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Integrated Approaches for Sustainable Crop Production in Slovenia: Resisting Global Changes

Final Report Summary - CROPSUSTAIN (Integrated Approaches for Sustainable Crop Production in Slovenia: Resisting Global Changes.)

Executive Summary:
Project Cropsustain considerably strengthened research capacities at the Kmetijski inštitut Slovenije (KIS, Agricultural Institute of Slovenia). Tools and strategies were implemented for the development of sustainable approaches in agriculture, food production and security, and endeavour evaluations of climate change related effects on agro-ecosystems. Key areas were infrastructural improvements, creation of new jobs in research and management, national and international build up of collaboration, networking for improving the integration of KIS into the European Research Area, and promotional activities to increase the visibility of KIS as an excellence centre for sustainable agriculture. Defined scientific targets of the project addressed sustainable crop production and environmentally friendly plant protection strategies with a focus on (i) reference collections for quarantine and other severe plant pests and pathogens and their diagnostics, (ii) interactions between host plants, vectors, pests and pathogens requiring implementation of new methods, (iii) environmentally sound plant protection technologies, (iv) omics related research and bioinformatics, and (v) honeybees and their protection.
Six partner institutions supported KIS in the project, namely the Department of Agroecology, Aarhus University (Denmark); Leibniz-Institut DSMZ, German Collection of Microorganisms and cell cultures and Julius Kühn-Institut (Germany), EMBL-European Bioinformatics Institute and The James Hutton Institute (UK); and National Institute of Agricultural Research, INRA (France). The collaboration with these institutions included, among others, the realization of more than 90 exchange missions of scientists and managers for establishing research projects and networking and exchanging project related knowledge. The project allowed employment of four scientists that will strengthen research on insect pests, plant breeding, horticulture, and bioinformatics at KIS and two managers for the newly installed technological transfer and project office. Created positions will be retained at KIS also in the future. KIS significantly modernized its research facilities through purchasing and installing thirteen new instruments, which became intensively implemented into KIS research activities.
Twenty-six events including scientific courses, round table discussions, workshops, conferences, etc. were organized. Leading European scientists, regional experts and politicians were recruited and actively participated in these events. The events also allowed the build up of networking with other European institutes including institutions from other Balkan countries allowing the creation of consortia for the participation in H2020 project calls. Cropsustain significantly changed general attitudes of KIS and led to policy adaptations that emphasize the urgent need for the development of sustainable principles. Networking links with the regional business sectors, agro-industries and farmer and stakeholder organizations were significantly improved specifically through management activities of the technological transfer office.
Project Cropsustain significantly increased the visibility of KIS that is now recognised nationally and internationally as a competence centre for sustainable agriculture and food production. The increased competence was acknowledged by the Slovenian government allowing the appointment of five additional young scientists for the implementation of national integrated pest management action plans. Results emerging from project Cropsustain will have a long term effect on KIS and the regional and international agriculture sector.

Project Context and Objectives:
Agriculture is facing numerous challenges, requirements and adaptations. Of all economy branches, agriculture will be most affected by climate change. This will affect agriculture in both the narrow sense, i.e. food production, as well as in the broader sense, including the retention of the rural population, preservation of the cultural landscape and preservation of the production potential of the very limited agricultural land in Slovenia. Agricultural competitiveness will primarily depend on how successfully we ameliorate the negative and exploit the positive effects of the new conditions. Whilst searching for solutions we must never compromise the food security by ensuring adequate amounts of safe food of the highest quality, while at the same time we must attempt to increase added value and competitiveness of agriculture in the domestic and world markets. Current trends show that climate change will lead to mass agriculture production moving to the north, where conditions will have become more favourable. The greatest problems will be faced by agriculture in the Mediterranean countries, where the specific production of a broad palette of traditional products with narrow geographic designation, special nutritional value and greatest added value will be compromised.

Gradual intensification of agricultural production, a lively trade in seeds, planting and other plant materials together represent an inexhaustible source for the spread of harmful organisms. With diverse transportation pathways, these organisms can overcome great distances, and often the transfer of an organism from one part of the world to another is only a matter of time. Studying harmful organisms and the impact of environmental factors on their development allows us to develop environmentally friendly protection methods where, despite intensive prevention measures, harmful organisms spread or reproduce excessively.

Above mentioned challenges were the focus of the Cropsustain project which aimed at implementing efficient and environmentally friendly plant protection and production strategies in Slovenia under changing climate conditions. Special attention was given towards the development of several plant protection scientific sectors including strengthening capacities for (l) diagnostics of severe plant pest and pathogen species, specifically quarantine species, (ll) establishing national reference collections for quarantine and other severe plant pests and pathogens, (lll) understanding and investigating interactions between host plants, vectors, pests and pathogens requiring implementation of new methods, (lV) research potential on environmentally sound plant protection technologies, (V) big data implementation and analysis (omics and bioinformatics) for sustainable agriculture and (Vl) research on honeybees and their protection.

Accordingly, the main objective of the project programme was to significantly improve the research capacities at KIS (staff and equipment), implement novel strategies for the dissemination of expertise and results and promote cooperation of KIS with companies and other national and international research institutions. The transfer of new technologies and innovations to companies and agricultural holdings and farms was considered especially important. Cropsustain activities aimed at improving research conditions and technological development that would lead to increased economic competitiveness in agriculture and food-processing sectors. Cropsustain also aimed at increasing sustainable food and feed production through protection of natural environments and recourses and improving socio-economic situation of Slovenian farmers by increasing international competitiveness of agricultural entities and farms, knowledge and technology transfer).
Interdisciplinary research groups at KIS endeavoured to strengthen Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategies with the goal to develop environmentally sound plant production technologies. Such aims have been also promoted by the EU elsewhere. The main objective of the research groups at KIS was to provide practical crop production technologies including IPM solutions, to significantly reduce dependence on pesticides in major farming systems in Slovenia to protect the environment and improve human health.

Thus the overall goal of KIS research groups has been to achieve efficient and environmentally friendly management of plant protection and crop production in Slovenia in the conditions of global changes. Consequently, the whole project followed an integrated interdisciplinary approach since it has been designed to facilitate research activities for sustainable crop production through different research disciplines – it integrated the work of six departments within KIS.
In this respect, the main scientific and technological objectives of the proposed project were:
• Promoting high impact research; development and innovation cooperation between companies and the national and international research institutes; strengthening of intermediaries for the transfer of new technologies and innovations on priority development and technological areas to companies and agricultural holdings and farms.
• Ensuring conditions for research leading to technological development, and indirectly to economic competitiveness (particularly agriculture and the food-processing industry), leading at the same time to improvement of environment protection.
• Increasing the proportion of higher price-range agricultural products as a result of the production of quality food in a clean environment.

Four main strategic objectives were set within this project in order to overcome constraints and ensure the sustainability of KIS excellence:
1. Enriching KIS’s expertise for efficient and environmentally friendly management of plant protection and crop production in Slovenia in the conditions of global change.
2. Improving the facilities: technological modernization.
3. Improve the integration of the Agricultural Institute of Slovenia within the ERA.
4. Reinforcing the exploitation of results.

The overall strategy of the project stipulated the enhancement of the research potential of the Institute through enhanced human resources, facilities and improved partner collaboration. This scientific objective integrated the work of six departments of the Institute and fostered European knowledge and know-how exchange on five scientific themes, formulating six concrete scientific targets:
1. Strengthening capacities for diagnostics of quarantine and other severe plant pest and pathogen species.
2. Collaboration for establishment of national reference collections for quarantine and other severe plant pests and pathogens.
3. Investigating methods for dealing with interactions between host plants, vectors, pests and pathogens.
4. Raising research potential on environmentally sound plant protection technologies.
5. Transfer of knowledge for omics and bioinformatic approaches for sustainable agriculture.
6. Rising research potential to reduce honeybee colony losses and to ensure sustainable beekeeping.

The strategy was implemented through adhering to 7 work packages, which were designed to contribute to the implementation of the six scientific targets:

WP 1 corresponded to Project management activities.

WP 2 focused on reinforcing interdisciplinary research and increasing human resources. Overall, several environmentally friendly crop production research strategies were established and four (4) experienced researchers, an (1) experienced business administrator and a (1) project manager were hired to answer the needs of the institute for future research.

WP 3 focused on the collaboration and exchange of know-how through mobilities, i.e. scientific or expert visits to partner institutions. Two-way mobilities took place between KIS and its partner institutions to increase knowledge on a large scale within Europe.

WP 4 covered the acquisition of new equipment that strengthened KIS’s research potential. Training for staff was provided in order to ensure effective work with the new equipment.

WP 5 initiated sustained co-operation with the partner institutions, creating multilateral relations and a new shining tile within the mosaic of European Research Area relating to global climate change and sustainable agriculture and food production. The already developed partners’ networks ensured better integration of the CropSustaIn network into the ERA. Besides development of CropSustaIn network, the main achievements of WP 5 were production of a web platform, organization of several national and international events and creation of a manifesto on sustainable agriculture.

WP 6 covered project and results dissemination and exploitation. Website and other promotional materials were produced, 2 international conferences were organized, and 2 thematic scientific monographs were published. Results were disseminated to a large audience thus boosting the impact of the project. An IP development plan has been realized with the following measures: establishment of a Technology Transfer Office, training of KIS researchers in the field of IP protection and exploitation, the recruitment of an IP manager, holding KIS Open Days on a regular basis and regular meetings with the industry.
WP 7 covered evaluation of the project implementation and assessment of the activities performed as well as the recommendations that will allow KIS to benefit more from the project results.

Project Results:
Final report on the main S & T results and foregrounds in the frame of Cropsustain project

The aim of the WP2 was to establish overall environmentally friendly crop production research strategies by promoting and designing close within- and inter-departmental cooperation at KIS. The researchers participating in the Cropsustain project shared their research experiences and ideas through presentations and discussions at annual meetings.
The development of a sustainable system of agriculture to support the food, feed, and energy needs of Slovenia requires Agricultural Institute of Slovenia (KIS) to reinforce its research activities. Such activities should be based on more basic and applied research in ecology of agricultural systems, more interdisciplinary research, and integration of several (national and international) research institutions and farmers in designing and implementing research projects. In addition, appropriate new technologies and end products (e.g. new varieties of important agricultural crops) must be developed to support a sustainable agriculture.
A sustainable agriculture could not be achieved without a strong scientific base which requires basic and applied research related to soil and plant ecology, crop production technologies, crop rotations, plant health, role of pollinators, integrated pest management, biological control agents, non-chemical pest control, biotechnology and plant breeding, molecular biology etc. Many of these research activities are of common interest at KIS and are highly interdisciplinary and combine the experimental and theoretical expertise available in different departments of KIS.
Under KIS research activities, long-term interdisciplinary research, both basic and applied, are given high priority. The objectives of our research are the creation of productive, economically viable, and environmentally friendly agricultural systems.
To foster strong collaborations and interaction between the researchers from different KIS departments several joint workshops/meetings have been organized by Cropsustain team where researchers shared their experiences and ideas through presentations and discussions and contributed to better cohesion between various departments and research groups within KIS.
The first inter-departmental seminar was held in October 2013. Researchers from different KIS departments presented studies, which are of interest and are useful in the broader context of the work of the Institute:
- Studies of plant responses to drought stress,
- Root knot nematodes – biotic factors that affect plant stress,
- Control of soil pest insects using beneficial rhizosphere microorganisms,
- The possibilities of using hyperspectral camera to detect plant stress.

