Department of Agronomy
Type of project
Research Programmes/Infrastructural Centres
Type of project
01.01.2020 - 31.12.2025
ARRS FTE value
Project manager at BFLeštan Domen
The research team of 23 scientists is multidisciplinary and brings together specialists in agronomy, soil science, botany, agrometeorology, environmental sciences, statistics and information sciences. The group is led by Prof. Dr. Domen Leštan.
Population boom and increasing world-wide demand for food are putting natural resources and agro-ecosystems in particular under increasing pressure. In Slovenia food self-sustainability is in a constant decline due to the specifics of our landscape, economy of production and social factors. The programme group is dedicated to broad and multidisciplinary research on the dynamics, functioning, diversity, use and management of different agro-ecosystems. Focus of research is on environmental and human effects on individual components of the agrocosystems (plants/ vegetation, soil and soil microorganisms, soil- and groundwater, climate and atmosphere) and underlying processes governing the response of these components (nutrient cycling, water flow, carbon and energy exchange, land use, biotic diversity and interactions).
Important parameter of agroecosystem is agricultural sustainability. Its primary variables are available agricultural land and water, which depend on competing demands from other sectors as well as natural factors like climate change. Adapting land use and improving water productivity is studied as priority measures. We strive to increase the efficiency of sustainable farming practices: top soil layers with increased fertility may result from conservation soil tillage or from increased inputs of organic matter from crop residues. Changes in climate and atmospheric composition are major factors that could greatly influence agroecosystem function and services, farm production and management, and soil degradation processes in the future. Research focuses on understanding, monitoring and predicting climate change and its impacts on agroecosystems in Slovenia, and provides recommendations for appropriate and efficient response strategies for adaptation. Soil degradation processes are increasing the need to use degraded and contaminated land, such as former landmine sites in Slovenia and urban areas where urban horticulture is thriving, fulfilling a variety of functions, including food production and community building. Efficient and sustainable soil rehabilitation / remediation technologies are tested for agricultural use. As primary producers the response of plants is an integral indicator of agroecosystem productivity. Effects of environmental limitation due to abiotic and biotic factors are reflected in plant growth, structure and usability for food and feed. Physiology and biochemistry of plants is studied in the plants exposed to abiotic stressors, plants exposed to different managing practices such as irrigation and soil manipulation treatments (e.g. conservation tillage, soil remediation); effects of future climate on plants is addressed.
Here are the most important research achievements of the programme group in the past year.
- Across five European cities, we tested how people of different sociocultural backgrounds (3,716 respondents) valued three levels of biodiversity (plant species richness) in four ubiquitous greenspace types (park, forest, wasteland, and streetscape). Our study revealed that biodiversity matters: People recognize differences, largely prefer more biodiversity in urban greenspaces, and agree that more biodiversity yields more liveable cities. (FISCHER, Leonie K., HONOLD, Jasmin, CVEJIĆ, Rozalija, DELSHAMMAR, Tim, HILBERT, Sven, LAFORTEZZA, Raffaele, NASTRAN, Mojca, NIELSEN, Anders Busse, PINTAR, Marina, VAN DER JAGT, Alexander, KOWARIK, Ingo. Beyond green: Broad support for biodiversity in multicultural European cities. Global environmental change, 49, pp. 35-45).
- We reported on dynamics of development of xylem and phloem formation and sap flow of oak (Quercus pubescens) and relations to water stress environmental conditions (LAVRIČ, Martina, ELER, Klemen, FERLAN, Mitja, VODNIK, Dominik, GRIČAR, Jožica.2017. Chronological sequence of leaf phenology, xylem and phloem formation and sap flow of Quercus pubescens from abandoned karst grasslands. Frontiers in plant science, 8: 314-325).
- We are studying impacts of f climate change, especially in relation to heat waves and biometeorology. From 2016 we participate in European Heat-Shield project (https://www.heat-shield.eu), Horizon 2020. Our paper ‘The effect of hot days on occupational heat stress in the manufacturing industry: implications for workers' well-being and productivity’ has been accepted in International Journal of Biometeorology.
- Climate change causes longer and more intensive droughts, which in turn cause significant physiological stress for soil microorganisms. The aim of the study was to evaluate the impact of intensive summer drought on the general bacterial, crenarchaeal and fungal communities, as well as on nitrifying and denitrifying communities in a long-term experiment of conventional and minimum tillage (KAURIN, Anela, MIHELIČ, Rok, KASTELEC, Damijana, GRČMAN, Helena, BRU, David, PHILIPPOT, Laurent, SUHADOLC, Marjetka. Resilience of bacteria, archaea, fungi and N-cycling microbial guilds under plough and conservation tillage, to agricultural drought. Soil biology & biochemistry, 120: 233–245).
- We developed novel, soil gentle and sustainable remediation technology for soils contaminated with Pb and other toxic metals. Remediated soil can be used for safe food production (LEŠTAN, Domen. Novel chelant-based washing method for soil contaminated with Pb and other metals - a pilot-scale study. Land degradation & development, 2017, 28: 2585-2595).