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Monika Hejna graduated in Biology and Environmental Conservation at the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, Poland with an experimental thesis about the quotation of ecosystem services (2014). She won a fellowship, funded by Mipaaf 2015, focused on the environmental impact of nutritional feed additives to improvement of sustainable livestock at the Department of Health, Animal Science and Food Safety, University of Milan (2016).


Luciana Rossi graduated in Veterinary Medicine (1999) and got her PhD in Biotechnology applied to veterinary and zootechnical sciences (2002). From 2012 Researcher in Animal Nutrition, scientific area Agr/18 (Animal Nutrition), University of Milan. Main research fields: by-product and innovative additives in animal nutrition; environmental sustainability of livestock; medical molecular farming and genetically modified plants; biotechnologies; nutraceuticals and nutrigenomic in food and feed.


Title: Plant-based strategies to control the zinc output from swine livestock

At weaning, piglets often suffer from digestive disorders and growth retardation caused by different changes that represent important stressors with negative effect on health status. To control these problems and thereby limit the losses they cause, a large proportion of animals systematically receive antibiotic treatments in the form of medicated feed.

In the last decennium legislation have aimed at restricting antibiotic use in livestock (EU Reg. 1831/2003) and, in parallel, waiting efficacious alternative to antibiotic compounds, an increased use of zinc oxide (ZnO), at pharmacological doses (1000-3000 mg/kg feed), was observed in the diets of animals to control digestive disorders. In commercial conditions, feeding piglets with high doses of ZnO stimulates piglets daily gain and decreases feed conversion factor. However, as heavy metals Zn tend to accumulate in soil and cause serious environmental pollution of soil and tap-water. The heavy metal contents of animal manures are largely a   content in the feed, which poses a high pollution risk to farmlands.  Moreover, recent studies have shown that Zn used at high concentrations for a longer period might promote the spread of antimicrobial resistance of gut microflora in pigs.

In this project, the attention will be focalized on a plant-based integrated approach to reduce both the zinc output in pig livestock and the use of antibiotic compounds. In particular, in the first phase a phytoremediation approach, as a cost-effective strategy to remove exceeding heavy metals content from the manure, will be developed in order to control the Zn output from pig livestock. In the second phase, innovative seed-based edible vaccines will be produced in order to control verocytotoxic Escherichia coli infections in the weaned piglets.