The second inter-departmental seminar was held on May 26th 2015. The aim of the presentation regarding new GMO prohibition law in Slovenia was to inform KIS associates about research, developments and trends concerning this topic. KIS researchers supported the appeal against the adoption of the new law.
The third inter-departmental seminar was held on September 24th 2015. The aim of this seminar was to inform the KIS employees about some of the successfully completed projects. Its aim was also to include a wider range of KIS researchers to participate in and to involve them in upcoming projects. Presented projects:
Project Agrotur - Karst agrotourism (2011-2014) in cross-border Karst region. KIS was the leading partner and 5 other partners from Slovenia and Italy were involved. The main project activities were: monitoring of the Karst entomofauna (insects), monitoring the impact of agriculture on the environment (especially pesticides and metals), increase the quality of some selected traditional Karst products, research of bioactive components of wine on human health, educational and promotional activities. One of the achievements was building up the new tourist infrastructure - tourist farms that offer accommodations with an “umbrella hotel” framework with a single reception office, marketing etc.

Project Malvasia TourIstra - Paths of the Istrian Malvasia. Five project partners collaborated in the project and more than 50 producers from Slovenia and Croatia were involved. The aim was to present a Malvasia wine as a new potential cross-border product. During the project activities they evaluated different styles of wines on the basis of aromatic and phenolic profiles. Sensory properties were also evaluated and classified Malvasia in 4 styles: fresh, mature, traditional and desert. The determination of different Malvasia wine styles was also the basis for new tourist itineraries that will promote the Istrian region and its traditional products.

PURE project provided practical IPM solutions to reduce dependence on pesticides in selected major farming systems in Europe, thereby contributing to a reduction of the risks to human health and the environment and facilitating the implementation of the pesticides package legislation while ensuring continued food production of sufficient quality.
To ensure better communication between researchers and to improve inter-departmental collaboration, KIS employed Project manager who leads and facilitates interdisciplinary research teams pursuing large-scale research projects by identifying funding sources and solicitations and assisting in grant proposal preparation. Inter-departmental research is already designed interdisciplinary and currently applied to many important research topics reflected in active project proposals.


Research cooperation conducted at national and international level is especially important to KIS’s future and ensures its research potential is used effectively. Results of the Cropsustain project have strengthened the research potential of KIS in terms of human resources, facilities and partner collaboration and was accelerated the consolidation of research on modelling, plant breeding, bio diversity, crop production technology, plant health and plant protection, pest risk assessment, environmental risk assessment etc.

With the recruited staff KIS upgraded its scientific and expert activities in the field of plant production and devoted a lot of energies to identify and introduce new and relevant research topics (e.g. hyperspectral imaging, utilizing rhizosphere competence of entomopathogenic or insect associated fungi for biological control of soil pests etc.) important for Slovenian development in its work. All KIS activities will contribute to the technological development of Slovenian agriculture, and thus increase the competitiveness of country’s agricultural production and food processing industry. It will also ensure better use of natural resources and preservation of the environment and biodiversity, the inter-institute's cooperation and rational use of human resources and finally to a more appropriate transfer of the acquired knowledge into practice.

Reports of recruits

Information technologies specialist – Uroš Žibrat
Job position: Plant Protection department, information technology
Technical description of workplace
My main task was IT support to KIS employees. Duties included assistance in the preparation of experiments, statistical analysis and the development and adaptation of prognostic models. I also assisted my colleagues with computer related technical and software problems, as well as with using the system Biolinux.
My research work was focused on the development of models for disease and stress conditions of plants and chemometric methods using remote sensing. An important task was the establishment of a hyperspectral imaging laboratory.
Establishment of a hyperspectral imaging lab with three platforms (laboratory, field/glasshouse and airborne).
A model for identifying grapes infected with grapevine yellows, using multispectral satellite imaging.
Model for forecasting the temperature-dependent development of nematode Meloidogyne ethiopica. With this model, we also contributed to the change in the paradigm of linear models of temperature-dependent development of nematodes.
Publication of two original scientific articles, many professional contributions at conferences and symposiums, several manuscripts in preparation or submitted. Bibliography:
Research activities
In the project »Grapevine yellows: the methods of early detection and management« we worked on »Examination of the usefulness of remote sensing for early detection of foci and the control of the american grapevine leafhopper, and the introduction of spatial analysis methods for early detection of infected plants«, we developed a new methodology for the identification of infected plants using multi spectral satellite imagery.
Within the framework of the project "Integration of plant resistance, Cropping Practices, and BioControl agents for Enhancing disease management, yield efficiency, and biodiversity and organic European vineyards (" I have prepared scripts to automate the compilation and transmission of data to the server of the project coordinator. These data are then used in forecasting models for downy mildew of grapevine.
I set up a similar system for collecting and transmitting data via the program AgmedaWin. These data are then sent to the German prognostic center ISIP, where we use predictive models from the SWAT program.
In the prognostics service of KIS we are preparing an adaptation of the German model Zwipero for the prognosis of downy mildew on onions. To implement this model we are also developing meteorological models for the conversion of air temperatures to 20 cm above the ground.
New activities and reinforcement of existing ones
We have introduced hyperspectral imaging in three platforms (lab, field/greenhouse and airborne). The airborne platform was established in cooperation with the SME Aerovizija, and is being offered on the market.
I introduced machine learning and novel multivariate analysis methods in the Department of plant protection. We have also started with the development of nonlinear population models to predict the development of pests. I also introduced the usage of programming environments R, Python, Weka and Orange.

Agricultural entomologist – Jaka Razinger
Job position: Plant Protection department, entomology
Technical description of workplace
My primary mission at KIS is expert work and research in the field of agricultural entomology. I am tightly interconnected with other members of the team of Plant Protection Department (PPD), within which I work on plant pest management, pest diagnostics, pest genetics, interactions between pests, diseases and plants, and am involved in various projects. The main activities presently are the implementation of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and research and development of innovative biological control strategies.
With the funding of Cropsustain I was able to upgrade my research on utilizing rhizosphere competence of entomopathogenic or insect associated fungi for biological control of soil pests and remains an important research field for me presently.
Furthermore, I significantly upgraded and enhanced the research and implementation of biological control within AIS. Presently, we are increasing experience on biological control of pest arthropods with the aid of micro- and macro-biological control agents. I work in tight collaboration with PPD mycologists and nematologists in microbial control research, whereas within Entomology group, we test and develop biological control tools, based on pest parasitoids and predators. For this reason we started monitoring Slovenia’s autochthonous beneficial insect fauna, with the focus on pest parasitoid inventarisation.

• specialization into an important research field (IPM and biological control),
• development and maturation into an independent researcher,
• establishing a fruitful research network with researchers from Switzerland (ZHAW), Germany (Julius Kuehn Institut in Darmstadt and Braunschweig, and DSMZ) and Scotland (James Hutton Institute),
• publication of three peer reviewed scientific papers in first (2 papers) and second impact quartile (1 paper);
Research activities
My research of innovative IPM solutions included work within the scope of EU FP7 project PURE. The research activities were focused on cabbage-based agricultural systems and maize-based cropping systems. I tested modified cropping approaches and non-conventional treatments. A big emphasis was also on adaptation and implementation of precise pest monitoring and forecast. Within maize-based cropping systems I was involved in applied biological control research based on Trichogramma brassicae and Bacillus thuringhiensis.

Regarding biological control research I have searched for new isolates of entomopathogenic fungi (EPF), testing their pathogenicity to pests and their ability to survive on or in plant tissue. Two laboratory and two field tests against wireworms were performed in the spring / summer of 2013 on wheat and maize. Several pathogenicity and virulence screening experiments were performed in 2014-2015, against Drosophila suzukii, Phyllotreta spp., Tenebrio molitor and G. melonella.
I have been involved in the rearing of Drosophila suzukii, Delia radicum, Tenebrio molitor and G. melonella. Within the scope of biological control research I also investigated the parasitoids of cabbage root fly (Delia radicum) and European corn borer (Ostrinia nubilalis).
I have also been involved in physiological studies of bean plants under drought stress. I assessed overall plant photochemical performance using pulse amplitude modulated (PAM) chlorophyll a fluorometer, purchased from Cropsustain funds (Mini PAM, Walz Gmbh, Germany).
I was actively involved in testing and implementing a technique called ‘thermotherapy’, which is used to destroy pathogens in plant tissue. The method, originally developed in France was successfully tested and introduced to the specific Slovenian conditions. The young vine plant making industry thus received a powerful tool, which can potentially provide vines of higher quality.
I have been routinely involved in classification of unknown insects which are brought to AIS and other expert work.
I have been involved in several project proposals, and participated in the mentoring of two PhD students.
Bibliography 2013-2015

Plant geneticist – Marko Maras
Job position: Crop Science department, molecular breeding
Technical description: research directed towards assessment of genetic diversity, molecular breeding, crop genetics and examination of interaction between plants and abiotic and biotic stresses. Collaboration extends also to preparation of scientific publications, project proposals for calls issued by national and European research agencies, meetings, workshops and conferences. The position foresees implementation of novel and innovative approaches in examination of structural and functional characteristics of crop genomes. These include introduction and implementation of new research equipment and methods and development of new tools in investigations yielding applicable value.
Research activities and achievements
1. Evaluation of genetic diversity in crops.
2. Development of informative markers suitable for selection of agronomically important traits.
3. Selection of genotypes based on application of molecular markers.

