What are the applications of agrobiotechnology

Inter-university department for agrobiotechnology Tulln

The Inter-university department for agrobiotechnology (IFA Tulln) is a joint project of the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna (BOKU), the Vienna University of Technology (TU) and the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna (VetMed), and one of the 15 departments of BOKU. Five of the six IFA institutes make up the BOKU location Tulln, and with some affiliated institutes the Tulln Technopol campus.


The inter-university research institute for agrobiotechnology (IFA Tulln) was founded in 1994 with the participation of three Viennese universities. The aim was to create the spatial environment for a close interdisciplinary integration of agrobiotechnology research. Planning began in 1989 and the research center was opened on September 22, 1994. After the University Act of 2002 (UG 2002) came into force, the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna was entrusted with the management of the entire research center, which is still operated by the 3 universities. The 5 institutes of the research institute were named the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna as a separate department Inter-University Department for Agrobiotechnology (IFA Tulln) incorporated. In 2011 the Institute for Animal Nutrition, Animal Food and Nutritional Physiology was added as the 6th institute to the Department IFA Tulln.

Organization and structure

The Department of Agrobiotechnology (IFA Tulln) as one of the 15 departments of the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna is now made up of 6 institutes:

  • Institute for Biotechnology in Plant Production
  • Institute for Natural Materials Technology
  • Analytics center
  • Institute for Environmental Biotechnology
  • Institute for Biotechnology in Animal Production
  • Institute for Animal Nutrition, Animal Food and Nutritional Physiology.

Due to its history, the department is largely independent in the areas of financial accounting, building services, IT and purchasing. In order to protect the interests of the three participating universities (BOKU, TU Wien and VetMedUni), there is a supervisory board, the IFA Tulln Advisory Board. The advisory board, to which members of the three universities mentioned and the state of Lower Austria belong, meets once a quarter. Another special feature of the department compared to other departments are personnel positions which are responsible for commercial management and research coordination.


The first 5 institutes of the Inter-University Department for Agrobiotechnology Tulln are located in the IFA-Tulln building in Tulln an der Donau am Campus Tulln Technopol (BOKU location Tulln). The sixth institute (TTE) is located at the BOKU location Muthgasse in Vienna. The IFA-Tulln building, together with the other working groups at BOKU, consists of 6 additional departments (materials science and process technology, chemistry, sustainable agricultural systems, forest and soil sciences, applied plant sciences and plant biotechnology as well as applied genetics and cell biology), which UFT opened in 2011 University and Research Center Tulln are located, the BOKU location in Tulln. The Tulln Technopol campus is part of the Technopol Tulln. The Technopol Tulln was founded in 2006 by the Lower Austrian Business Agency GmbH (Ecoplus) founded, here you can also find the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology and the Agrana Research & Innovation Center, the research center of AGRANA, as well as the FH Wiener Neustadt.

Institute at the Department of Agrobiotechnology

Institute for Biotechnology in Plant Production

The Institute for Biotechnology in Plant Production conducts basic and applied research on cultivated plants with a focus on plant breeding, plant genetics, phytopathology and resistance breeding. Building on classic field-based breeding research, methods of structural and functional genomics are increasingly being used. The development of biotechnological tools such as molecular markers for selection and genetic analysis, studies of gene expression and genome structure form the core area of ​​the work. The institute also sees its role as a mediator between life science research and the application of new biotechnological techniques in practical plant breeding. The basis of breeding research on cultivated plants is a well-functioning field testing system as well as a modern and reliable greenhouse and climatic chamber infrastructure. A special focus of the institute is resistance research in grain, maize and oil pumpkin.

Institute for Natural Materials Technology

The focus of the Institute for Natural Materials Technology is on injection molding and the extrusion of natural materials. All work is carried out at the institute, from raw material analysis and preparation to processing in pilot plants and materials testing. The starting products of the developments are biopolymers such as starch, proteins and vegetable fibers as well as by-products of the food and wood industries. A research focus is on the utilization of renewable raw materials and industrial by-products for injection molding and profile extrusion.

Analytics center

It is divided into the three work areas of mycotoxin analysis, water analysis and biochemical analysis. In addition to the development and validation of analysis methods v. a. In the field of environmental and toxin analysis as well as to ensure the quality of food and feed, the production of reference materials is also a focus.

Institute for Environmental Biotechnology

The Institute for Environmental Biotechnology deals with the development and practical use of environmental biotechnological processes. On the one hand, aftercare procedures for the remediation of polluted waters or soils are developed or optimized, on the other hand, new procedures for avoiding environmental pollution or for recycling waste or by-products are developed. The topics dealt with include water and soil purification, avoidance, treatment and recycling of organic waste, ecotoxicology, risk assessment and monitoring projects, development of mycotoxin-detoxifying feed additives, development of silage starter cultures, utilization of renewable raw materials for the biotechnological production of lactic acid and ethanol.

