Dr Milan Lukić, Director, Fruit Research Institute, Čačak:

The Institute As An Essential Factor In Developing Fruit Production

Every third plum tree in our country originates from the Čačak Institute

Milan Lukic

The Fruit Research Institute in Čačak is a renowned and unique institution in our country in many ways. In the past seven decades it has built its reputation in fruit science and the profession, not only in Serbia but also in Europe and around the world. It has created 41 varieties of continental fruit, which has had a huge impact on the development of fruit production in Serbia.

How would you assess the general situation and prospects for fruit growing in Serbia?

– Serbia is the leading fruit producer in the region. For some types of fruit we are the leaders in Europe and the world. Fruit production in Serbia accounts for about 11% of the value of agricultural production and takes place on only 4.8% of the total area of agricultural land, which is very little considering the favourable climatic and soil conditions for achieving superior quality, yield and profit. A long tradition in the production of plums, raspberries, apples and cherries is one reason why these fruits are the most important for Serbia’s fruit production. Most other fruits (peach, pear, apricot, sweet cherry, strawberry, blackberry) are also successfully cultivated in some regions of Serbia. However, a big problem is yield volatility from year to year, due to the frequent occurrence of unfavorable climatic factors. Intensifying production in modern plantations through installation of irrigation systems, anti-hail nets, anti-frost and other systems significantly reduces production risks. By increasing the area of modern plantations, and with its important advantages in product marketing, Serbia has a bright future in the field of fruit growing.

In what way and in what areas can the Fruit Research Institute contribute to the advancement of modern fruit production?

– A total of 41 varieties of continental fruit created by the Institute have greatly influenced the development of fruit production in Serbia. Every third plum tree (Čačanska rodna, Čačanska lepotica, Čačanska najbolja, Timočanka …) comes from the Institute. The creation of new varieties is a priority for the Institute in the future. When it comes to growing technology, the general assessment is that existing fruit plantations in Serbia are mostly extensive, since a majority of orchards are over 20 years old. Thanks to private sector initiatives, the cultivation of new plantations with modern production technology has been intensified. This primarily refers to apple, sweet cherry and strawberry. Production of the highest certified quality seedlings by standard and modern methods (method “plant tissue culture”), improving growing technology, as well as improving fruit processing technology, are the key contributions of the Fruit Research Institute to improving fruit production.

The government has announced subsidies and support to agricultural development. Where do you see room for a greater contribution of the Institute to the efforts of the Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection?

– The government has recognised the need to support modern fruit plantations, which require huge funds. In addition, the Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection has earmarked significant funds for implementation of agricultural research projects. We can proudly say that the Institute has excellent cooperation with the Ministry in all aspects of fruit production. One of the Ministry’s strategic objectives in the coming period is to ensure sufficient quantities of high-quality seedlings of raspberry, which has been entrusted to our Institute.

Regionalisation of fruit production in Serbia is the basis of a planned creation of modern plantations and a platform for subsidising fruit growing by the Ministry. The Fruit Research Institute will play a major role in this very important project, the implementation of which will start in 2017. The Strategy for Agricultural Development of Serbia until 2024 plans increased production, competitiveness and readiness of farmers for EU accession. The Institute will provide important support in preparing IPAfunded projects.

One of the Ministry’s strategic objectives in the coming period is to ensure sufficient quantities of high-quality seedlings of raspberry, which has been entrusted to our Institute

How will the Fruit Research Institute develop further to become a key factor in the development of fruit growing in Serbia?

– The Institute’s vision of development is to expand the boundaries of scientific knowledge through unified basic, development and applied research and increased competence in the field of fruit growing. Given that scientific achievements in the field of fruit growing have to be improved in the near future and adapted to the requirements of the European and world markets, we need to find optimal solutions and appropriate technology adjusted to production conditions in our country. Scientific institutions should not only focus on generating knowledge, but also on its dissemination and implementation. The Institute will therefore direct all its activities towards development and transfer of knowledge, especially of faster implementation of innovative technologies in fruit and seedling production, implementation of scientific projects that solve specific problems in fruit growing, cooperation with businesses, services of authorised laboratories and other delegated activities that contribute directly to the improvement of fruit growing. With continuous promotion of the achieved results, the Institute will position itself as a key factor in improving fruit production, which is its core mission.