1. Evaluation of genetic diversity in crops.
1.1: Genetic diversity and dissemination pathways of common bean in Central Europe: We evaluate genetic diversity and population structure of 167 common bean accessions divided into four groups according to geographical origin (Slovenia and Austria) and time periods (historical and present) using 14 SSR (simple sequence repeat) markers. Further we gained insight into the pathways of dissemination and the evolution of this species in central Europe. Great allelic polymorphism was detected which has important implication for the on-going breeding programmes.
1.2: Examination of genetic diversity of common bean from the Western Balkans:
We studied genetic diversity of 119 accessions of common bean from five former Yugoslav republics constituting the Western Balkans was assessed by 13 microsatellite markers.
1.3: Genetic diversity of common bean accessions from Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia as revealed by molecular and morphological markers: A total of 71 accessions from the were assessed for genetic diversity with the aim to provide information on genetic structure of Macedonian common bean germplasm and to depict its peculiarities. The accessions were assessed using 13 microsatellite and 16 morphological markers.
1.4: The study of reliability of morphological characterization of lightsprouts for differentiation of potato varieties was performed at KIS in cooperation with Biotechnical Faculty Podgorica in order to introduce simple method for characterization of potato accessions in Montenegrian gene bank. Molecular assessment was carried out in parallel with morphological characterization by six microsatellite (SSR) markers.
1.5: Fifteen wild ecotypes of red clover (Trifolium pratense) originating from different locations across Slovenia were included in the study of genetic diversity using microsatellite DNA markers.
2: Response to water stress in common bean with QTL mapping: Drought is the most important abiotic stress that limits yield of large seed legumes such as beans. The development of varieties with a strong tolerance to abiotic stress is the primary goal of many common bean breeding programmes in the world. We analyzed two common bean cultivars, contrasting in their water stress tolerance, and their offspring, recombinant inbreed lines for polymorphisms with SSR and AFLP markers to identify quantitative trait loci (QTL) associated with traits related to drought tolerance.
3: Application of molecular marker-assisted selection (MAS) for disease resistance in a practical potato breeding programme: In a study carried out in our laboratory, screening for the presence of resistance genes against Phytophthora infestans was carried out for a number of potato genotypes from Slovene potato breeding programme. In total, 61 potato clones were characterized for the presence of genes for resistance to late blight (R1, R2, R3a, R3b, R8). Further, in collaboration with the James Hutton Institute, we introduced molecular marker 57R for detection of the H1 gene conferring resistance to plant parasitic nematode Globodera rostochiensis in our potato breeding programme. The improvement of marker assisted selection may be expected if the resistance gene is cloned and can be used as a selection marker.


I have been recently involved in the preparation of the following proposals for projects:
1. Utilization of common bean genetic resources for sustainable crop improvement and healthy food (Public call for cofinancing of research projects in 2015; Slovenian Research Agency)
2. NUTRIFOOD: Food for the future: Improving the management and adaptation of crop genetic resources (HORIZON2020)
3. ASTER: Asteraceae genetic resources management and sustainable use to face agricultural changes and improve food security (HORIZON2020)
4. SMARTLEG: Efficient management of resources for smart legume utilization (ECPGR Grant Scheme)

Pomologist – Jure Kolarič
Job position: Department of Fruit Growing, Viticulture and Oenology; pomology
Technical description of workplace

The Pomology Group at the Department of Fruit Growing, Viticulture and Oenology is mainly oriented to studying the relations between plant growth regulators and development of some physiological processes. Plant growth regulators have important impact on development of several physiological processes like fruit abscission, flower bud formation, vegetative growth, pre-harvest fruit drop, etc. Development of these physiological processes can be significantly regulated with application of individual plant growth regulator which can have significant impact on fruit tree productivity and fruit quality.


Testing the impact of different plant growth regulators: Naphthaleneacetic acid (NAA), benzyladenine (BA), ethephon, and reduction of photosynthetic active radiation (PAR) can affect development of young apple fruit abscission, which is an important physiological process that naturally occurs several days after full bloom and can be promoted by spraying with some chemical substances. In highly productive apple orchards the amount of abscised fruitlets during the thinning period is an important factor with an impact on fruit quality and quantity at harvest and on regular tree bearing. We studied development of abscission process on genetically level to find out the eventual correlation between expression of ethylene related genes and actual abscission. Expression of MdACO1 gene correlated with the abscission dynamics of young apple fruitlet. A higher expression of MdACO1 resulted in the faster development of the abscission process, although the magnitude of expression is not consistent with the final amount of abscised fruitlets. Abscission dynamics are a consequence of the different modes of action of particular chemical substances or shading treatment. However it is evident that ethylene is a common point regardless of the mode of action, although ethylene is probably involved in abscission on a secondary level as an accelerator of abscission rather than as a triggering factor. The results confirmed connection between ethylene-related genes and fruitlet abscission development and in this way strengthen the role of ethylene in the abscission process. We also confirmed that fruitlet type has a significant impact on the development of the abscission process, since king fruits were less subjected to the abscission process compared to lateral fruit and the development of abscission of latter was faster. At the same time expression of ethylene related genes, especially MdACO1 was also determined at much higher level in lateral fruitlets. Results confirmed our hypothesis that beginning of abscission can be determined at the genetic level, even before visual signs of process can be determined at abscission zone tissue.

We also tested the efficiency of some natural substances for purpose of apple fruit thinning. Natural fruit thinning agents could be in the future used in organic fruit production. We found few natural substances with very promising results as potential apple fruit thinning agents.

Nutrition management in orchard: We performed two-year experiment where we evaluated different method of nitrogen application: ground, foliar and fertigation method of nitrogen application and effect on flower bud formation and fruit quality parameters. Ground application of N-fertilizers is common practice in orchard, but foliar application could be from environmental point of view more acceptable. Results showed only minor influence of application method on final fruit size of fruit, yield, return bloom, and vegetative growth. Regarding to this results ground application could be in some cases replaced by foliar application; however greatest positive effect has been archived with combination of ground and foliar application. Best results have been achieved when spring ground application was followed by foliar application in summer and autumn. Especially last foliar N-application in autumn has great positive impact on start of the growth in next vegetation.

Organic fruit growing technologies. Organic farming is in increase in last 10 years in Slovenia. However there are just few experts with knowledge about organic fruit production. Research and transfer of knowledge to organic fruit producers is one of the most important factors for development and growing of organic fruit production which has great potential in market in the future. Many of organic fruit producers in Slovenia have great problems with basic technology practice in organic production as a consequence of limited knowledge. One of the major problems in organic fruit growing is to ensure sufficient amount of nutrients, especially nitrogen, required for normal growth of tree and regular bearing. We designed long-term field experiment where we study several alternative methods to supply fruit trees with nitrogen. According to standards for organic farming the supply of nitrogen is difficult since nutrition with mineral fertilizers is strongly forbidden. To solve this problem we tested applicability and efficiency of plants which have naturally ability for nitrogen fixation, like legumes, when these plants are seeded in row space of apple trees. We found that legumes planted in row space have just minor effect on growth of apple trees. We concluded that on short-term legumes have no positive impact in organic fruit orchard. We performed also few smaller experiments were efficiency of several in organic production allowed biostimulants on productivity of apple cv. ‘Goldrush’ has been tested.

I was also included in development and testing of stationary spraying system. In this project we develop idea to build system in orchard which can be used for spraying, irrigation and frost protection. We have built small prototype of such system at experimental orchard Brdo.

I was also leader of two smaller trials were we test efficiency of plant growth regulators to prevent pre-harvest fruit drop. This trial has been performed for purpose of registration process. Trials have been commissioned by a company Gobbi from Italy.

I finished my work on Cropsustain project, and also at the Agricultural institute of Slovenia, on 30.4.2015 on my own decision as a consequence of personal reasons.

IP manager – Ela Žilič
Job position: IP manager
Technical description
As KIS had no specialist employed for marketing and intellectual property before the start of the Cropsustain project recruitment of an IP manager enabled development of new work areas:
- Technology transfer,
- Public relations and
- Corporate communications.

I would like to expose some achievements of my work:
- The establishment and management of the Technology Transfer Office, preparation and issue of the document “Regulations on Inventions at KIS” in 2015; the membership in the Association of Technology Transfer Professionals of Slovenia SI-TT, where I became a member of the Management Board in 2015;
- The establishment of public relations at KIS, with a unified corporate identity and developed communications tools: the advertising concept, standardisation of departmental presentations and corporative business communication;
- Creation, preparation and organization of KIS show room at the largest agriculture fair in the region “AGRA” in 2013, 2014 and 2015 (each year more than 1,700 exhibitors and 120,000 visitors); since 2015 I have been a member of the Program committee of AGRA fair;
- My work also reflected on the increased presence in the media; during last three years (Cropsustain project duration), the number of editorial publications (refers on KIS name) increased by 100-200% in all types of media;
- I have organized and carried out many events in the tasks of Dissemination of the Cropsustain project (WP 6): Cropsustain project visual identity design and preparation of basic communication tools, Cropsustain Project website and KIS corporate website, Project leaflet and Project final brochure, E-newsletters, two thematic books, promotional video clip, etc.
- Participated in the activities of other work packages (notably WP 5 and WP 2): organized some events (program preparation, selection and coordination of lecturers, etc.) for ERA Presentation Seminar, Breeding Seminar, Intellectual property rights and technology transfer in the context of ERA, Interdepartmental Seminar on KIS projects, for other events, I was preparing invitations, list of participants, photographed events, published summaries on a website, etc. (eg. with a round table seminar on Integrated Plant Protection in Horticulture, workshop SEEDNet the Way Ahead etc.
- Managed the internal communications by connecting researchers and other professionals within the KIS;
- Organized and managed a large number of additional activities and events at the corporate level, which were not specifically identified during the project tasks, but contributed significantly to the achievement of the project objectives (increasing the visibility of KIS, integrating of KIS researchers into the international and local research networks, strengthening cooperation with the media, professional public, industry, end-users, e.g. farmers, educational institutions, government agencies and other stakeholders (NGOs, associations, etc.).

Project manager – Renata Rozman
Job position: Project manager
Technical description
The position of the project manager was opened in the implementation phase of the project and is one of the proposed/excepted project’s changes and is an additional activity implemented.

It corresponded to the need of KIS to establish the project office to promote research, development and innovation cooperation between different stakeholders, also trough preparation and application of new project within EU and national financial mechanisms 2014 – 2020. These have been also the main responsibilities of the recruited project manager.

With employing a project manager the KIS project office has been established. Project manager has taken over the support to researchers with their project cycle management.

The project manager’s activities were:
• support to implementation of Cropsustain project and
• support to preparation and application of new projects.
Preparation and application work for new projects consisted of initiation, planning, design, networking, application form preparation and submitting and lobbying for projects. Participated in 14 new project applications within programmes Alpine Space, Central Europe, Interreg Europe, Interreg Mediterranean and H2020.

