The Experimental Institute for Fodder Crops

The origin of the Experimental Institute for Fodder Crops (Istituto Sperimentale per le Colture Foraggere) dates back to 1923, when a group of local institutions headed by the Consortium for Farm Services (Consorzio Agrario) of Piacenza and the Italian Ministry of Agriculture established in Lodi the Grassland Experimental Station (Stazione Sperimentale di Praticoltura).

Under the direction of Mario Bresaola, this institution started a pioneering breeding work on several forage species, and defined modern cropping techniques for rotational and permanent grassland. Its research activity increased significantly after World War II under the direction of Giovanni Haussmann, investigating several aspects of forage crop breeding, biology, biochemistry, agronomy and seed production, as well as the positive role of forages in crop rotations.

The name of Experimental Institute for Fodder Crops was assumed in 1967, in the context of a reform which led this and several others research institutions to be fully integrated into the Italian Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. The organization was enlarged to include four Central Sections (Plant Breeding, Agronomy, Biology and Chemistry), as well as three Peripheral Sections of which two (Cagliari in Sardinia and Foggia in Apulia) became fully operative for forage research in Mediterranean environments.

The direction by Pietro Rotili from 1980 gave new impulse to research on plant genetics and selection methods, particularly for  autotetraploid species, leading this institution to be among the top-ranking ones in Europe for a number of registered varieties. Other research areas, such as the study of cropping systems, the ecophysiology and exploitation of plant adaptation, the application of molecular markers to plant breeding issues, the selection of turfgrasses and the study of secondary metabolites, started during this period and progressed under Efisio Piano’s direction (of this institution and then of the entire Centre) from 2001 to 2009.