The Environmental Photobiology Lab
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Welcome to the Ballaré Lab!
The primary focus of the research in my lab is on plant responses to the environment. We are interested in the molecular mechanisms as well as in the implications for agriculture and global change research.
Currently, we have projects that focus on three interconnected areas.
The roles of phytochromes as regulators of adaptive plasticity in plant canopies
We are interested in understanding how plants use the phytochromes to obtain information about the proximity of other plants.
In many ecological scenarios, the success of the individual plant is defined by the behavioral decisions that it makes when confronted with the risks of competition with other plants and biomass losses to consumer organisms (such as pathogens and herbivorous insects). These decisions involve expression of shade avoidance responses and induced chemical defenses. Because these responses are costly, they frequently engender resource allocation dilemmas. We investigate how plants use the phytochromes and other specific photoreceptors to obtain information about the proximity of other plants and the signaling networks that translate this information into adaptive behavioral decisions.
 
Plant-herbivore interactions and defense responses mediated by the jasmonates
Plants have very effective mechanisms to defend themselves from phytophagous insects and pathogenic microorganisms. We are interested in understanding the ecological signals that modulate the expression of these defenses.
Plant defenses are frequently based on the accumulation toxic secondary compounds, and their expression is orchestrated by a number of defense-related hormones. The jasmonates (JA) are a group of lipid regulators that play a key role in activating plant defenses against chewing insects and certain types of plant pathogens. JA-inducible defenses impose an energy cost on the plant; therefore, the expression of these defenses may compromise the ability of the plant to grow and compete with other plants. This tradeoff is known as "the dilemma of plants" (i.e., to grow or defend). We investigate the mechanisms that control the expression of JA-inducible plant defenses in response to light signals that plants use to "measure" the risk of competition.
 
The effects of solar UV radiation on plant and ecosystem function
UV radiation is a relatively minor component of the solar spectrum reaching the ground surface. Yet it has many important effects on organisms and biogeochemical cycles in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.

We study the effects of solar UV radiation on plant growth and secondary chemistry, and investigate the roles of UV radiation as an environmental signal affecting the development and behavior of plants and other organisms, such as canopy arthropods and phyllosphere microorganisms.

In cooperation with the Austin lab we are working on understanding the mechanisms that mediate the effects of UV and VIS light on the photochemical degradation of plant litter. Photodegradation is an important processes affecting the carbon and nutrient cycles in terrestrial ecosystems, and it may be affected by changes in environmental conditions predicted in future scenarios of global climate change.

Carlos Ballaré is also a member of the Environmental Effect Assessment Panel of the United Nations Environmental Programme (EEAP-UNEP). This panel informs the parties to the Montreal Protocol on recent advances in the understanding of the effects of solar UV radiation and their interactions with global climate change. The EEAP produces detailed reports every four years and short yearly updates, which are published by UNEP and reprinted in the open literature.

 
 
 

Av. San Martín 4453 (C1417DSE) Ciudad de Buenos Aires - Argentina. Phone: (+54)-11-4524-8070 ext 8101 - Fax: (+54)-11- 4514-8730
E-Mail: ballare@agro.uba.ar - Twitter: @BallareCL