In terms of its orientation, research and development also includes basic studies and laboratory tests through to pilot plant and field tests. The main sponsors are the EU, national and local authorities and Austrian industry.

Contaminated site management working group (soil remediation and risk assessment)

This department includes basic and applied research on the occurrence and behavior of organic chemicals in the environment, the assessment of the resulting hazards as well as options for reducing the risk and remedying damage cases. To this end, innovative analysis methods, both physico-chemical and biological, are being developed.

Subsequently, potential limitations of the microbial degradation of pollutants are examined in the laboratory and, on the basis of the results, products and methods are developed that enable large-scale application and efficient operation of remediation processes. The research focuses on the investigation of the interactions between soil matrix and organic pollutants. Furthermore, in-situ and on-site remediation techniques are developed.

Anaerobic Utilization Working Group (Biogas Research and Advisory Group)

The biogas group deals with the anaerobic utilization of renewable raw materials, waste materials and sewage. The working group is active in all areas of the field of biogas technology and deals with marketing concepts for biomass, the pretreatment of substrates to increase the methane yield, optimization of plant technology, making new substrate groups available, characterization of the microorganisms involved in the process, right up to the preparation and utilization of the digestate product . Another focus is the advisory activity in this subject area. Particular attention is paid to analytics and biological process control.

Fermentation and Microbial Additives Working Group

One aspect of environmental biotechnology is the avoidance of environmental damage and the use of sustainable technologies. In this sense, this working group deals with the development of alternatives to the use of fossil resources for the production of chemicals and energy and the development of microbial additives as a substitute for potentially dangerous agrochemicals.

The aim is to develop microbiological processes from laboratory scale to commercial application. A state-of-the-art biotechnology center is available at the institute for this purpose.

The following activities are carried out in the Fermentation and Microbial Additives Working Group: Process development and scale-up, chemicals and energy from biomass, microbial additives and product formulation The development of processes includes isolation, screening, identification and cultivation of microorganisms and goes up to production on a pilot scale and the application-oriented formulation. Areas of application are e.g. B. Microorganisms for the feed industry, where products have already been developed to market maturity.

Working group feed additives

The research activities of the “Feed additives” working group are carried out in close cooperation with Biomin GmbH. The projects carried out here are thematically assigned to the field of animal nutrition. In this context, a focus is on the research, development and practical application of probiotic feed additives in animal production. Through the use of bacterial strains naturally occurring in the intestines of the animals, the health status of fattening animals should be stabilized in a natural way and protected against pathogens such as z. B. Salmonella are protected. At the same time - especially after the ban on antibiotic performance promoters in the European Union that came into force on January 1, 2006 - the misuse of antibiotics in meat production is to be counteracted by increasing the number of therapeutic antibiotics.

Particular attention is paid to multicomponent additives which, due to their complex but precisely defined microbiological composition, can achieve additional positive effects in terms of their effectiveness. The research is supported by micro and molecular biological methods, on the one hand to characterize the microorganisms from the digestive tract of the animals and to study them with regard to their effectiveness and safety, and on the other hand to be able to show the changes in the intestinal flora that can be achieved with the administration of feed additives.

Another foundation is the cooperation with Biomin in the field of mycotoxin research.

Working group on microbial investigation methods

The projects of this working group range from conventional microbial analyzes to the determination of the biodegradability of synthetic materials and biopolymers to the application of bio-tests for the detection of ecotoxic effects in aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. In addition, microbial community structures from environmental samples are analyzed using molecular biological methods. The latest research area started in 2003 with research on allelopathic interactions (chemical interactions between plants and other organisms).

In future, the working group will concentrate on the occurrence of ecotoxic effects in waste and degradable materials, on the investigation of allelopathic effects with a view to practical application in agriculture and on the molecular biological analysis of microbial community structures in the above-mentioned subject areas.

Working group on water and wastewater treatment

The water and wastewater treatment group deals with the development of new and optimized procedures and processes in the field of water and wastewater treatment. The working group is headed by Werner Fuchs. Almost all of the projects carried out in the working group are industrial collaborations, mostly with support from national and European funding. The international orientation is also characteristic of the activities. Projects were not only carried out with partners in the EU area, but also with China, Latin America and North Africa, among others.

In addition to process development in cooperation with plant construction companies, assistance is also given in solving problems in the water supply and wastewater treatment area.

In addition to the possibility of laboratory tests, process development and optimization on a semi-technical and pilot scale are in the foreground. Membrane separation processes are one of the main topics. Other areas of work are control and monitoring of water and wastewater treatment plants, recycling and saving concepts for the careful use of water in industrial companies.

