Estonian Crop Research Institute builds new hall for sustainable production

The new facility of the ETKI.
The new facility of the ETKI. Source: Estonian Crop Research Institute

The new universal hall of the Estonian Crop Research Institute (Eesti Taimekasvatuse Instituudi or ETKI) in Jõgeva will be completed by next spring. The new facility, which will be outfitted with cutting-edge experimental equipment, will speed up sustainable plant breeding and plant protection research.

Andre Veskioja, the director of the Estonian Crop Research Institute (ETKI), said that Estonia has enough cereal seeds on hand in case imports of seeds from other countries are halted.

"Our level of self-sufficiency is nearly 300 percent, which means we produce three times more than we consume, as according to an unwritten rule, a single seed yields 20," Veskioja said.

Minister of Agriculture Urmas Kruuse also said that Estonia has enough strategic stocks to ensure food security even if no grain crosses the border.

"Experts have reassured me that we do not need to be concerned about this at the moment, but this does not mean we should become careless. However, the primary plant breeders and collaborators with our research institutions and other partners are the farmers themselves. We have a unified goal: to ensure food security, self-sufficiency, competitiveness and harmony with nature. At the moment we are doing well," Kruuse said.

However, hybrid varieties, which are very expensive to breed, is a source of concern, Veskioja said. Due to Estonia's limited land area, it is not economically viable for us to produce its own hybrid kinds. This is the case with some sorts of rapeseed and rye, for example. Similarly, grass seed output in Estonia is limited, and breeding protein crops is also problematic.

"We hardly can produce protein crops for animal feed; instead, we purchase it as pressed residue from elsewhere. The war in Ukraine has made this very clear: much of this feed has come from Ukraine in the past, and while the supply channels are now restored, we should take a longer-term approach and strive to produce the most of our animal feed in Estonia," Veskioja said.

The Estonian Plant Breeding Institute will have a new general hall by spring 2023. This new facility, which will be outfitted with cutting-edge experimental equipment, will speed up plant breeding research.

Veskioja said that the new facility will aid in the creation of cultivars that are more resistant to weathering and pests.

"The climate is warming, rainfall is becoming irregular, the last few summers have proven that there can be two months with little or no rain, followed by months with constant precipitation. The farmers should still be able to harvest their crop by autumn and realize it. What comes to mind, and where plant variety breeding is seen as a solution, is that the European Union is about to adopt an agreement, which facilitates a reduction in the use of plant protection products and a reduction in the use of fertilizers," Veskioja said.

Kruuse said that the development of the new hall significantly contributes to the perspective of food security.

"Due to the effects of climate change, we have to ensure that these future varieties of our crops are hardy and of high quality, and also ensure the sustainability of the natural environment and food production," Kruuse said.

The Estonian Crop Research Institute is a state research and development institute operating in the area of governance of the Estonian Ministry of Rural Affairs.

The Institute was formed after uniting the Estonian Research Institute of Agriculture and the Jõgeva Plant Breeding Institute on July 1, 2013.


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Editor: Kristina Kersa

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