Dynamics of organics and sustainable use of soil bioresources

Contact: Luigi P. D'Acqui (Unit of Firenze)
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The science of sustainability is the challenge of the XXI century for the human society. The bio-ecological studies have made it increasingly evident the complex processes that underlie the functioning of terrestrial ecosystems as well as more and more manifest is the impact of human society on the structure and function of ecosystems themselves. On the basis of the need for a transition towards a sustainable, or durable, relations between human and nature there are advances in scientific knowledge that have given form and substance to ecosystem approach for the management of natural resources as soil, water and biodiversity; The soil organic matter is an essential agricultural and environmental component for plant nutrition, protection of soil quality and control of the fate of anthropogenic contaminants in the soil. Soils also contain the largest amount of organic carbon in the Earth's surface, second only to that of the deep sediments. Therefore, the soil organic matter is the only reservoir of organic carbon that is potentially capable to fix for long-term carbon that is continuously realised into the atmosphere by the increasing of burning fossil fuels and to help the limitation of global changes related to the increase of greenhouse gases. Open, therefore, offers enormous opportunities for scientific development on which to base interventions and policies for the conservation of the biosphere, "green technology" for the recovery of degraded areas, pollution control, mitigation of climate change, sustainability of agro -environment, the production of organic raw materials, in addition to food production to meet the growing needs of a population that increases not only in number but also, fortunately, into wealth: only then can translate into reality the concrete and the ' goal of a sustainable society, eco-compatible, or based on biological resources, and renewable and with less impact on our planet.


Study of the properties and the role of soil organic matter (SOM) in the terrestrial ecosystem for understanding their functions and potentials in relation to environmental issues. In this area are mainly investigated the processes of surface interaction of organic matter with the mineral soil matrix. In particular many of the detailed functional aspects of the organic substance in the environment are studied:

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1. Organo-mineral interactions for maintenance of soil functions

Prion in soil

Study of mechanisms of interaction and entrapment of prions (responsible for transmissible spongiform encephalopathies TSEs, BSE) with soil organic matter. The organic matter is also an important constituent of soil with properties markedly different from mineral constituents. Characterization of the differences in adsorption of prion protein between clays and clay-organic complexes, as well as a comparison of immobilization efficiency by organic matter entrapment.

Origin of life

Matrix minerals and prebiotic evolution.

Clay-RNA World theory

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2. Sustainable Biotechnologies for improvement the chemical and biological fertility of degraded soils

In tropical environments

Isolation, selection and production of indigenous cyanobacteria strains with high capacity of nitrogen fixation and production of biomass and polysaccharides.


3. In situ study of surface interactions between organic molecules and soil mineral matrices without mineral fraction alteration and without creating artifacts in contrast to what happens with the conventional techniques

These studies are carried out by using innovative techniques for soil sciences as:

Low temperature ashing (LTA)

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Infrared photoacoustic spectroscopy PAS

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Soil carbon sequestration

Use of ecosystem information to obtain accurate maps of soil C distribution in soil of Mediterranean environments.


4. Rapid characterization of soil properties using spectroscopic and chemometrics techniques

Study of the dynamics and temporal and spatial variability of soil with the acquisition of quantitative data of the main chemical, physical and biological soil.

Fast and low cost analysis

Prediction of the physical, chemical and biological properties of the soil employing spectroscopic and chemometric techniques that use MIR-DRIFT spectra of soil samples with the analytical data obtained from the same soil samples.


Skills, Instrumentation, Investigation Techniques and Technologies

  • Study of the biological and physical processes that influence the cycle of organic carbon;
  • Dynamics of organic matter in relation to human impact with particular regard to the ability of C sequestration by soil;
  • Analysis of the flow properties of the soil; Determination of specific surface of soil constituents;
  • Characterization of the micro, meso and macro-porosity of solids by means of adsorption of N, intrusion of Hg and image analysis of thin sections from 1 mm to 2 mm;
  • Microwave digestion;
  • Characterization of soil organic fraction, with particular reference to security, stability and vulnerability of the humic substances, depending on the elemental composition and spectroscopic parameters (FTIR-PAS-NMR);
  • Characterization of C cycle and processes that promote the stabilization of this element in soil;
  • Analysis of the processes that promote and stabilize the quality of the soil resource;
  • Interactions of organic molecules with soil components;
  • Genesis, evolution and properties of mineral and organic soil colloids and their interactions with other components of the soil;
  • MID-DRIFT infrared spectroscopy and multivariate analysis (chemometrics);
  • Cold oxygen plasma (LTA); Photoacoustic spectroscopy (PAS).