Project manager represented KIS at national and international programmes’ and projects’ meetings and attended project management vocational training in Germany.

The impacts of recruited project manager

The recruitment of the project manager answered the need to establish the institute’s project office to support researchers with project applications preparation and further on for projects implementation.

The new approach for following calls of EU financial mechanisms has been adopted. The project manager is identifying calls appropriate for the institute and forward relevant information to the researchers motivating them for preparation of project applications. A help with understanding eligible criteria of individual call, consultations on the project idea developing and support for preparing an application form is offered. Also, a protocol for the process of developing a project idea has been established. Information is forwarded to researchers via mail and at presentation meetings. Moreover, an intra-net platform (an e-project office) has been established, where all relevant information about open and expected calls and tools for project idea developing are gathered and available for AIS employees.

The integration of the project manager in the human resources of KIS has benefits on both individual and institutional levels. The newly recruited project manager and establishment of the project office have increased the capacity of the institute for more focused approach to respond to the relevant calls of different financial mechanisms in programme period 2014 – 2020 with many opportunities to obtain sources for research work, participation in scientific events, network building and enhancing the scientific and managerial expertise of researchers.


Work package WP3 focused on collaboration and exchange of know-how through mobility visits of researchers. Two-way mobilities took place between KIS and its partners to increase knowledge on both sides: while younger KIS researchers acquired new knowledge from the researchers of the partner institutions, the experienced KIS researchers shared their expertise with the partners. Collaboration of the KIS researchers with the researchers from partner institutions led to joint research activities, project proposals, scientific publications and manuscripts in preparation. The established collaborations will continue beyond the lifetime of the project Cropsustain. Knowledge acquired by KIS experienced and junior researchers on outgoing mobilities has been successfully transmitted to the rest of the institute’s staff. The following six scientific themes have been included:
1: Strengthening capacities for diagnostics of quarantine and other severe plant pest and pathogen species.
2: Collaboration for establishment of national reference collections for quarantine and other severe plant pests and pathogens.
3: Investigating methods for dealing with interactions between host plants, vectors, pests and pathogens.
4: Raising research potential on environmentally sound plant protection technologies.
5: Transfer of knowledge for omics and bioinformatic approaches for sustainable agriculture.
6: Rising research potential to reduce honeybee colonies losses and to ensure sustainable beekeeping.
The topics of visit ranged from analytical tools such as bioinformatics analysis of microarray and NGS datasets, phylogenetic analysis, cryopreservation, proteomics, diagnostic methods, culture and preservation methods of fungi, hyperspectral imaging; and subjects such as virus diseases of small fruits, virus vector interactions, aphid-plant interactions, pesticide usage, pesticides and risk assessment for bees, honeybee queen quality parameters important for breeding, honey bee colonies resistance to varroa mites and honey bee viruses, resistance breaking populations, control of plant parasitic nematodes, management of pests and diseases in vegetable production, potato breeding, plant protection in horticulture, potato late blight management, use of beneficial insects, molecular ecology, weed sciences; integrated pest management, population genetics of insects, spectroscopy of vegetation etc.

Objective of WP3 was strengthening human and research potential through collaboration and exchange of knowledge with six EU high level research entities. This aim was achieved through the following tasks:
- outgoing mobilities of experienced and junior researchers
- incoming mobilities of experienced researchers
- transmittance of the acquired knowledge to the rest of the institute’s staff

In total 102 mobility visits were planned in WP3. In the period M1-M18 eleven (11) mobilities were realised, in the period M19-M36 seventy-three (73) visits were performed, while additional eight (8) mobilities were realised in the last period (M37-M39). Altogether in the period M1-M39 ninety-two (92) visits had taken place, which means that ninety (90) % of all visits have been realised.

Transmittance of the acquired knowledge to the rest of the institute’s staff was successfully achieved through:
- At the end of the mobilities, each researcher had filled out a scientific report on the activities and gained knowledge during the visit.
- Organisation of three internal workshops on added value from collaboration with foreign researchers (on September 5th 2014, September 14th 2015 and December 15th - 16th 2015).
- Informal exchange of newly acquired knowledge between KIS staff through discussions, demonstrations and implementation of new methods.

Scientific theme 1: Strengthening capacities for diagnostics of quarantine and other severe plant pest and pathogen species

Several visits were at least partially committed to strengthening capacities for diagnostics of quarantine and other severe plant pest and pathogen species. Many techniques were learnt during the visits, for example:
• field and laboratory techniques used for detection and identification of Phytophthora species in environmental samples,
• construction of infectious clones of different RBDV (Raspberry bushy dwarf virus) isolates,
• grafting of raspberry plants for the study of raspberry and blackberry viruses,
• rearing of whitefly (Bemisia tabaci),
• improved PCR protocol for amplification of genomic DNA containing microsatellite regions in the genome of western corn rootworm (Diabrotica virgifera virgifera LeConte),
• cryopreservation as a method for long term storage of live nematode populations,
• dsRNA extraction,
• different methods which can be used for identification of badnaviruses,
• analyses of sequences generated by NGS (Next generation Sequencing)
• diagnostic technique for identification of trichodorid species. With PCR-RFLP of the 18S rDNA region trichodorid species belonging to Nanidorus, Paratrichodorus and Trichodorus can be discriminated.
and many others.

Samples were also exchanged and the results will be used for common publications.

Scientific theme 2: Collaboration for establishment of national reference collections for quarantine and other severe plant pests and pathogens

The most relevant for the ST 2: was the visit of several KIS researchers to the DSMZ. The researchers from KIS became familiar with techniques for maintaining microorganisms relevant for plant pathology (liquid nitrogen storage and freeze drying), managing of the databases, genomic and bioinformatics approaches applied at DSMZ and biosafety issues, particularly safety of the operator and the environment.

The other visits related to the scientific theme 2 were primarily intended for learning the techniques of cryopreservation. During their visits to DSMZ and JKI, primarily intended for other topics, the researchers from KIS got acquainted with general procedures for cryopreservation and had the opportunity to discuss specificities and obstacles of using ultra-low freezers for their specific field (nematology, virology and mycology). This method of storage became available to KIS with the purchase of the ultra-low freezer (-140 °C), also bought as part of this project activities. This equipment will enable us to significantly improve the reference and working collections of plant pests and pathogens. Currently existing collections mainly consist of living cultures, herbarium specimens, microscopic images and permanent preparations. Particularly living cultures are constantly exposed to significant risk due to degeneration and contamination. Preservation in ultra-low freezer will provide a secure mode for the long term storage of the most valuable material.

Samples of plant pathogens and pest were exchanged between several groups of KIS researchers and researchers from partner institutions.

Scientific theme 3: Investigating methods for dealing with interactions between host plants, vectors, pests and pathogens

In the frame of the ST3 3 the researchers from KIS and also researchers from partner institutions presented their own research work, obtained new knowledge, learned new techniques and methods. The following topics were addressed during the visits:
• A new method which can be used in the glasshouse to recreate a full virus infection (a set of full-length infectious cDNA clones of a raspberry isolate of RBDV) has been learned.
• The research work on Raspberry bushy dwarf virus (RBDV), an important pathogen of raspberry was presented.
• New methods for assessment of resistance for breeding purposes of economically important ornamentals were presented.
• The multidisciplinary project aiming to exploit synergies between agronomic, physiological and genetic research with crop modelling was presented. The key objectives of this project are to screen for key regulatory processes of adaptation to abiotic stress.
• New techniques for inducing the fungal infections were learned.
• The experiment on cabbage root fly ethology was performed. Different volatile compounds from 4 fungal cultures and 2 formulations of encapsulated essential oils were tested on Delia radicum neonate larvae.
• New knowledge on aphid endosymbionts, their phages and parasitoids, attacking the aphids and how all of these interesting multi-trophic interactions are primarily influenced by the aphid genotype has been gained.
• The interactions between insect pests of vegetable, for example cabbage white fly, cabbage root fly, carrot root fly, carrot moth, onion trips on leek etc. and also pests on ornamental plants and plants were presented.
• The seminar with the title Beneficial interactions between plants and soil microbes was performed.
• The new technique for studying resistance-breaking populations of root knot nematodes was learned. The technique facilitates studies aimed at deciphering plant–nematode interactions at the cellular and subcellular level and enables unprecedented insights into nematode behaviour in nematode-resistant plants.
• The research on molecular aphid DNA barcoding and their genotyping via microsatellite markers were conducted.
• The grafting method of raspberry plants has been learned. This method was extensively used in the past for the study of raspberry and blackberry viruses.
• The knowledge about viruses in honey bee colonies and the effect of temperature on virus titers have been obtained.
• The new knowledge about plant-virus-vector interactions and genetic diversity of insects has been obtained.
• The research work about the identification of genes and proteins involved in circular transmission of begomoviruses in whiteflies and implication of B. tabaci heat shock protein 70 in begomovirus-whitefly interactions was presented.
• The presentation about virus resistance in plants by expression of virus derived genes, artificial microRNAs and synthetic gene constructs was presented.

and others.

Scientific theme 4: Raising research potential on environmentally sound plant protection technologies

Almost one third of all mobilities were performed under the ST 4. The mobilities consisted of several activities linked also to other scientific themes. The most frequent were the exchanges with different institutes of German Julius Kühn Institute. Different working groups from AIS participated in the mobilities and several topics were covered:
• weed control: integrated weed management strategies, decision support systems;
• mycology: variety resistance to Bremia lactucae, Phytophtora on ornamentals, biological control of plant pathogenic fungi, fungi as biocontrol agents, screening for biocontrol potential of different agents, molecular methods for Phytophtora species detection and identification;
• entomology: rearing techniques for insects, biological control of insect pests by micro-organisms and viruses, interactions of beneficial and pest insects, quality control of beneficials, microscopic slide preparation, morphological determination;
• nematology: extraction methods, set up of experiments under the field conditions, molecular diagnostics, imaging technologies, testing of resistance (resistance-braking populations, variety resistance), technique of agroinfiltration, cryopreservations, biocontrol by fungi and bacteria, nematodes and drought stress;
• virology: enthomopatogenic viruses, molecular diagnostic of entomopathogenic viruses;
• vegetables: management of plant protection in the open field and under protection, organisation and performance of field trials, monitoring and forecasting of pests, efficacy evaluation of plant protection products, variety trials;
• field crops: integrated disease control strategies in cereals and potatoes, forecasting models for diseases, decision support systems;
• registration of plant protection products: field efficacy trials, procedures of registration;
• spectroscopy of vegetation: systems for precision agriculture, performance of measurements, data pre-processing
• hyperspectral imaging for early detection of biotic or abiotic stress of plants.

