Hungary Newsflash Week 25

Brown rugose fruit virus appears, sour cherry harvest delays, ICT solutions for livestock sustainability, Hungarian organic feed supplement innovation, fish catastrophe caused by climate change, horticulture expansion - The week in Hungarian agriculture

A large wall mural of a bumblebee that landed on a flower. Szeged, Hungary.
Beeld: ©Syngenta Hungary
In Szeged, a large, 500-square-meter wall mural was unveiled as a part of Project Pollinator to celebrate urban bees and the importance of natural pollinators.

Weekly Briefing

  • Phytosaniary issues & Horticulture, vegetables: The brown rugose fruit virus (ToBRFV) has been identified at two tomato farms in Hungary: At a 5.2-hectare plantation in Csongrád-Csanád county, South-Eastern Hungary, and at a 6.2-hectare plantation in Győr-Moson-Sopron county, in Western Hungary. Both farms have been put under phytosanitary lockdown by the National Food Chain Safety Office (NÉBIH). An investigation is underway in order to identify and eliminate the source of the disease.
  • Horticulture, fruits : This season, the spring frost events delayed the sour cherry harvest by a good two weeks. Stakeholders are expecting a mediocre harvest. Hungary is the EU’s 2nd largest sour cherry producer after Poland. In the EU’s fruit processing value chain, 40%< of the sour cherry comes from Hungary. Hungarian producers grow sour cherry over 14 thousand hectares of orchards, with annual aggregate harvest yield figures between 60 and 90 thousand tons. Out of this, the domestic consumption is only 15 thousand tons.
    For more information on the Hungarian fruit sector, see our recently published analysis.
    Serbian farmers are facing the same problems – See our report here.
  • Heat alert: The Ministry of Human Capacities has announced that  Chief Medical Officer Cecília Müller has issued a “third degree excessive heat alert” (colloquially, a “red alert”) for the entire country. It seems that this year, the annual June rainy period brought about significantly less precipitation than what is expected around this time. This also means an increased danger of forest fires. In the three counties of the Southern Great Plain, a ban on open fires has been issued. Here’s article from last year on the dangers of droughts in Hungary. We also reported on irrigation development. How does drought affect Hungarian agriculture and how can precision agriculture help? See the report from our last Farminar.

Livestock sustainability improvement with ICT systems

The Institute of Agricultural Economics (AKI) is going to participate in a two-year-long project, „Enhancing environmental sustainability of livestock farms by removing barriers for adopting ICT technologies (LivestockSense)”, funded by ERA-NET COFUND ICT-AGRI-FOOD and National Research, Development and Innovation Fund. The project will assess the acceptance and applicability of information and communication technology (ICT) based tools in pig and poultry farming.

Utilisation of modern, ICT-based tools as a support of precision livestock farming (PLF) in animal husbandry has both economic and environmental reasons. However, the promotion and adoption of such kinds of technologies face challenges Europe-wide in the animal husbandry sector.

The project, which gained the support of the European Union, aims to identify/remove social barriers for technology adoption to achieve a wider use of ICT on farms. This will be achieved by selecting and supplying a number of farms in the partner countries with sensors and special cameras which are able to monitor the environmental condition of livestock buildings and the bodyweight of the animals. Thus, they provide continuous and real-time measurement data to the management of the farm. The researchers in the project will assess how the information by the new technology can be utilized in the everyday life of the farms. Furthermore, learning datasets and AI-based models will be developed and integrated into a decision support tool, which allows pig and poultry keepers to quantify their individual economic and environmental benefits if using PLF technologies.

In the consortium of seven participating countries, Hungary has been represented beside the consortium leader AgHiTech Ltd. by AKI. Our institute will be responsible for the development of the project portal, which, in addition to the dissemination of project information, will supply an open-source, data-driven web-based application and freely available API to measure the environmental performance of individual livestock farms and to support green financing efforts. Furthermore, AKI will play an important role in designing and carrying out social research, based on mixed social science methods, to identify the limitations of PLF technology application.

