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A scientific patrimony free of threats

At the IAC, paralyzed research lines were reopened

In June of last year, the 250 researchers at the Agronomy Institute of Campinas (IAC) celebrated the institute’s 113 years with the totaled number of 400 cultivations developed and launched in the State of São Paulo and in other regions of the country. They are related to 130 agricultural products researched by the institute. However, around seven years ago, all of the scientific patrimony, piled up by the IAC during more than a century of research, had been under threat, such was the state of abandon and deterioration of the laboratories of its headquarters and of the experimental stations. Many areas and lines of research had been paralyzed. In order to roll back this situation, right from the first phase of the Infrastructure Program the institution’s researchers sent in renovation and modernization proposals for their laboratories. During the total of the four phases of the program, R$ 6.1 million were invested in the IAC laboratories.

Right from the start, 22 laboratories installed in the four headquarters buildings and others in the Campinas Experimental Center were renovated. Wooden dividing walls were replaced by concrete walls, the electrical and water installations were overhauled, along with the roof. Benches were renovated and basic equipment purchased. In some areas, this made possible a return to activity as Soil Physics laboratory did, having been deactivated before the restructuring of laboratories of Analysis, Stability and Soil Aggregates, Retention Curve of Soil Water, and Granulometric Analysis. “One cannot conceive the evaluation of an soil handling system without the Soil Physics laboratory”, says the researcher Sonia Carmela Falci Dechen, of the section on Soil Conservation. “The return allowed access to precious information and to important parameters in the study of soil management.” The laser granulometer, purchased with Infa’s resources, now analyzes some 100 samples per hour; in the manual process the average was of 50 evaluations per month.

Monitored flash floods
Built during the 70”s, the building which houses the Soil Physics laboratory, located in the Experimental Center in Campinas, started housing the five research sections of the Soils and Agro-Environment Center. “We attend to the demand of the whole state in this area” emphasizes the researcher. He also highlights the total reform of the field collector system of erosion loses, in an external area close to the laboratories. “We have the only Collector System of Erosion Loses working uninterruptedly in Latin America”, he states proudly. Stands are plantations of trees or crops bound by physical barriers, that provide data to advise on the handling of the soil, with records of loss of water and soil for each cultivation, during floods. At the IAC these structures were put up in 1943 and had never received any type of repair. As well as reconstructing 80 of the 108 stands – distributed throughout the experimental stations of Campinas, Mococa and Pindorama -, the program made possible the automation of the system at the Campinas Center.

“The main advantage of automation is that now I have the flash flood monitored minute by minute. I know at what time it began to rain and for how long, as well as knowing the critical period of the flash flood. Or that is to say, I have much more information to indicate the type of cultivation that is best for each type of soil” underlines the researcher Sonia Duchen.

Genetic resources
The works also stimulated other strategic activities of the IAC. In the section of Economic Botany, the herbarium was protected from fungi and the Plant Anatomy Laboratory received new benches and a fume cupboard. In the Biotechnology Laboratory, as well as the restorations, two autoclaves were purchased as well as an acclimatized greenhouse for the growing of tissue cultures.

The Rubber Tree Project, developed by the Coffee and Tropical Plants Center, was able to establish its first laboratory. Created in 1992, all of the research was only carried out in the field. According to the coordinator of the project, Paulo Gonçalves, it was only after the Infrastructure Program that they gained momentum. Also, the exchange of genetic resources was intensified with the construction of a new quarantine area. With the new vegetable house, especially projected for the plants quarantine, the institute intensified the exchange of germplasm with other institutions in and out of the state. The resources of the program also served to produce equipment which had been necessary for a long time, such as the irrigation system with a central pivot, capable of irrigating 70 hectares, implanted at the Experimental Center of Campinas.