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Improving organic apple growing in Kosovo and Albania – a challenge

Place: albania, Europe
Quantitative & qualitative enhancement of crop products Quantitative & qualitative enhancement of crop products
Total Budget: € 0,00 | Period: From May 2008 To April 2009

Summary

The aims of the study were to find out what is necessary to improve the organic apple growing sector by detecting and describing current problems in organic fruit growing, selecting, describing and recommending useful methods to improve the system as well as identifying needs to develop a sustainable apple production sector in Kosovo and Albania and increase its competitiveness in this region.

Partnership

Department of Applied Plant Sciences and Plant Biotechnology, University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences (BOKU) - Austria

Lead applicant

Department of Plant Protection, University of Pristina, Kosovo - Kosovo

Initiative partner

Department of Pomology and Viticulture, University of Pristina - Kosovo

Initiative partner

Agricultural University of Tirana, Faculty of Agriculture and Environment - Albania

Initiative partner

Faculty of Agriculture and Environment aims at becoming a modern contemporary center for undergraduate and graduate studies, scientific research and training and preparing specialist in the field of agriculture and food. It aims at becoming a referring point for the rural and agriculture development by directly contributing to the European integration of the country. The mission of the Faculty of Agriculture and Environment is to realize professional training of specialist in the field of agriculture and environment, promote respective departments and academic staff in facing time challenges such as: forecasting of food resources, sustainable development of agriculture, protection and regeneration of resources, traditional use of productive resources, provision of ecologically clean products, food safety etc., through active participation of students and academic staff in more advanced education, research and training programmes.

In 2008 and 2009, a survey was conducted with a quantitative questionnaire and a qualitative face-to-face interview with selected farmers to analyse the present potential and challenges of organic apple production in Albania. The aims of the study were to find out what is necessary to improve the organic apple growing sector by detecting and describing current problems in organic fruit growing, selecting, describing and recommending useful methods to improve the system as well as identifying needs to develop a sustainable apple production sector in Kosovo and Albania and increase its competitiveness in this region.

Organic production could be a new challenge for fruit farmers for ecological and economical reasons; there is a strong political willingness to support environmental friendly agricultural methods. However no research for organic apple production has been done so far. Having in mind that in organic production chemical fertilizers are prohibited, it is important to find techniques for improving soil fertility and sustaining a good nutrient supply level in the orchards.

Albania is a small country, covering 28.000 km², located in south of the Balkan Peninsula. The climate of Albania is Mediterranean and continental, with warm summers and cold winters. The country has a strong agricultural sector and is mostly rural. Apple growing is a sector of great relevance and relative to other fruit species. Although the ecological conditions for fruit production are relatively good and labour is available, the sector faces several impediments for further development. There has been a lack of investments due to the limited financial capacity of agricultural households, especially for the choice of the cultivars and rootstocks, which are the main factors for successful production of fruits. Organic production could be a new challenge for fruit farmers of the region.

The tangible results of the developed initiative included:an overview of the current situation and to find out already practiced useful techniques of farmers.There were conducted two rounds of questionnaires. The questions aimed at discussing in detail individual challenges (e.g. techniques in pest or quality management, cultivars etc.) and experiences with old and new techniques in the field of pests and diseases, soil management, cultivars and rootstocks. Another part of the interview was about the
expectations and experiences of yield, fruit quality, market and prices.

The real beneficiaries of the activity includes:
-Organic fruit producers;

The project team include:
experts from the field of organic apple production;
researchers.

There were no significant obstacles during its implementation.

There are some differences between European and Albanian farmers regarding experience with organic production, average farm size, percentage of exclusively organic growing farms etc. Due to recent conversion, all Albanian farmers do not use appropriate cultivars for organic growing. They are not familiarised with resistant cultivars grown in other European countries. In general, the pest and disease pressure is comparable with other countries, but Albanian farmers lack the knowledge for prevention techniques and they do not have access to many important plant protecting agents useable for organic fruit growers. There is also lack of motivation for farmers to convert to organic apple production because of low support from the government, scarce education and request of consumers. To improve organic apple production in Albania we need pilot orchards for research and demonstration of appropriate rootstocks and cultivars, soil management techniques and plant protection trials

Due to recent history of organic fruit growing and compared to other Western European countries there is a general lack of technical skills of Kosovar and Albanian farmers, so much more knowledge gained through education and research is required. The fruit growers, in both countries, lack support during the process of conversion in terms of pest and disease control, decision on cultivars, planting material and training systems, fruit thinning, pruning and soil management. To motivate and train organic fruit growers, there should provide information material and establish a network of organic fruit growers and researchers between Albania and other countries

The outcome of such activities allowed us to identify some further steps to improve organic apple production:
-Low experiences with organic apple growing;
-Motivation and training of organic fruit growers, especially before and during conversion are needed.
- Information material for extension purposes should be provided and also a positive list of plant protecting agents and fertilizers allowed for organic fruit growing.
-A network of organic fruit growers, also to foreign countries should be established.
- Introduction of organic fruit growing in the university curricula and the international exchange of master or PhD students in this field.
-Distribution of already existing knowledge and the publication of new studies in organic fruit growing
have to be extended.
-The consumers have to be educated by informing them on the risk of consuming fruits from conventional production (health problems from residues) and the advantages of products from organic farming in nutritional aspects.