Institute for Biotechnology in Animal Production

The main task of the department is the breeding of healthy and fertile animals with meaningful production performance, whereby the results of basic research in molecular and cell biology are implemented directly in breeding practice using reproductive methods.

The use of reproductive technologies in cattle breeding enables the effective use of genetically high-quality animals through the production of embryos. Embryos are produced from living animals by means of hormonal superovulation, insemination and flushing of the embryos from the uterus (embryo transfer). are then fertilized in the laboratory and develop into embryos (IVP = in vitro production of embryos). IVP can also be used to produce embryos from slaughtered animals whose ovaries arrive in the laboratory within a short period of time. The embryos obtained in this way can be transferred directly to recipient animals or frozen for storage, transport or sales purposes.

In order to protect transgenic mouse breeding against loss through technical incidents (climate control, water ingress) or pathogens (infections through viruses or bacteria), it is necessary to secure the genetic material. Embryos in the morula stage are obtained from hormonally stimulated mice from transgenic strains and lines and cryopreserved by a freezing process ("vitrification", Nowshari and Brem, 1993, Theriogenology). On the male side, the spermatozoa can be cryopreserved as gametes (Nakagata et al., 1997, Biol. Reprod.). It is stored in liquid nitrogen for an unlimited period of time. After thawing, the anti-freeze is diluted and the embryos can then be cultivated in the incubator to the blastocyst stage or transferred directly to pseudopregnant recipients. After thawing, the gametes can be used for in vitro fertilization (IVF) and the resulting IVF embryos can be transferred to recipients. The number of embryos to be preserved depends on the genotype of the parents (homozygous or heterozygous) and their genetic background (outbringing or inbreeding). 150 to 300 embryos of each individual transgenic line and each genetic background are cryopreserved. Cryopreservation of germinal tissue (ovary and testes) for later transplantation to immunocompromised recipients and the preservation of genetically modified cell lines for cloning mice are established as further techniques for the conservation of genetic material.

The "gene farming" form of production enables the production of large quantities of transgenic products (e.g. "nutriceuticals" or "pharmaceuticals") that cannot be obtained in the appropriate purity and quantity from natural raw materials or produced in other bioreactors. The mammary gland of farm animals is particularly well suited for the production of recombinant proteins, which can be harvested simply by milking the transgenic animals. Milk is a secretion that is continuously produced over several weeks during the lactation period. A milking machine for rabbits enables gentle milking of the zibbe. The system mimics the boys' natural sucking act. While the Zibbe rests on a textile net, the teat cups are placed on the teats with the pulsating suction vacuum. After 5 to 10 minutes the mammary gland is empty and the teat cups are removed. Although rabbits have never been selected for their milk yield, up to 1/4 liter of milk can be obtained from a 5 kg zibbe in a day.

Using homologous recombination, mice were created in embryonic stem (ES) cells that specifically show a deficiency (knockout, KO) in a member of the Janus (Jak) tyrosine kinases. Jak mice are an instrument to study the effects of various cytokines and growth factors in vivo. Jak2 and Tyk2 mice were processed. The Jak2-deficient mice were created under the direction of Prof. Pfeffer (TU Munich) and analyzed in collaboration. The Tyk2 mice were developed under the leadership of the scientists employed at the Department of Biotechnology in Animal Production at IFA Tulln and at the Institute for Animal Breeding and Genetics at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna.

The Jak proteins (Janus kinases) are a family of receptor-associated protein tyrosine kinases that have 4 members in mammals - Jak1, Jak2, Jak3 and Tyk2. Jaks bind to intracellular domains of cytokine and growth factor receptors. After the receptor-ligand binding, they are activated and regulate the intracellular transmission of signals. The stat (signal transducer and activator of transcription) proteins play an important role as positive regulators. Stats are primarily activated by Jaks on the receptor complexes, form homo- or heterodimers, translocate into the cell nucleus and activate specific genes as transcription factors. The family of SOCS proteins (suppressor of cytokine signaling, also CIS, SSI, JAB) was identified as negative regulators, which directly inhibit the catalytic activity of the Jaks or prevent stat activation via other mechanisms. This intracellular signal transmission path was named Jak-Stat signal path because of the mainly involved protein families. The cell-specific effect of the cytokines is controlled by the specific composition of the receptor complexes. In addition to the Jak / Stat / SOCS proteins, other cell- and development-specific signaling molecules and cascades are involved in the cytokine- and growth-factor-mediated response.

