Centro Interdipartimentale di Ricerche Agro-Ambientali
CIRAA is the largest agricultural experimental centre in Italy and one of the largest in Europe. Research carried out at CIRAA is mostly funded by regional, national and international projects. CIRAA mainly conducts on-farm research at field scale. Plot-scale experiments are usually included in the layout of larger scale (field) experiments. CIRAA facilities also include glasshouses where more specific research is conducted.
Characteristic features of CIRAA research activity are: (a) on-farm demand-driven research, (b) long-term experiments, (c) multidisciplinary research with systems approach.
CIRAA extensive acreage allows to conduct on-farm research at field scale. This is of paramount importance for obtaining results that can more readily be transferred to farming practice. As such, CIRAA periodically hosts field days during which farmers and technicians have to opportunity to have a close look at field trials and to interact with CIRAA researchers and technicians.
In the early 1980s, CIRAA has initiated a series of long-term experiments carried out at field scale on several cropping systems and agricultural management practices. At present, some 9 long-term experiments are active: three on cropping systems, three on soil tillage, one on cover crops, one on organic farming (the MASCOT experiment, i.e. the major trial comparing organic and conventional systems of the whole Mediterranean area), and one on short rotation forestry. This feature makes CIRAA unique among agricultural experimental centres in Europe and elsewhere.
CIRAA long-term experiments represent a "gymnasium" where researchers with different expertise can share their knowledge and gather around common projects. Hence, a multidisciplinary system approach to agricultural research is continuously fostered throughout ongoing and submitted CIRAA projects.
To ease the setting up of multidisciplinary research teams and management of research projects, CIRAA has stipulated dedicated conventions with the Department of Agronomy and Agroecosystem Management (DAGA) of the University of Pisa and the Sant'Anna Higher School for Advanced Studies of Pisa (SSSUP). As such, the three institutions can freely share research staff, students, equipment and funding.