The research area of phytochemistry studies wild and cultivated plant species with respect to their substances. The analytical methods applied in this context are used in cooperation with the breeding research and plant genetic institutes, for example, for the detection of resistance markers, genome mapping of metabolites or the characterization of sensory active compounds. In addition, we investigate the formation of natural toxins in crops and develop approaches to reduce these unwanted substances.
In the framework of breeding research and crop management, we are using specific analytical methods to characterize product quality, such as the profile of certain valuable constituents. Furthermore, these methods can help to determine how the composition of plant compounds varies in response to abiotic or biotic stress. For example, by analysing genebank accessions appropriate wild-types or old varieties can be selected for plant breeding research to improve the quality and resistance properties of certain crops. Moreover, screening of genomic libraries can contribute to find elite plants for the production of bio-based products (e.g. bio-pesticides).
Finally genotypes and varieties are analyzed for quality-reducing effects, which can be caused by postharvest processes (e.g. storage) or different processing techniques (e.g. drying, juice processing, extraction, and distillation). The formation and reduction of natural toxins in the crop and parasite interaction are investigated as well.
Sophisticated chromatographic and spectroscopic equipment systems are available at the Institute as well as numerous techniques that can contribute to identifying unknown substances. In addition, rapid methods can be applied to analyze non-destructively plant samples in a very short time (about 30 seconds). These methods also play a role for phenotyping where substances of plant pools are quantified at a cellular scale.
Research topics, which are carried out mainly by means of metabolome profiling, are aiming at enhancing both flavour quality and health benefits of fruits and vegetables. After identifying of relevant valuable components, analysis methods are used, which make it possible to examine a large number of plant samples (e.g. the progeny of a cross-breed population) in a short time.