Scientific theme 5: Transfer of knowledge for omics and bioinformatics approaches for sustainable agriculture

As part of the ST 5 the KIS researchers gained new knowledge, learned new techniques and methods on the following topics:
• bioinformatics basics: file formats, identifiers, and ontologies
• bioinformatics databases: Ensembl, ArrayExpress, Gene Expression Atlas, UniProt, InterPro, IntAct, Reactome, ChEMBL
• bioinformatics tools: PICR, Blast, FASTA, Clustal Omega, network analysis tools
• custom design of microarrays and analysis of microarrays
• analysis of next generation sequencing data (NGS)
• proteomics (Mass spectrometry basics, MS search engines and post-processing software, Quantitative proteomics, SRM/MRM approaches, Protein sequence databases and their use, Protein sequence data in UniProt, Proteomics data and services integration, Standardising proteomics data, MS proteomics repositories and the ProteomeXchange consortium, PRIDE and PRIDE related tools, Proteogenomics, Protein interaction data through IntAct and the IMEX consortium, Placing proteins in pathways using Reactome)

Scientific theme 6: Rising research potential to reduce honeybee colonies losses and to ensure sustainable beekeeping ž

As part of the ST 6 the KIS researchers gained new knowledge on the following topics:
• honey bee colonies resistance to varro mites and honey bee viruses
• honey bee pathology and colonies mortality
• honeybee queen quality parameters important for breeding
• pesticides and risk assessment for bees

Impact of mobility visits

We can conclude that the visit performed in the frame of WP 3 ‘Mobility’ resulted in new knowledge gained not also by Slovenian researchers but also by researchers from partner institutions. During the mobilities and beyond the knowledge was exchanged and transferred on different levels: between the research institutes, between the research and the advisory service, between the research and the practice. Many new contacts were established and further cooperation is planned in the transfer of materials, joined publications and joint research under different financial schemes.

Mechanism for drawing back expatriates to the country

By launching an initiative KIS has create a working environment which will contribute to slowing down the negative migration of Slovenian scientists from Slovenia to other countries, and encourage scientists who had left the country in previous years in the brain drain processes to return from abroad. The institute wishes to achieve that trough the actions described in the document “AIS strategy to prevent brain drain from Slovenia” published on the project web page ( These actions include (i) promotion of institute’s reputation and role in the region trough participation and organisation of numerous events (including the ones that are part of this project), (ii) by assuring capacities to perform interdisciplinary research in sustainable crop production (e.g. new equipment bought within this project and from other resources - e.g. renovation of the greenhouse), and numerous other activities described in the document.

A practical attempt in drawing back expatriates to the country was the incoming mobility visit by Dr. Paula Pongrac, a researcher of Slovene nationality, who is currently working at a partner institution JHI (Scotland, UK) as a postdoc with a prestigious Marie Curie Skodlowska fellowship. Dr. Paula Pongrac is a researcher with many excellent scientific publications. She acquired her PhD and a first postdoc training in Slovenia, and after that as she was not able to get a research position at any Slovene research institution she left Slovenia for her second postdoctoral training in Germany. The purpose of her visit was three fold. First was to introduce the field of biofortification and the importance of the mineral nutrition of plants in ensuring mineral element sufficiency of the produce. Second was to complement the collaboration between the two Institutes that has previously been focused on plant protection. Third was to explore the possibility of creating an opportunity to employ her. During the visit she met with several groups from the Agricultural Institute to discuss their work and tried to find common interests. In many cases the discussions were focused on the neglected field of mineral nutrition of crops in everyday agriculture and the need to combine knowledge of different fields to obtain the best of the production and nutrition. In these meetings several different opportunities for collaborations were pointed out, especially in the remote sensing area and the detailed work on alternative crops, such as buckwheat. Due to the insufficiency of incorporating knowledge of mineral nutrition of crops in routine practices in Slovenian agriculture, there is much interest to create a position for a researcher with adequate experience and skills to fulfil the gap. The visit was fruitful and provided several initiatives on both sides.


The objectives in WP4 were: Purchasing nine pieces of equipment during the first year of the project, namely upgrade of qPCR system into fast machine, bioanalyser, capillary electrophoresis, microscope (Nomarski) with 3-D reconstruction and digital visualization, binocular microscope with digital visualization, ultra high performance liquid chromatography (UPLC), portable fluorometer OS5p, measuring equipment for estimating power consumption of tractor powered spraying machines and equipment for targeted application of pesticides. Purchasing four pieces of equipment during the second year of the project, namely hyperspectral imaging with software (hyperspectral imaging system), PC-server, -140°C freezer (deep freezer) and instrument for fast analysis of grape, must and wine (flow cytometer).

All pieces of equipment were purchased as planned. For 7 pieces (capillary electrophoresis, microscopes, UPLC, equipment for targeted application of pesticides, flow cytometer and deep freezer) where estimated price exceeded the threshold, the public tenders were issued. For the hyperspectral imaging system a EU tender was issued. For other equipment, the selection process included the collection of three offers and the best one was selected.

The existing qPCR machine was upgraded in M4 (January 2013). Nine researchers from KIS received training. Another two instruments, bioanalyzer and capillary electrophoresis were delivered by the end of M11 (August 2013). The two days training (June 10 and 11 2013) for bioanalyzer was performed at KIS. Eight people attended it. The training for capillary electrophoresis was performed on October 3rd and 4th 2013. Due to a large number of participants (16), the training was performed in two groups.

In M12 (September 2013) the contracts for the purchase of the two microscopes were signed. The binocular microscope was delivered in October 2013 (M13) and the Nomarski microscope was delivered in the beginning of November 2013 (M14). The training for the stereomicroscope Leica M205C was taking place at KIS on 8th April 2014 (M19) when 8 people were thought how to properly use it. The training for the Nomarski microscope with micro-dissection was performed in two parts. The micro-dissection demonstration was on January 23rd 2014 (M16) and microscope use training on February 27th 2014 (M17).

Ultra high pressure liquid chromatography instrument (UHPLC) coupled to time of flight mass spectrometry (TOF) was delivered in September 2013 (M12). Two specialists from our institute were trained on the use of the system in metabolomics in application training centre of the producer in Italy between March 3rd - 5th 2014 (M18). The training on our instrument will be used as needed during the development of different applications.

The portable fluorometer was purchased in March 2013 (M6) and was already used in 2013. Some researchers already received training on the use of the instrument, and additional trainings will be performed when needed.

Measuring equipment for estimating power consumption of tractor powered spraying machines and equipment for targeted application of pesticides were systems purchased in 2013 (M11 and M12). The training for equipment of targeted application of pesticides was performed on December 20th 2013 (M15) while the measuring equipment for estimating power consumption of tractor powered spraying machines needed no training by the producer.

Instead of FTIR instrument a flow cytometer was purchased for fast analysis of grape, must and wine. The deviation was approved by Mr. Ambroziewicz by e-mail on July 16th 2014. The contracts with a supplier of deep freezer and flow cytometer were signed on October 3rd 2014 (M13). Deep freezer was delivered in December 2014 (M27) and flow cytometer in November 2014 (M26). The training for flow cytometer was on January 6th 2015 (M28) at KIS where two persons from Department of fruit growing, viticulture and oenology were present. The demonstration of use of deep freezer was on December 18th 2014 (M27).

The hyperspectral imaging system was delivered in August 2014 (M23). In the same month the system was tested for proper functionality and two persons from KIS received training between August 11th - 14th 2014 (M23). The PC-server which serves as support for hyperspectral imaging system was ordered on August 27th 2014 (M23) and delivered in October 2014 (M25).


Some of the networking meetings, scientific meetings, training courses and workshops organised by KIS (or attended by KIS staff in case of four scientific meeting listed at the end of the ‘Meetings and Events’ section) with high scientific impact are listed:

Organized in the context of workshop SEEDNet the Way Ahead (5th-6th November 2014) a meeting took placed attended by 19 researchers from 11 European countries (7th November 2014). It aimed at strengthening collaboration, networking and linkages among stakeholders and research institutions for effectively using plant genetic resources. Specifically, countries from South-East Europe were represented, including plant genetic resource and agricultural university institutions from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Slovenia, and Serbia, were presented at the meeting but also representatives from Germany and Sweden. Various regional collaborations were discussed. Founding instruments were identified for future project applications such as the (i) European Cooperative Programme for Plant Genetic Resources (ECPGR), (ii) International bureau of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, Germany (BMBF), and (iii) H2020, EU and South-East Europe (including the Balkans) Integration of Balkan countries. To enhance collaboration, it is planned to meet at different national or International events/conferences.

Networking meeting for the creation of consortia for H2020 proposal calls (first H2020 dedicated networking event, October 20th-21st 2015): A total of 13 researchers from partners of project Cropsustain (JKI, Aarhus Agro, DSMZ, JHI) and other institutions in Europe (INRA, France; Slovak University of Agriculture, Slovakia) were invited for discussing the creation of consortia for applying at calls of the H2020 Work Programme 2016, 2017. Further, ten KIS researchers participated. The discussed call was published in October 2015 by the European commission. An analysis of the interest and potential of the participants identified two themes and two working groups were created. One of these consortia to submitted a project proposal for the February 2016 deadline (theme, SFS-01-2016, Solutions to multiple and combined stresses in crop production, project acronym OPTIGEM). This consortium, coordinated by Aarhus Agro University (DK), was since then extended to include also Aalborg University (DK), Institute of Agrophysics Polish Academy of Sciences (PL), Faculty of Agriculture, University of Belgrade (RS) and video conferences took place and further meetings were planned. The second consortium decided to aim for a project preparation until February 2017 (theme, SFS-10-2016, Research and approaches for emerging diseases in plants and terrestrial livestock) and is led by KIS.

