The Agricultural Research Council (CRA-SCA)

The Agricultural Research Council (CRA-SCA)

The Agricultural Research Council (CRA) is a National Research Organization which operates under the supervision of the Ministry of Agriculture, with general scientific competence within the fields of agriculture, agroindustry, food, fishery and forestry.

CRA has 15 Centers and 32 Research Units organized in 5 Departments.

The distribution of the CRA offices throughout national territory allows it to widely extend its expertise and proficiency, and to closely operate in conjunction with central administrations, local and regional institutions, companies and various trade, industrial and legal associations.

The aggregation into one national institution allows it to pursue both the consolidation of the experience of historic research institutions, yet at the same time it conforms to the increasing need for innovation and technological evolution of the agricultural sector.

The CRA is placed in a perspective of renovated competitiveness within the Agricultural research sector, both on European and International standards.

The Research Unit for Cropping Systems in Dry Environments (CRA-SCA) carries out research on environmental sustainability for agricultural activity. The study aims at the productivity of cropping systems in arid and semi-arid environments of the Mediterranean area.

The research objectives are the study of the role of water in the agro-ecosystem, the crop response to the water and saline stress, the conservation and optimization of natural resources and landscape, the adaptation to climate change and its mitigation and the fight against desertification.

To achieve these aims the CRA-SCA uses innovative methods to analyze the environment, the crop eco-physiology, the new agro-techniques and the mass and energy exchange into the continuum soil-plant-atmosphere. To understand the interactions of water and other environmental factors with crop productions, the Research Unit develops modeling techniques and integrated approaches which include the spatiotemporal aspects of the landscape.

Main research topics are:

1.    Characterization of arid and semi-arid environments in the Mediterranean area: spatial variability of physical-hydrological and chemical soil parameters; remote sensing; applied agrometeorology; soil-atmosphere gas exchange; determination of carbon dioxide (CO2) fluxes; water vapour and greenhouse trace gases; crop evapotranspiration;

2.    Cropping system requirements in semi-arid environments: new dryland cropping systems; energy, water and nutrient balance; irrigation agronomic techniques; exploitation of waste and saline waters and crop residues; agro-techniques for the conservation of agronomic fertility and alternative fertilizers;

3.    Cropping system sustainability in the Mediterranean area: sustainable innovations; precision agriculture and irrigation; site-specific agro-techniques; organic farming; conservative agriculture; introduction of alternative species; cropping systems for bio-energy;

Cropping system development as a consequence of climate change: crop systems modeling; adaptation of cropping systems to future scenarios; mitigation ability of cropping systems.

The CRA SCA research group is supported by:

- Modeling Laboratory . The software library includes: DSSAT, CropSyst, EPIC, AQUACROP, STICS, HYDRUS, SWAP and AQUACROP.

- Environmental images processing laboratory for the management of georeferred spatial information acquired with Proximal and Remote sensing sensors.

- Geomatics platform for the:

  • optimization of soil sampling using statistical and geostatistical techniques, with the aim of surveying and analysis of environmental, agricultural and forestry resources;
  • use of Global Positioning System to georeference the observations and to create digital terrain models;

acquisition of spatial data with Proximal and Remote Sensing using geophysical and radiometric sensors on the ground or on board aircraft and/or satellite (measurements of 

  • soil and vegetation properties);
  • processing of environmental variables with geostatistical techniques for the production of thematic and risk maps;
  • agro-ecoregionalization using geographical clustering techniques;
  • management of space-time variability and development of site-specific agro-techniques in the perspective of precision agriculture and irrigation.
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