CITACA’s objectives cover the need to deepen research and generate transferable knowledge and techniques for the development of sectors involving uses and exploitation of elements constituting the food production chain. As a consequence, the study subjects are water, soil, plant development and interactions between plant communities, the valuing of wastes as fertilisers and soil conditioners, the presence of pollutants in food raw materials derived from the crops handling and the food elaboration. In every case the primary focus is the environmental sustainability and, in particular, the effects of this uses and exploitations on the water qualities and possible changes in aquatic ecosystems.
With this comprehensive approach, the cluster presents three priority research lines according to the resources and capacities of its members, and of the future fields of interest found in the social trends, as well as the local, national and European funding programmes. Those work areas which are more relevant in each research lines are highlighted:

1. Water and soil: water resource protection

This line arises from the challenge of juggling the different soil uses: livestock production and acceptor of wastes and by-products with the conservation of the soil and seepage and run-off water which feed the water reservations quality. The main objective is to promote the soil ecosystem services on its functions of waste recycling, protection, conservation and water purification, under the context of a mainly conventional agriculture, with a trend to increase the by-products valuing and the use for irrigation of potentially polluting wastewaters. The research sub-lines are the following:

1.1. Biotic and abiotic pollution in fresh water ecosystems

1.2. Pollutants transportation in the system crop-soil-water

1.3. Degraded soils recovery

1.4. Environmental modelling

2. Sustainable primary production

This line has the objective of rationally use the resources, agricultural inputs and by-products involved in the primary agricultural production through the development of processes methodologies and technologies for an efficient and safe use of them. In order to achieve this, the following sub-lines are defined:

2.1. Plant response to stress

2.2. Search for agricultural inputs for the sustainable management of crops and weeds

2.3. By-products and waste valuing for agricultural use

2.4. Soil microbial ecosystem

2.5. Crops phenological and phytosanitary status study and sustainable management

2.6. Biotechnology in agricultural crops development and applications

2.7. Efficient and sustainable ecosystems development

3. Food safety and quality: Competitiveness and sustainability

This lines aims to contribute to the development of a competitive and environmentally sustainable agri-food industry, based on the production of safe food, with a high nutritional, organoleptic and functional quality and which reduces the water and other resources consumption. Within this global approach, the following sub-lines have been established as priority:

3.1. Food safety and authenticity strategies

3.2. Product development: functional foods, new raw materials and ingredients

3.3. New processing techniques

3.4. Drinking water and food quality

3.5. Environmental sustainability in the food industry