Networking meeting for the creation of consortia for H2020 proposal calls (second H2020 dedicated networking event, January 14th-15th 2016): The meeting was open also for institutions that were not part of the Cropsustain partner institutions allowing the creation of multilateral interactions and collaboration in the newly emerging research targets of the H2020 proposal calls. The first group discussed a H2020 project proposal for the call “SFS-07-2016-2017: Organic breeding – Increasing the competitiveness of the organic breeding and farming sectors”. Partners from 7 European countries including Slovenia participated. Representatives were from Newcastle University (UK) (2); Vitterbo University (Italy) (1); Julius Kühn Institut (Germany) (1); Czech Crop Research Institute (Czech Republic) (1); University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (Austria) (1); Geokomi plc, a organic olive oil producing company (Greece); (1) and Agricultural Institute of Slovenia (10). The second group discussed the progress on proposal preparation for the call “SFS-01-2016, Solutions to multiple and combined stresses in crop production”. Representatives were from the Department of Agroecology, Aarhus University (Denmark) (3); Aalborg University (Denmark) (1), University of Agriculture (Nitra, Slovakia) (2), National Agricultural and food Centre (Slovakia) (3), Leibniz-Institut DSMZ (Germany) (1), Institute of Agrophysics of the Polish Academy of Sciences (Poland) (1), Faculty of Agriculture of the University of Belgrade (Serbia) (1); and Agricultural Institute of Slovenia (13). Of these, only two (Aarhus University, Leibniz-Institute DSMZ) were Cropsustain partner institutions consisted of partners of project Cropsustain.

Organization and participation in training courses: Through collaborations with EMBL-EBI, a partner of KIS in project Cropsustain, two scientific training courses were organized. Leading specialists were invited that gave lectures and supervised computer sessions as described below. Institutions and students mainly from Slovenia participated in the one, while institutions and students mainly from Europe and some from other continents participated in the other course. Both courses centred on bioinformatics relevant in agriculture:

1. Molecular Phylogenetics Workshop (September 23rd-25th 2013, Ljubljana, Slovenia): Participants: 30 (16 from AIS, 14 from 12 other research institutions and University departments from Slovenia). Molecular phylogenetics allows interference / recognition of species and populations, e.g. of plant pathogens, plant pests, beneficial organisms such as biological control agents and plant growth promoters, etc. Delineating phylogenetic taxa based on genealogical concordance has allowed in the last 20 years to understand host pathogen associations and the scientific characterization and identification of species that were handled earlier only by taxonomic specialists.

2. Agricultural Omics Course (February 17th-21st 2014, EBI, Hinxton, UK): Participants: 30 (10 from AIS, 3 from other Slovene institutions, 17 from other European or non-European countries. Participants were from agriculture related research institutions and universities. Leading scientists gave lectures and supervised computer sessions. Relevance of the topic: ‘Omics’ approaches in agriculture provide a new level of understanding diversity driven effects of microbes and the identification of consortia of microbes relevant in agriculture both as pests and pathogens or as key-players for suppression of plant diseases. Research is required, for example, for recruiting the principles of suppressiveness of soils and rhizosphere ecology and how to manage and manipulate ecological service providers for more sustainable crop and food production.

Two round tables

1. Risks reduction in phyto-pharmaceutical products use (March 5th 2013, Bled, Slovenia): 75 participants. Various aspects related to phytopharmaceutical products were addressed, including their sustainable use and national action plans, registration procedures in the EU and countries of the former Yugoslavia, use of plant protection products in Slovenia, monitoring approaches regarding pesticides, risk reduction of pesticide handling, and biological control. The auditorium consisted of interested individuals from research and government institutions, industries, students from various Slovenian universities, etc.

2. Integrated Pest Management in vegetables (October 10th 2013): 59 participants. The seminar/round table discussion on IPM in vegetables provided an analysis of the situation encountered specifically in Slovenia and Germany. The topics of IPM approaches in vegetables, the prognosis of pests and diseases, IPM in protected vegetable crops, and IPM in open brassica and allium fields were discussed. The application of biological control approaches were emphasised for IPM in brassica production. The auditorium consisted of interested individuals from research and government institutions, industries, students from various Slovenian universities, etc.

Three seminars

1. European Research Area (November 7th 2013): 54 participants. Presentations by EU consultants on EU strategies and the research-promoting programmes Europe 2020 and Horizon 2020. Other presentations were on the national research-promoting programmes provided by the Slovenian Science Foundation (ARRS). Representative of the Republic of Slovenia in the EU outlined the Horizon 2020 programme. ARRS, International Cooperation and Possibilities for Its Financing, provided an overview of investments in science by the Republic of Slovenia and compared scientific research activities in Slovenia with that of other European countries, emphasising the need and possibilities of international cooperation and funding through bi- and multilateral cooperation schemes.

2. Seminar on EU projects 2014 – 2020 (February 18th 2015): 16 participants. Presentation of various instruments implemented in the European Research Area for supporting research and securing Europe's global competitiveness. Eligibility criteria for applying in the frames of the H2020 including the H2020-TWINN-2015 approach, COST, Alpine Space and Central Europe programmes were specified. Strategies for building relevant partnerships were demonstrated. Researchers were invited to contact the Project Office regarding their project work and were motivated to prepare project applications for the newly starting call periods such as Interregs and H2020 tenders.

3. Intellectual property rights and technology transfer in the breeding sector (June 10th 2015): 19 participants. The seminar was aimed at presenting and analysing intellectual property rights and technology transfer relevant for agriculture. The situation related to the dissemination of new breeding products was emphasised. A researcher from the partner institution JHI, Scotland, gave a presentation on breeding, the protection of intellectual property rights, and the commercialisation of new varieties. Slovenian- related aspects of intellectual property rights and technology transfer issues in Slovenia were discussed by head of the Technology Transfer and Innovation Center, Jožef Stefan Institute, Slovenia and KIS leader of Cropsustain work package dissemination.

Adaptation and mitigation of climate change effects in Agro-Ecosystems – Towards efficient action implementations (November 2015): 91 participants. An international workshop tackled the theme of climate change effects on Agroecosystems. Presentations and discussions addressed the effects of climate changes to agro-ecosystems and food production. The importance of the topic and its implementation in project Cropsustain was addressed in general terms by KIS director, state secretary of Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food, state secretary of Ministry for Education, Science and Sport, deputy director of Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning and ambassador of France in Slovenia. Scientific contributions from invited speakers and several speakers from various Slovenian institutions followed including a contribution by state secretary of Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning who represented Slovenia at the Paris Climate Change Conference (Paris, November 2015). These additional speakers came from European Environment Agency; Biotechnical Faculty, Ljubljana; Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food, Slovenia; Agricultural Institute of Slovenia; Institute for water of the republic of Slovenia etc. Addressed topics were 1. Effects of climate change on agricultural ecosystems, 2. Adaptation and Mitigation of climate change effects in agriculture, and 3. United Nations Climate Change Conference 2015 taking place in Paris (30.11.2015-11.12.2015). The high quality presentations discussed critically the situations in Slovenia and Europe and were followed by lively discussions.

Plant Health for Sustainable Agriculture - Scientific Conference (May 11th-12th 2015, Ljubljana). Over 170 participants from 18 European countries attended this event organised within project Cropsustain by KIS. Scientific part of the conference was composed of six sessions: Challenges in Plant Health, Plant Pests and Diseases Diagnostics, Nonchemical (Alternative) Control of Pests and Diseases, Biotechnology and Plant Breeding for Plant Protection, Prognosis and Decision Supporting Systems, and IPM and Good Agricultural Practice. Thirty contributions were presented in the form of lectures, and additional 65 contributions as presentations in poster session.: In order to reach the scientific community beyond participants at the PHSA conference, video presentations of 21 lectures complemented with PPT slides are published on the educational portal Videolectures ( website. In order to reach the community beyond scientific community, we have made effort to present conference to broader public. This was achieved withone documentary broadcast on television, with the target audience being farmers, an interview with project coordinator Dr. Gregor Urek for the national journal Kmečki glas, and an interview with keynote speaker Dr. Carlo Leifert for the national journal Jana.

Science and Practice in Agriculture - Final conference (September 23rd 2015, Loka pri Mengšu, Slovenia): 90 participants were representatives of scientific institutions, faculties, MAFF, advisory services, and trade and other organizations associated with agriculture. After the introductory speech by MAFF State Secretary and Cropsustain project coordinator presenting results achieved during the project, three invited lecturers from abroad presented examples of cooperation between science and agricultural practice in Denmark, Slovakia and in the Third countries. Slovenian experience was presented by CAFS representative, director of KIS and by other KIS researchers in the fields of genetics, and oenology and viticulture. One of the most important conference conclusions is that the project management knowledge transfer to agricultural practice requires a holistic approach, as the expectations and needs of the local environment differ from the expectations and approaches of research institutions and therefore, the consequent impact of agricultural research is limited, if end users are not involved in designing, planning and execution of research projects.

Participation in international scientific conferences: The participation in international conferences increased the visibility of the KIS through active conference participations in the form of oral presentations and posters published, for example, in conference proceedings. Researchers from KIS utilised their conference participation for networking with foreign experts, exchange information on gold standard research, paper drafting, and to meet others to exchange research data and material, initiate cooperation between institutions and preparation of joint research projects in the future. The following conferences were visited by KIS researchers:
- 6th International Congress of Nematology, 4-9 May 2014, Cape Town, South Africa (two researchers),
- 10th International Mycological Congress, 4-8 August 2014, Bangkok, Thailand (one researcher),
- 23rd International Conference on Virus and Other Graft Transmissible Diseases of Fruit Crops, 8-12 June 2015, Morioka, Japan (two researchers),
- 18th Congress of the International Council for the Study of Virus and Virus-like Diseases of the Grapevine, 7-11 September 2015, Ankara, Turkey (two researchers).


Two scientific books were written and published, and distributed to the participants of the Final Conference. Books are available through KIS library and E version will be prepared and published on the project and the KIS website.

First book: Rastlinski virusi in njihovo poimenovanje /Plant viruses and their names: The book presents the reader basic knowledge about plant viruses. Chapter 1 is an introduction to plant viruses. Chapter 2 talks about the economic importance of plant viruses. Chapter 3 is a chapter on taxonomy of plant viruses. Chapter 4 describes mechanical inoculation of test plants, indexing, ELISA as method for serological identification, transmission electron microscopy, molecular methods with PCR and qPCR and next generation sequencing. Chapter 5 set the rules for translating official plant virus names into Slovenian.

Second book: Prenosi rastlinskih virusov 1 /Transmission of plant viruses 1: 7 chapters present the most important and widespread plant virus vectors in Slovenia. Chapter 1 is an introduction to plant virus transmission. Chapter 2 is about aphids as plant virus vectors. Chapter 3 presents thrips as important vectors of tospoviruses. Chapter 4 talks about scale insects as plant virus vectors. Chapter 5 presents plant parasitic nematodes as vectors of plant viruses. Chapter 6 is about soil-inhabiting fungi and similar organisms as plant virus vectors. Chapter 7 presents whiteflies as important plant virus vectors. At the end of the book there is also a list of all virus names used in the book with acronym, official name and Slovenian name.