The function of the yaks was intensively investigated in various in vitro systems. These data could now be completed by the in vivo investigation of Jak-deficient (Jak-KO) mice. The targeted inactivation of Jak2 leads to embryonic lethality of the homozygous knockout mice. Jak2 embryos are anemic and die on day 12.5 of embryonic development. In the absence of the Jak2-mediated signaling pathways, the formation of red blood cells in the fetal liver is completely disrupted. This is v. a. explainable by the necessity of Jak2 in the signal transmission of erythropoietin (EPO), interleukin (IL) -3 and granulocyte-macrophage-colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF).

The studies on Tyk2 mice have shown that Tyk2 is not, unlike the other members of the Jak family, significantly involved in the architecture of one or more cytokine receptors in vivo. The role of Tyk2 in the overall organism is rather the fine-tuning of the cytokine response by amplifying the existing signal or the selective activation of certain stats at the respective cytokine receptors. At least at the IFN-alpha / beta and the IL-12 receptor, the presence of Tyk2 is necessary for the activation of Stat3. Tyk2 deficiency does not lead to a general severe impairment of the immune system as expected from the in vitro data. Rather, the data indicate a role for Tyk2 in the transition from innate immunity to specific immunity.

Molecular genetic techniques make it possible to uncover disease-relevant changes in the genetic material directly. Not only the homozygous carriers, but also the phenotypically healthy, heterozygous carriers are recognized. Molecular genetic diagnostics also allow the animals to be determined directly with regard to a trait in the selection of performance traits. As carriers and sires of desirable trait markers, they can preferably be used in breeding. Examples of molecular genetic diagnostics:

The kappa-casein alleles are performance markers. The milk protein casein is the basic ingredient for cheese production. Various kappa-casein alleles are present in the cattle populations, with one variant of the protein showing better cheese-making properties, i.e. better cheese quality and higher cheese yield. Breeding bulls that carry the responsible allele - it is allele B - can be recognized directly by means of molecular genetic diagnostics and given selective preference: They pass on the performance trait to their daughters.

Bovine leukocyte adhesion deficiency is an autosomal recessive hereditary disease in Holstein cattle. A point mutation is responsible for a dysfunction of the white blood cells, which can no longer fulfill their control function against infectious agents. Homozygous carriers of the defect die within the first year of life due to a reduced immune response. In the offspring of breeding animals that are evident as heterozygous carriers of the defect, the BLAD test is an important hereditary hygiene measure to keep the disease under control.

The "sniffing disease" (rhinitis athrophicans) is one of the most economically important diseases in pig production. The clinical picture is caused by the interaction of several factors (poor stable climate, viruses, mycoplasma and other germs, e.g. Bordetella bronchiseptica). However, the toxin-producing Pasteurella multocida strains are decisive in the outbreak of the disease. The samples are taken in the company with the help of special nasal swabs. They are incubated overnight in a special medium in order to multiply existing toxin-producing Pasteurella multocida strains. The toxin gene is detected via polymerase chain reaction (PCR) on the one hand, and the method itself is checked by an internal control on the other. The internal control band (400 base pairs) must appear in every reaction on gel electrophoresis, the toxin band (1600 base pairs) only in positive test samples. The great advantage of detecting pathogens with the help of PCR, in contrast to other detection methods (e.g. ELISA), lies mainly in the higher sensitivity, since false positive and false negative results are avoided.

Institute for Animal Nutrition, Animal Food and Nutritional Physiology

The Institute for Animal Nutrition, Animal Food and Nutritional Physiology (TTE) represents the beginning of the supply chain for food of animal origin. The focus here is on the proper feeding of farm animals and the essential contribution of nutrition to the quality and safety of primary products (milk, meat, eggs). The secondary effects of individual food components on digestion, metabolism and health form a special focus.

Experimental studies on farm animals and model animals for humans (pigs, rats) on the metabolism of nutrients and the effect of functional ingredients in food or additives. Analysis of nutrients (including trace elements) in biological material. Quantification of fractional material flows in the intact organism (absorption, excretion, turnover in the tissue).

Thematic focus

Effect of vegetable fiber components, probiotics and essential spice oils on the functionality of digestion on the animal model of the pig using nutritional, molecular biological and histological methods. Nutritional aspects (bioavailability, accumulation in tissue) of essential trace elements (iodine, selenium, zinc). Optimization of the nutrient supply of farm animals (essential amino acids, essential trace elements, fat quality).

Teaching at the Department of Agrobiotechnology (IFA Tulln)

The staff of the department are involved in the teaching of the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, the Technical University of Vienna and the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna with the organization of lectures and laboratory exercises. In addition, bachelor, master, diploma and doctoral theses are supervised for the universities mentioned above.

Web links


  • Knowledge balance of the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna 2009 (pdf, boku.ac.at)
  • forschung.boku.ac.at/…/suchen.orgeinheit_suchresult - Entries from the five institutes at the Inter-University Department for Agrobiotechnology (IFA Tulln) on the research portal of the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna