Laboratory of Economic Botany

Head: dr. JUOZAS LABOKAS

Main research objectives of the Laboratory focus on the accumulation of biologically active compounds, diversity, variation and sustainability of wild economic plant species. Research is being carried out on biological, ecological and chemical properties of medicinal, aromatic, berry and fruit plants at individual, population and species levels.

Examples of projects include the national ones, such as (1) a recent project on distribution of invasive Solidago species and their potential use in phytopharmaceutical preparations as one of the possible control measures (funded by the Research Council of Lithuania), and (2) projects on identification of potential genetic reserve sites of medicinal and aromatic plants and assessment of their suitability for long-term conservation in situ (funded by the Ministry of Environment through the State Forest Service) and representing applied research or experimental development category. Out of the international projects, the scientists of the Laboratory took part in the COST actions FP1203 "European non-wood forest products (NWFPs) network" and FA1306 "The quest for tolerant varieties: phenotyping at plant and cellular level" are to be mentioned.

Currently a two-year-long postdoc project entitled "Evaluation of fertilization effect on Thymus × citriodorus biomass, essential oil composition, size and density of glandular trichomes" is being implemented at the Laboratory. It is expected that this project will not only update our scientific knowledge of this hybrid economic plant species but will also contribute to the promotion of its utilization.

Among the many categories of economic plant species, there is one called crop wild relatives (CWR). These are wild plant species genetically related to cultivated crops. By occurring in natural or semi-natural ecosystems they can further naturally evolve and develop their adaptation to the rapidly changing environment. That results in a set of different adaptive properties potentially useful for crop breeding or in plant domestication and development of new cultivars. There are many species among medicinal and aromatic plants which could be considered crop wild relatives, e.g., Rubus idaeus, Ribes nigrum, Fragaria vesca, Carum carvi, Allium spp., Mentha spp., to mention just a few. Thus, the CWRs comprise a part of our research object too, with the most recent project "Identification, preparation of applications and approval of sites to join the European in situ PGRFA conservation network" supported by the German Ministry of Agriculture and Food and implemented through the European Cooperative Programme for Plant Genetic Resources (ECPGR). The European collaboration in the latter area is being actively planned for the next two years focusing on the development of CWR database to integrate into the European-wide information system EURISCO.

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