The Cropsustain platform provides a surface for the documentation and visualization of collaborations, projects and networking activities that involves KIS or its departments and researchers. It is a search engine linked to a database and the database contains project and networking related information ( The documentation of KIS related projects, co-operations, and achievements, may attract the interest of new partners allowing KIS to become involved in other activities of the European research area.


Manifesto was produced to support policy activities and in order to adjust current and future goals of KIS towards sustainable principles in agriculture and food production. In its Manifesto the KIS expressed its major aims and mission and its dedication to support and promote sustainable agriculture in Slovenia and topics of food security, sovereignty, and safety and higher environmental standards. The importance of co-operation, networking, and collaboration with national and international partners is emphasised as essential for achieving these goals. Additional key points addressed in the Manifesto include crops (plant breeding and health, technological aspects of plant production), the environment (arable land protection, biodiversity, climate change, pollution, water, socio-economic factors), knowledge and development (biotechnology, innovation, intellectual property), and communication (publishing, education, capacity building, and networking). It is clear that the central claim in the manifesto, which is to »support and develop farming practices that result in the development of agricultural ecosystems that have the diversity, stability and resilience of natural ecosystems« is highly ambitious. However, it is also in agreement with strategies promoted by the European commission that is to »establish a vision of structural and technological changes ... [and to address] agricultural, rural development ... through adaptation measures based on more efficient use of resources, which will also contribute to improving global food security« (EUROPE 2020, A European strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, COM(2010) 2020). The manifesto thus sets the stage for the participation of the AIS in international projects that address sustainable agriculture and food production and provides the base for the involvement of KIS in initiatives of the European Research Area, H2020, etc

Potential Impact:
Themes of project Cropsustain covered several challenges that have highest priority for society and humanity development in the 21st century. “Sustainability” or the sustainable exploitation of natural resources and ensured agricultural food production is the demand of today and tomorrow as these are challenged by increasing human population growth and already implementing consequences related to climate changes. While these themes are mirrored in the priority working programs of the United Nations and other world organizations, specifically Europe, Cropsustain focused on the special situation encountered in Slovenia that is a comparably small country with a heterogeneous land structure, little area available for agricultural utilization and required rural development because of, e.g. predominance of small fields, permanent grass covers, and mountain and hilly areas. Accordingly, Cropsustain had (i) a strong attitude for significantly improving the scientific and infrastructural situation of the Kmetijski inštitut Slovenije – KIS (the Agricultural Institute of Slovenia) and thus had a national and institutional focus. The project, however, was fully in compliance with international, i.e. European priorities as it more than anything else aimed at significantly improving the connectedness of the KIS with the European Research Area, building up intense and sustainable collaboration with defined project partners and to continue collaborations beyond the timeframe of project Cropsustain (international focus). An essential part of the project addressed the social economic area either directly or indirectly. A significant number of new employees were recruited through Cropsustain (2012-2016) and the Cropsustain-linked positions will be maintained at the KIS also in future. On the national level, KIS increased significantly as a competence centre for research related to sustainable agriculture, agricultural food production and security, and the effect of climate changes on agriculture in the context of which 5 additional young researchers were hired in April 2016. Accordingly, Cropsustain had and will have a significant and sustained impact to the employee demographic at KIS. Project Cropsustain responded thus to the demands of the Lisbon Strategy, as it established the basis for sustaining growth and producing high-quality jobs (renewed Lisbon Agenda in 2005, EU Strategy for Growth and Jobs). Numerous activities organized in the context of Cropsustain were dedicated to increase awareness of described themes in the public through round table discussions and seminars and various dissemination activities. In addition, business related themes were addressed and various scientific and business related open educational activities were organized on the national and international level. Multi level dissemination activities presented a major pillar in project Cropsustain: newly employed personal significantly improved the sector of public relations of the KIS throughout the project and also in future, online available sources were improved and newly generated and social presence and the relationships of KIS with farmers, farmer organizations, and consumers were significantly increased qualitatively and quantitatively. Project Cropsustain tackled a magnitude of challenges related to sustainability in agriculture, environmentally friendly food production and food security and the impacts of climate change related consequences on agro-ecosystems. Not solving the problems but implementing and strengthening the tools for facing the challenges –– thus infrastructural improvements, manpower generation, and initiating national and international collaboration centring on KIS –– was the main aim of project Cropsustain. KIS has improved (and will significantly improve) its connectedness with the European Research Area on the basis of the Cropsustain related, newly developed networks with other European research institutions. The consortia created in the context of Cropsustain for responding to the H2020 calls present one indicator here but also the number of project proposals with KIS involved increased significantly.

Scientific and research theme related impact

Because of its historical background, Slovenia has excellent relations with several of the diverse countries of the Balkan. Of these, it was one of the few Slavic countries entering the European Union already in 2004. Various activities of project Cropsustain did address or were based on the existing relationships with other Slavic countries or countries of the Balkan, however, these relationships were also brought to another level that allow continuation of existing activities (example, International workshop 1. SEEDNet the Way Ahead with participants, among others, from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, and Slovakia). Representatives of institutions from such countries were also actively invited to participate in project consortia for H2020 initiatives. A main focus of Cropsustain, however, was to initiate and perform active networking with the partners of the project that consisted of leading agricultural or scientific research institutions or organizations in Europe, namely, (1) Aarhus University–Denmark, (2) Leibniz-Institut DSMZ, German Collection of Microorganisms and cell cultures–Germany, (3) Julius Kühn-Institut–Germany, (4) EMBL-European Bioinformatics Institute–England UK, (5) Institut national de la recerche agronimique, INRA–France, and (6) The James Hutton Institute–Scotland, UK. Although individual interactions between representatives of the KIS and those of these institutions existed already in the past, the high majority of networking activities with these institutions (manifesting itself in 92 mobility and interim visits, etc.), were newly drafted and addressed de novo created divers interactions in the theme of sustainable approaches in agriculture. These newly created networking links will have a huge impact in near future on the personal development of the involved individual researchers and personal, scientific output in terms of publications, realized projects/initiatives in the field of sustainable agriculture and in the implementation of new technologies. Project Cropsustain was quasi the catalyst for new research linkages on the personal and institutional level, provided the platform for various brain storming activities and allowed the exchange of knowledge in the field of sustainable agriculture to an efficient level and in an uncomplicated, typically informal way. With six departments being involved in the scientific exchange of personal with the partner institutions, Cropsustain literally refreshed scientific networking and collaboration of the entire KIS within the time frame of the project. It is clear that the newly emerging networks and collaborations will have a diverse positive impact for near future research activities because Cropsustain simply allowed that networking and collaboration took place. The exchange of knowledge with 6 partners thus improved the research capacities of KIS specifically in the six scientific themes addressed in the originally drafted proposal and in interdisciplinary work. The enriched scientific expertise of KIS is currently unlocked by its participation in 4 scientific consortia that either have or will respond to H2020 calls and each of these consortia newly emerged from networking related co-operations of KIS with the partners of the project Cropsustain and through the integration of other European partner institutions.
Researchers from KIS published their scientific results in international research journals. Several peer reviewed papers have been published as an outcome of Cropsustain. The overall number of papers published by KIS researchers has increased substantially over the last 3 years, thus contributing to a better visibility of KIS researchers at international level. KIS was more frequently invited by others to participate in international (EU) projects (Deliverable 1.5). High quality papers have increased from 24 in 2010/ 2011 (period prior to CropSustaIn) to 30 in 2012/2013 and 39 papers in 2014/2015. In the last period papers from KIS authors were published journals honoured by a high ISI impact factor (e.g. European Food Chemistry, Fungal Diversity, Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Journal of Apicultural Research, Journal of Invertebrate Pathology, Journal of Plant Pathology, Plant Pathology, Plos One, or Precision Agriculture).

Social economic impact

1. Creation of jobs, new employees at KIS.––To increase competitiveness of the KIS and strengthen the research potential, an essential element of project Cropsustain was to recruit human resources. Young people were hired to strengthen the key areas important for KIS that consist of (1) modelling/hyperspectral camera utilization/bioinformatics, (2) plant breeding, (3) diversity and control of insect pests, (4) patent law, technology transfer office and public relations, (5) project management. While these positions were initially financed purely from Cropsustain resources, the positions are now firmly established and available for the personal and professional development of the employed personal.

In the context of divers activities initiated in the frame of project Cropsustain, KIS increased its visibility significantly as a competence centre for sustainable agriculture, agricultural food production and security, and ecological friendly plant protection. Because of the expertise generated in the context of Cropsustain, the Slovenian government selected KIS for the implementation of the European directive 2009/128/EC (European Community action to achieve sustainable use of pesticides, implemented into Slovene law on plant protection products and Rules on the Integrated Plant Protection) that allowed employment of 5 additional researchers at KIS in April 2016. The topic presents a continuation of the work initiated in Scientific target 3 of project Cropsustain (Investigating methods for dealing with interactions between host plants, vectors, pests and pathogens) and is of high relevance for the implementation of sustainable principles in European agriculture. Accordingly, Cropsustain allowed scientific, professional and personal development of 5 additional young recruits in the fields of sustainable agriculture.

The creation of 5 additional positions is unusual for an institution like the KIS and was made possible solely with the initial support by project Cropsustain. It is expected that the young researchers and managers employed through Cropsustain and the 5 temporarily employed scientists may occupy leading functions in the future at the KIS or elsewhere in Slovenia or Europe. The creation of new job opportunities for young scientists and managers at KIS and specifically their training in fields related to sustainable approaches in agriculture and food production has thus significant and long-term impact.

2. Establishment of a technological transfer office.––A new department, the technological transfer office, was created at KIS in the context of project Cropsustain. The department is headed by a technological transfer manager that was newly employed at KIS through the project. Significant activities by this office have promoted applied research and innovation and improved relationships between KIS and companies (including agricultural holdings and farmers). During the project, KIS increased its visibility and reputation in the professional and general public through activities of the technological transfer office, e.g. on agricultural fairs and promotional events. Public relation activities and knowledge transfer to education institutions, agricultural advisory services, and producers and consumers of agricultural services will also in future raise public awareness in the fields of sustainable agriculture. It is clear that this office will provide significant impact also in future for KIS in terms of knowledge transfer and public relations. In addition, the office will also oversee intellectual property rights for the institute. The document on ‘Regulations on Inventions’ at KIS covering intellectual property related issues, was created in spring 2015. It defines the rights and obligations of the Institute and its employees that arise from intellectual property rights (e.g. patenting, protection of new plant varieties, etc.) and provides support for innovative researchers. Two KIS employees became members of the Association of Technology Transfer Professionals of Slovenia (SI-TT), an organisation that provides additional support for this important discipline.

