EkoNiva has taken part in the International Scientific Conference ‘Role of Agricultural Science in Sustainable Development of Farming Sector’. Kursk State Agricultural Academy served as a large-scale discussion platform for the conference.
The hybrid format of the conference combined an offline meeting and parallel online streaming, which enabled a lot of researchers from various regions of Russia and abroad (Belarus, Moldova, Sri-Lanka) to participate in the event. In her opening speech, Yekaterina Kharchenko, Rector of Kursk State Agricultural Academy, PhD in Economics, pointed out an increasing demand for highly qualified specialists in agriculture today.
‘The goal of the Academy is to educate graduates that would have a positive impact on the development of the farming sector and agricultural sciences in our country’, emphasises Yekaterina Kharchenko. ‘Therefore, an efficient partnership with farming business is our priority.’
Kursk Agriculture Academy and EkoNiva are long-standing partners. Last year, they embarked on a unique joint project. For the first time in Russia, a specialised department of applied seed breeding and growing is based on the production site. The main purpose is to give students an insight into the legal aspects, methodology and processes of plant breeding, spark the interest and promote the development of HR policy and research activity in the region. The department is headed by Vitaliy Voloshchenko, Director of EkoNiva Plant Breeding Centre. At the conference, he spoke about the activities of EkoNiva holding and gave a presentation: EkoNiva – a regional driver in seed breeding, seed growing and HR training.
The development of own plant breeding and seed production is the key to the success of the agricultural sector. It is essential for Russian agriculture to be independent of foreign seed companies. In 2018, EkoNiva opened a Plant Breeding and Variety Maintenance Centre – the only private centre in the country so far to feature a full-scale comprehensive winter wheat breeding programme. For the first time since the renowned variety Lgovskaya 4, Kursk oblast can again become a landmark on the winter wheat breeding map of the country. In 2019, the centre also launched a soybean breeding project and is planning to include pulses (lentils, peas and chickpeas) and spring cereals in its breeding projects in 2021.
‘The centre is equipped with modern trial plot machinery’, says Vitaliy Voloshchenko, ‘and employs personnel of highest qualification – 8 PhDs who are the authors of 64 varieties of 8 crops. Our specialists are willing to share their knowledge and experience with students. In 2020, Zashchitnoye seed growing company held regular lectures and practical training sessions for Agronomy students of Kursk Academy. Next short-term goal is to expand the training programme for our specialists and academic teachers since our company as well as the entire country needs talented teachers, agricultural specialists and breeders.’
EkoNiva is always up for innovations. To keep the competitive edge, the company looks into and adopts state-of-the-art plant breeding methods, such as molecular biotechnology, marker-assisted and genomic breeding.
‘We understand the importance of ongoing knowledge and technology transfer’, continues Vitaliy Voloshchenko, ‘We keep in touch with domestic and overseas plant breeders and exchange experience. Besides, our varieties are created in Russia, and they are first and foremost suited for the Russian conditions. Our plots in Kursk oblast are our main site for breeding and environmental trials – our scientific capital. This year, we have also opened regional branches of the Сentre in Novosibirsk and Voronezh oblasts, and our ambition is also to expand our breeding programmes into neighbouring countries. Thus, our three varieties of winter wheat are currently undergoing state trials in Belarus and Kazakhstan.’
Four cultivars developed by EkoNiva – Cepheus, EN Albireo, EN Taygeta (winter wheat) and EN Argenta (soybean) – are already included in the State Register and six more winter wheat varieties and two soybean varieties are in state trials at the moment.
‘We’ve joined our efforts with EkoNiva to train excellent specialists’, states Yekaterina Kharchenko. ‘Our students are lucky to observe the operation of a top-notch lab from inside, participate in the process and gain their first valuable experience.’
One of the key results of the conference was a resolution with relevant propositions on the development of the farming sector including plant breeding and seed growing.
By Tatyana IGNATENKO