The cooperation agreement between the Italian province of Alto Adige (South Tyrol) and the FWF is bearing fruit: the researchers Hannes Schuler (Free University of Bozen-Bolzano) and Christian Stauffer (BOKU Vienna) are the first bilateral team to receive joint project funding. In their project, the researchers from Bolzano and Vienna are using genome analysis to explore new ways of protecting fruit trees from the damage wrought by apple proliferation disease. The province of South Tyrol and the FWF are each investing nearly EUR 300,000 in the cooperation project.
Signed in 2018 between South Tyrol's provincial administration and the Austrian Science Fund FWF, the agreement offers South Tyrolean research institutions the opportunity to conduct joint research projects with Austrian researchers. A total of eleven applications have been submitted to the FWF since January 2019. Hannes Schuler and Christian Stauffer are the first researchers from South Tyrol and Austria to receive funding within the framework of the Joint Projects. The autonomous province of South Tyrol and the FWF have each provided just under EUR 300,000 for the bilateral research project.
Boosting cross-border top-level research
“Cooperation across borders, international peer-reviews of excellent research and procedural flexibility – those are the cornerstones of this joint research programme. I am glad that we can offer researchers this framework that enables them to collaborate effectively, and I congratulate the two researchers on the launching of their project. This cooperation can be seen as a further building block in the long tradition of our excellent neighbourly relations,” comments Federal Minister Heinz Faßmann.
South Tyrol’s Governor Arno Kompatscher states: “The support of research in our areas of excellence is a decisive instrument for pinpointing South Tyrol’s place on an increasingly international map. A scientific environment that is capable of producing high-level academic results has a positive effect on the economy, contributes to regional development and also attracts talent.”
“We are pleased to have a partner in the South Tyrolean provincial administration to further enhance and sustainably promote the joint potential in top-notch research,” emphasizes FWF President Klement Tockner.
South Tyrol has been cooperating closely with Austria for years, both at student level and among scientists.
Genome analysis to protect apple trees
“Going by the name of FIGHToplasma, the project will devote three years to investigating the reproduction of phytoplasmas responsible for apple proliferation disease,” explains Hannes Schuler, an expert in bacterial genomics at the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano. In addition to Schuler and Christian Stauffer from the University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences in Vienna, the group also includes researchers from the University of Turin, South Tyrol's Laimburg Research Centre, and the Edmund Mach Foundation in San Michele all'Adige.
With the help of an innovative system, the team will analyse the genome of insects, the bacteria living in them and the phytoplasmas responsible for tree infection. The aim of the project is to find out whether the transmission of phytoplasmas depends on the genotype of the insect, its bacteria or the phytoplasma strain. After an initial analysis phase, the researchers will investigate the spread of the disease on living plants in the laboratory.