3. Cooperation with industry.––During the project, KIS established new contacts and co-operations with industries dedicated to agricultural engineering and wine and seed production. Leading managers and department heads from KIS met representatives from industries in order to identify common interests regarding agricultural product development, professional or commercial activities, and project cooperation. Representatives from the industry were also invited to open house events and trade shows. With the industrial partner Omega Air d.o.o KIS developed and established the micro biogas modular plant. Research and demonstration-learning facility is the result of cooperation established within the Cropsustain. Several cooperation activities with industrial partners were intensified in order to seek for new solutions in agriculture (e.g. intensified research and field trials were performed for national (e.g. Semenarna Ljubljana d.d. Agromehanika Kranj d.d.) and international companies (e.g. Bayer Crop Science, Eurofins, Anadiag, Staphyt Gmbh, Syngenta and BASF). The cooperation with end user organisations such as the Slovenian Agricultural Chamber and entities organized by farmers (e.g. Agricultural Cooperative Union of Slovenia) increased substantially. Their representatives attended events, training sessions and meetings of project Cropsustain on a regular base.

4. Knowledge transfer and teaching.––Cropsustain organized workshops allowing advanced training of university students and institute employees in emerging disciplines such as bioinformatics. Two courses were organized in collaborations with EMBL-European Bioinformatics Institute (England, UK) (partner institution in Cropsustain) and took place at the Biotechnical Faculty of the University of Ljubljana or at EMBL-EBI in Cambridge. Through EMBL-EBI, world leading specialists could be appointed that gave lectures and supervised computer sessions. Not only researchers of the KIS participated in these events but also students from Slovene universities and research organizations (event in Ljubljana). The event in Cambridge was open for students from research organisations in Europe, but candidates from India, Colombia and Saudi Arabia were also accepted by the co-organizers from KIS. The course “agricultural genomics” was newly established at EMBL-EBI in the context of project Cropsustain but EMBL-EBI will offer this course for academic training on a regular basis in future.

Also other Cropsustain events aimed at knowledge dissemination and the creation of awareness related to sustainability in agriculture, climate change issues, and food production and security. Creating awareness of sustainability approaches for professionals, scientists, stakeholders and consumers was realized in round table discussions related to Integrated Pest Management in vegetables and risk reduction in phyto-pharmaceutical product use. Three seminars addressed dissemination of knowledge related to the European Research Area, H2020 call procedures, and intellectual property rights and technology transfer in the breeding sector. Events were lead by invited and qualified experts to ensure that up to date and high quality knowledge was disseminated. Of particular interest and expected impact was the international workshop on adaptation and mitigation of climate change effects in Agro-Ecosystems that attracted interest from academics, politicians, stakeholder organizations, Slovenian business branches, and the public.

Considerable knowledge transfer was made possible and realized in 92 mobility visits of KIS researchers to Cropsustain partner institutions and through the incoming visits of researchers to KIS. The impact of these activities is potentially high because they have already led to concrete collaborations, relevant field and lab experiments, and to the generation of new ideas relevant for the development of sustainable approaches in agriculture and project designs. It is the intensity of the collaboration with the partner institutes but even more the concept of getting people face-to-face that will generate project Cropsustain related impact in the near future.

5. New equipment.––KIS significantly modernized its research facilities through purchasing and installing a total of thirteen new instruments with the support from project Cropsustain. Of particular relevance is the hyperspectral imaging system, computer server, deep freezer, and a flow cytometer. Hyperspectral imaging allows KIS to access a new quality of data mining relevant in modern plant protection. It is of high potential impact because near all project proposals drafted recently have included the potential of this equipment and KIS is the only agricultural institution currently holding such equipment in Slovenia. Among others, it allows large-scale and non-invasive detection of pests and pathogens. The deep freezer is a prerequisite for handling reference culture collections and is of relevance for biodiversity research purposes and thus important for future projects on sustainability in agro-ecosystems. Flow-cytometry is an important instrument for generating data in agricultural fields and will have a considerable impact of the capabilities at KIS. The majority of purchased equipment is relevant for the generation of data farmers and end-users are interested in because the instruments can be utilized for on-farm assessments and for experiments in the open field.

Manifesto for sustainable agriculture – Project Cropsustain will significantly influence the mid- and long term attitude of KIS
Project Cropsustain significantly changed general attitudes of the KIS and led to policy adaptations emphasizing the urgent need for the development and implementation of sustainable principles. The Cropsustain manifesto clearly states that the KIS will support and develop “farming practices that result in the development of agricultural ecosystems that have the diversity, stability and resilience of natural ecosystems«. Further, in the manifesto, the KIS expressed its major aims and mission and its dedication to support and promote sustainable agriculture in Slovenia and topics of food security, sovereignty, and safety and higher environmental standards. The importance of co-operation, networking, and collaboration with national and international partners is emphasised as essential for achieving these goals. Additional key points addressed in the Manifesto include crops (plant breeding and health, technological aspects of plant production), the environment (arable land protection, biodiversity, climate change, pollution, water, socio-economic factors), knowledge and development (biotechnology, innovation, intellectual property), and communication (publishing, education, capacity building, and networking). The central claim in the manifesto is to »support and develop farming practices that result in the development of agricultural ecosystems that have the diversity, stability and resilience of natural ecosystems«. The manifesto is in agreement with strategies promoted by the European commission that is to »establish a vision of structural and technological changes ... [and to address] agricultural, rural development ... through adaptation measures based on more efficient use of resources, which will also contribute to improving global food security« (EUROPE 2020, A European strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, COM(2010) 2020). The manifesto thus sets the stage for the participation of KIS in international projects that address sustainable agriculture and food production and provides the base for the involvement of KIS in initiatives of the European Research Area.

Dissemination activities and the exploitation of results
Two work-packages of project Cropsustain addressed the important issue of activity networking (WP5) and dissemination and result exploitation (WP6) . Any dissemination activities significantly increased the visibility of the KIS mainly nationally but also internationally. As a direct consequence that emerged from Cropsustain, KIS was selected by the Slovenian government for implementing programs related to integrated pest management strategies. The project that started in April 2016 is an excellent example that KIS may benefit also in the future from Cropsustain related impacts. Achievements and results were not only disseminated to the appropriate consignee. Cropsustain also aimed at improving the efficiency of dissemination processes at KIS and to raise awareness of the work of the KIS in the scientific, expert, and general public. The design of several dissemination elements allows that content can be updated regularly also beyond the time frame of project Cropsustain (e.g. newly designed webpage, platform Cropsustain) to increase their potential impact also in future. In order to maximize the potential impact of the diverse Cropsustain events, policymakers from ministries and non-governmental organisations were actively approached and invited. Cropsustain addressed the lack of advanced public relation issues at the KIS and strengthened this aspect by employing stuff for the management sector. While hiring the managing oriented stuff was possible only through Cropsustain, the positions were made permanent in the meantime. Improved dissemination strategies and appropriate activities related to public relations will also be developed and realized at KIS in the future. The adopted strategy of strengthening management related issues will therefore have a long-lasting impact at KIS.

Potential impact of specific issues related to dissemination and result exploitation are listed in the following:
• Cropsustain allowed the setup of a new institute webpage that was established with professional input. The website received ca. 3500 average monthly visits since it was newly launched in November 2014 and may contribute also in future to a significantly increased visibility of KIS. Because it is curated and updated regularly, the webpage will provide also in future impact to the institute.
• The Cropsustain platform provides a surface for the documentation and visualization of collaborations, projects and networking activities that involves KIS or its departments and researchers. It is a search engine linked to a database and the database contains project and networking related information. The documentation of KIS related projects, co-operations, and achievements, may attract the interest of new partners allowing KIS to become involved in other activities of the European research area. The documentation of the existing network activities is seen as an essential element for the future extension and growth of the network activities at KIS. Because it can be updated, the benefits related to this platform will provide future impact to KIS or any other party interested in KIS related services and expertise or in search for collaboration.
• The intense cooperation with the partners of the project that manifested itself in more than 92 mobility visits increased the scope of international cooperation of KIS researchers in general and fundamentally. The created international linkages may result into an increased quantity and quality of publications that may attract the interest of representatives from science, business organisations and the general public in the near future. The intense collaboration with the partner institutes but even more the concept of getting people face-to-face is a prerequisite for approaching the magnitude of challenges we are facing in respect to sustainability, food production and climate change related effects on agro-ecosystems.
• An international conference (title, Plant Health for Sustainable Agriculture) was organized as a major scientific dissemination event. A total of 170 scientists and experts from 18 European countries participated. The conference increased the visibility of the KIS significantly and further networking linkages within Europe were created. The national broadcasting service and newspapers (Televizija Slovenija and Kmečki glas) reported about this conference.
• Dissemination activities adopted modern communication tools including professionally designed e-based notifications, presentation videos and newsletters. The created media will also allow in future direct communication with end-users.
• A total of 26 events were organized in the time frame of project Cropsustain and more than 1,500 individuals participated in these events. Any of the addressed specific themes entitling these events related to food production, sustainability concepts in agriculture and climate change related effects on agro-ecosystems and provided thus quality addressed awareness, knowledge transfer, etc. In the context of organizing the events a high number of scientists, experts, politicians, and decision makers were personally approached, and partly recruited to participate actively. It is realistic to assume that the quality and quantity of issued events has significantly increased awareness about the expertise present at KIS.
• Lecturers or advisers from KIS presented their expertise at various meetings organised by key partners from the business sector. KIS will represent itself in the future not only at most relevant agricultural fairs but also at related events including Nature-Health and Eco Fairs. The qualitatively and quantitatively increased linkages KIS generated in the context of project Cropsustain will have considerable impact in the near future allowing knowledge and technology transfer and the creation of novel end-user oriented products and services. Regarding its future impact, it is, however, the Cropsustain related mission (see also “manifesto”) and the herewith related responsibility of the Agricultural Institute of Slovenia to direct developments in the agri-industry towards sustainability and developing ecologically acceptable products and concepts. We claim that project Cropsustain positively influenced and significantly improved the structure of the KIS and that Cropsustain presents essentially the prerequisite for meeting these requirements.
• The project and its implementation and potential impact was positively evaluated by a group of external experts in the frame of WP7 – evaluation.

List of Websites:
Cropsustain website address:
Cropsustain Platform:

Name of the project's coordinator and organisation: Dr. Gregor Urek, KMETIJSKI INSTITUT SLOVENIJE - AGRICULTURAL INSTITUTE OF SLOVENIA