be transferred (soil-water-living organisms) and can impact ecosystems. 



​Instalaciones​

The Department of Environment and Agronomy has got a wide variety of facilities that allow us to approach the different research avenues developed by the different research groups, with aquarium rooms, greenhouses, test plots as well as laboratories for the characterisation and analysis of samples of environmental interest.

  • Acuarios

    Tres cámaras climatizadas para el mantenimiento de peces y el desarrollo de ensayos de toxicidad aguda, a largo plazo y de bioacumulación en trucha arcoiris.

  • Finca de Puerta Hierro I

    Oficinas y espacios comunes para el personal investigador. Dos invernaderos para la realización de ensayos en microcosmos y laboratorios para el análisis físico, químico y biológico de muestras de suelos, residuos orgánicos y material vegetal.

  • Finca Experimental "La Canaleja"

    Extensión de 100 hectáreas, principalmente con cultivos de secano, aunque también tiene una instalación para llevar a cabo ensayos de regadío. Posee el equipamiento necesario para la instalación y mantenimiento de ensayos en campo (labores, siembra, aplicación de enmiendas y abonos, tratamientos fitosanitarios y recolección) y en invernadero, así como de laboratorios de procesado de suelos, material vegetal y análisis molecular.

  • Laboratorio de análisis cromatográfico y espectrometría de masas

    Laboratorio equipado con varios cromatógrafos de gases y líquidos acoplados a diferentes detectores de espectrometría de masas para la determinación de contaminantes en muestras ambientales y alimentarias.

  • Sala de cultivos in vitro

    Laboratorio equipado para trabajar con líneas celulares (campanas de flujo laminar y microscopios invertidos).

​Services and Resources

    ● Physical properties of organic waste: Moisture, Total solids, mineral solids and volatile solids.

    ● Chemical properties of organic waste: Analysis of pH, electrical conductivity, content of the different macro and micronutrients, content of heavy metals, ammonia nitrogen and nitrate.

    ● Soil physical properties: Basic analysis of texture, apparent density, porosity, water retention capacity.

    ● Chemical properties of soils: Basic analysis of pH, electrical conductivity, content of the different macro and micronutrients, salinity, content of heavy metals.

    ● Biological properties of the soil: content of organic matter, carbon and total nitrogen, enzymatic activities (urease, beta-glucosidase, FDA, ...), identification-evaluation-quantification of micro and meso fauna (with special relevance in nematodes), respiration, potentially mineralizable nitrogen.

    ● Plant nutrient analysis: moisture measurements, elemental analysis of carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, heavy metals.

    ● Analysis of hormonal activity (estrogenicity, androgenicity or thyroid activity) in soil, sediment or water samples using transactivation assays (cells transfected with the genes of interest).

    ● Germination and growth of plants (OECD 208)

    ● Acute toxicity (OECD 207) and reproduction (OECD 222) in earthworm (Eisenia andrei).

    ● Soil microbial activity: soil carbon (OECD 217) and nitrogen (OECD 216) transformation test.

    ● Acute toxicity (OECD 235) in chironomids (Chironomus riparius) after spiking sediment (OECD 218), or water (OECD 219) and the complete life cycle (OECD 233)

    ● Reproduction of freshwater molluscs (OECD 243).

    ● Acute immobilization (OECD 202) and reproduction (OECD 211) with the microcrustacean Daphnia magna.

    ● Growth inhibition of the aquatic plant Lemna minor (OECD 221)

    ● Inhibition of algae growth (OECD 201), with the species Pseudokirchneriella subcapitata and Chlorella vulgaris.

    ● Standardized assay of metamorphosis (OECD 231) and larval growth and development (OECD 241) of the amphibian Xenopus laevis.

    ● Acute toxicity (OECD 212), embryo growth (OECD 215) and early stage toxicity (OECD 210) of the medaka fish Oryzias latipes.

    ● Trials in early stages (cocones and juveniles) of earthworms.

    ● Test of two generations of earthworm.

    ● Biomarker assays in plants and earthworms.

    ● Enzymatic tests on soil microorganisms.

    ● Cytotoxicity and genotoxicity tests with fish cell cultures (RTG-2, RTL-W1, RTH-149, RTG-Gill).

    ● Multi-species tests on soils (MS · 3).

    ● Environmental risk assessments of chemical products under different exposure scenarios

    ● Scientific-technical advice related to the performance of biological tests.

Recursos

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