Interview of Dr. Nenad Trkulja, director of Research and Development Center Sunoko for the portal Plodna zemlja (Fertile Land) (www.plodnazemlja.com)
- When we say the most modern Research and Laboratory Center, what does it mean? What equipment is in question, tell me more about the Center, where is it located, why was it chosen to be located there? How many employees are there?
The Sunoko Research and Development Center can be classified as one of the most modern institutions in the field of research and development in agriculture, not only in Serbia but also beyond. It is located near Inđija, surrounded by agricultural land that will be used for field experiments and hence the decision to establish a bass in this place. We currently have seven employees with a tendency for further growth. The Research and Development Center is equipped with the most modern laboratory equipment and machinery for performing field experiments. The equipment within all laboratories is at the level of reference world scientific institutes, for example, the Molecular Laboratory has devices for performing PCR, Real-Time PCR, as well as serological analyzes, while the Soil Laboratory is equipped with the latest generation of ICP device. For the needs of field experiments, the Center has equipment for precise sowing and conducting experiments for various purposes, all in terms of improving the overall technology of sugar beet production.
- What analyzes do you do?
The Research and Development Center (IRC) has five laboratories: for seeds, sugar, soil, phytopathology and a molecular laboratory. Accordingly, the analyzes to be performed are for the purpose of improving the quality and health of seeds, sugar content from test samples, soil analysis, analysis of the presence of diseases and pests as well as molecular identification and characterization of diseases and pests.
- Are all analyzes performed in the Center or do you to go to the fields as well? How do you perform sampling?
The analytical part will be done in the Center itself, but there is also a part of field tests where experts will assess the condition and state of crops as well as monitor the presence of diseases and pests. In the field experiments, the genetic potential of the assortment will be analyzed, which is a very important segment both in achieving a high and stable yield, and in the fight against diseases. Through experiments with plant nutrition and plant protection products, optimal technology of crop care and protection for the next vegetation will be created.
- What is important for sugar beet producers to know about the services of the Center?
With its support, the center will make a great contribution to the even better quality of the final product, which is extremely important for the production of safe food, but also for the entire domestic food industry. It is very important that producers know that they have a partner in the Research and Development Center who will give them guidelines and recommendations for optimal sugar beet production technology.
- When it comes to identifying the problem, please list all the potential challenges from that first step to the end of the production process that sugar beet producers face?
Intensive agricultural production such as sugar beet production does not bear mistakes and therefore it is necessary to define optimal solutions for each segment in production. Through the expertise of the Research and Development Center, all potential problems and risks will be identified, but on the other hand, solutions for safe production will also be identified. The challenges in production that producers face start in the previous one for the next vegetation through production planning, selection of plots, land preparation as well as selection of an adequate assortment. After sowing, there are challenges of plant care and nutrition as well as the fight against pests, diseases and weeds, and during the summer months the biggest challenge is the control of leaf diseases.
- The producers have already cooperated with Dr. Nenad Trkulja and have excellent experiences. If we can explain how he helped the producer to protect sugar beet from cercospora, after which the producer realized that the difference in yield can be up to 10 tons / ha with different approaches to protection.
During the previous decade, as a consequence of intensive pesticide application, major changes occurred in the population of C. beticola. Together with a team of scientists from Serbia in collaboration with leading scientists from the University of North Dakota and Minnesota, we were the first in the world to identify the so – called problem of multidrug resistance of C. beticola. The significance of these researches is reflected in the fact that, in accordance with the new situation in the field, it was necessary to change the control strategy completely, which was done in a previous period in a significant number of areas. Producers who did not adapt to the new situation made major mistakes in production and had a significant reduction in yield, so it is very easy to raise the yield on these plots with a change in strategy, which in this case was 10 t / ha.
- The technological process of sugar beet production includes a number of demanding agro-technical and chemical measures that will be brought to maximum optimization by expertise of the Research and Development Center (how and how much)?
Each step in production will be analyzed by experts of the Research and Development Center both in laboratory and field conditions. Such an approach will provide adequate data on the optimal solutions for each production segment. If we talk about the assortment, the analysis will define which assortment is appropriate for Serbia and further which assortment is more suitable for certain regions or land types. Also, the analytics will give answers as to which model of plant nutrition and care is optimal and in which conditions the sugar beet thrives. The trend that is present in Europe today and refers to the ban on pesticides that were important factors in production will be analyzed in detail. It is necessary to find adequate replacements and to adapt the entire production to the new circumstances of reducing the number of available plant protection products..
- All of the above leads to a reduction in production costs, and increases yields (by how much)?
By the fact that the production will be optimized, unnecessary losses will not occur through the application of funds that do not contribute to the production, and the same can be said for the assortment. As an example of how inadequate means make a cost, we will mention the use of one of the fungicides to which C. beticola has become resistant. In this particular case, if we apply a preparation to which there is resistance, the effect will be significantly reduced, and the cost of investing in such a medium will be completely wrong and unnecessary. In the best case, the effect in controlling the disease can be 30%, and in the worst case, less than 5%. This means that the manufacturer will simply throw away 70% to 95% of the money invested in these preparations. On the other hand, the correct approach to control with the use of adequate means can significantly increase the yields, which according to our data can be from 10% to 40% in relation to unprofessional or incorrect approach.
- How does professional use of pesticides reduce the negative impact on the environment?
The EU has banned a significant number of pesticides with a controversial impact on the environment and human health in the past few years. All these preparations were more or less used on earlier crops. If we know that these same preparations have lost their effect on the target organism, and we still use it, then the result is only environmental pollution, without having an impact on the target pathogen. So, the goal is to use only effective mediums that have the maximum contribution in production, and as long as that is the case, then it is completely justified both in the economic and ecological sense. On the other hand, in the past period, the importance of the application of biological agents on a global level has been growing. The Research and Development Center will intensify the use of biological agents with a significant contribution to production at the expense of classical chemical preparations.
- The Center also organizes professional lectures for all sugar beet producers in Serbia, while for all producers with whom Sunoko has a contract, direct education and field consulting are provided. What topics are covered?
The topics are all that we have mentioned, i.e. the goal is the maximum education of producers by the experts of the Research and Development Center in terms of all segments of production. Assortment, nutrition and care of plants, protection against pests and weeds, etc.
- In which direction do the latest scientific researches go when it comes to sugar beet?
Scientific research follows the changes that are happening on a global level, such as climate change, which brings us new growing conditions for sugar beet, but also the emergence of new diseases of pests and invasive weeds. Consequently, the selection of a new assortment that is adequate for the given conditions and testing of new more effective solutions in production is underway, and this primarily refers to the care and protection of crops.
- What would you advise producers who are considering starting the production (planting) of sugar beet?
I would advise them to keep in mind that the production of sugar beet is very demanding, but on the other hand also very profitable for the producer. In addition, it is a production that is contracted in advance and is the only production in agriculture that has 100% secured sales in Serbia, so producers do not have to think about placement and the price at which they will place their product. Serbia has excellent conditions and land for the production of this crop, so my recommendation is that producers decide to produce sugar beet without fear of technological problems they may have had in previous years, while our Center will certainly give them maximum support to achieve high and safe yield.