Sour cherries.
Beeld: ©congerdesign
The spring frosts delayed Hungary's sour cherry harvest by a good two weeks. Harvest yields are expected to be mediocre this year. Hungary is the EU's second-largest sour cherry producer, after Poland.

Hungarian feed supplement innovation

The Hungarian biotech company Dr. Bata is now developing an animal feed supplement with immune booster qualities and which, the company reports, might help human public health as well through the food chain. The company believes that current feed supplements based on chemical agents and antibiotics will be replaced in the future with natural supplements that improve the gut microbiota of livestock.

The company’s new feed supplement is plant-based, and it is meant to offer a solution for organic animal husbandry at a large-scale industrial level. The crux of the development is based on ongoing research on the practical applications of natural polyphenols subtracted from grape seed, anise, cinnamon and various other plants and spices. Products made from these natural polyphenol extracts have, among others, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities, which make them perfect candidates for medicines used for common diseases plaguing poultry and pig livestock as well as immune supplements for the animals.

The project has received a research grant of €773.4 thousand from the national research and development agency.

Horticulture investment

The farmers’ collective of the horticultural producers of the Southern Great Plain (DélKerTÉSZ) has launched a €7.13 million investment project which will lead to an expansion of the collective’s central facility in Szentes, Csongrád-Csanád County in South-Eastern Hungary. The facility will be expanded by more than 10 thousand square meters. The expandion will include new storage, cold storage and packaging facilities.

The central plant of DélKerTÉSZ currently services 15-20 trucks on a normal day, and more than 20 in high traffic season, and the current capacity cannot handle the amount of cargo. The collective was established 19 years ago and currently has almost five hundred members. Last year, its total profit was €32.3 million. DélKerTÉSZ commented that last year, during the pandemic, the demand for packaged products and the percentage of export increased.

Pollination project launch

We have recently reported, on the occasion of World Bee Day, on the affairs of beekeepers in Hungary. This month, Project Pollinator by Syngenta Hungary and the NGO Mondolo has finally launched. As a part of the project, ten new bee-grazing meadows and five bee hotels have been established throughout the city of Szeged, in Southern Hungary.

As a part of the launch and the street art project City Metamorphosis, the organizers also unveiled a 500 m2 large wall mural celebrating city bees. The organizers of the City Metamorphosis campaign commented that aside from popular awareness-raising, the project also aims to enhance the livability of the city’s urban environment.

Meanwhile, Budapest is also planning various urban greening developments - And the metropolitan municipality has already launched new bee pastures. For more details, see our report.

Fish catastrophe at Lake Velence

Last weekend, shocking photos of large amounts of fish carcasses floating in Lake Velence circulated in Hungarian social media. While citizens suspected some sort of poisoning, according to experts, the reason for the mass dying was natural – The fish were killed by a critically low concentration of oxygen in the lake. The phenomenon is still anthropogenic in its origin however, albeit indirectly. The low level of oxygen was caused by the effects of climate change. The cool spring weather pushed forward the breeding window of fish species, making them more vulnerable. Moreover, the extreme heat of the last weeks increased the temperature of the lake, which in turn caused runaway algae blossoming, and low wind velocities led to a low frequency of waves on the surface of the lake, decreasing atmospheric oxygen input. The low water levels only worsened these effects.

Hungary joins greenhouse observation program

Hungary is joining the Integrated Carbon Observation System (ICOS), announced the Debrecen-based Institute for Nuclear Research of the Hungarian Academy of Science. The international organization conducts research with the coordination of numerous observation stations in their mission to map the global carbon cycles of Earth as well as the effects of greenhouse gases in the Terran atmosphere in order to find answers to the major questions around climate change.

Hungary will become a full member of the organization in January, 2022. Members of the Hungarian branch of the consortium (ICOS-HU) will include various institutions of the Academy – the above-mentioned nuclear research institute, the earth science and space institute – as well as the Eötvös Loránd University (the University of Budapest), the Hungarian Agriculture and Life Sciences University, and the National Meteorological Service.