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Experimental plots of Mediterranean conifers and broad-leaved trees

Experimental plots of Mediterranean conifers and broad-leaved trees


The “Ovile” experimental farm, located in the Municipality of Rome (XIII Municipio, Casalotti area), take up an area of about 77 hectares where experimental plots of coniferous and broad-leaved tree species have been established over the decades, starting from the end of the Fifties of the 20th century. First activity was carried out by a national authority on cellulose and paper (ENCC), then by a public company involved in agricultural and forestry projects (SAF), further by CRA and finally from CREA. Planted tree species are adapted for Mediterranean climate areas (Pinus sp., Cupressus sp., Cedrus sp., Eucalyptus sp., Prunus sp., Juglans sp., Robinia pseudoacacia). 

Genetic improvement of forest tree species was the main research activity for about half a century. The original research aim for conifers was established  in order to increase the national timber production by using fast-growing species, such as Monterey pine (Pinus radiata) and other species suitable for Mediterranean climates (Pinus halepensis, Cedrus atlantica, Pinus eldarica, Pinus brutia, Pinus pinaster). Over time, comparative plots of provenances were established, as well as those of descendants and of selected clones, for studies on short- or long-term growth, on adaptation in relation to climate change and for seed material to be used in new plantations and reforestations. 

Among the different experimental plots of conifers, there are collections species (dating 1977 and subsequent years), comparative tests between Mediterranean pines, Atlas cedar, cypresses (1972), provenances and descendants of Pinus halepensis (1985 ),  8 provenances of Pinus pinaster (1985), 26 descendants of locally grown Pinus radiata (1978) individual trees, 16 provenances from the natural range of Pinus radiata (1981), 9 provenances from the natural range of Cedrus atlantica (1982), 42 provenances of Pinus halepensis and Pinus brutia (1975), 19 provenances of Cedrus libani and C. atlantica (1994). 

Genetic improvement represented the research activity for about half a century also for some fast growing broadleaf tree species. Main purposes have been biomass and energy production and phytoremediation, for eucalypts, poplars and black locust tree, as well as quality wood production, for others valuable slow growing tree species like walnuts and cherry trees. For these species (Populus spp, Eucalyptus spp, Juglans spp, Prunus spp, Robinia pseudoacacia), from the 1960s onwards, large basic material populations were established collecting samples from the primary and secondary range, including large national samplings. These activities belong to traditional genetic improvement programs, whereas only for walnut MAS was used in collaboration with other research organizations (CNR), in order to obtain interspecific hybrids (from hybrid heterosis), combination of resistances and shortening of production cycles. 

The set of this genetic material constitutes one of the most complete collections of germplasm of tree species (Juglandetum, Cerasetum, Robinietum, Eucalyptetum) and therefore unique not only at national but also European level. 

Specifically, in the Juglandetum 3 genera are represented (Juglans, Carya, Pterocaria) 5 species and 4 interspecific hybrids on a total of about 30 provenances /accessions. The Juglandetum was initially created for genetic improvement of the walnut (quality of wood), but in recent years proved as precious germplasm source for the selection of plant material resistant to some plant diseases that affect the rootstocks in fruit plantations. In the Eucalyptetum 12 species on a total of about 60 provenances / accessions are present. There is an Eucalyptus camaldulensis seed orchard, originated from seeds of Albacutya lake (VIC), the best provenance for Mediterranean climate areas, and plots hosting interspecific clones, suitable for use in plantations of the Mediterranean area. Finally, in the Robinietum about 100 provenances / accessions are sampled.  

At present, the entire experimental farm area is part of a Regional Reserve, the Natural Monument “Parco della Cellulosa”, established in 2006 in order to safeguard the legacy represented by the tree plantations. Visits are periodically organized for study and for forest educational purposes.    

Refer to: Giuseppe Pignatti 

Page update Experimental plots of Mediterranean conifers and broad-leaved trees

Last update: 09 Oct 2020

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