History and present

VUBHB The history of Potato Research Institute stretches back to the first half of the twentieth century. In 1920, shortly after World War I and establishment of Czechoslovakian Republic, private Potato Research Institute was founded and supported by Central Association of Potato Growers. In 1923 the going institute was changed to State Potato Research Institutes. According to the initiators of the establishment, the Institutes should have supported the effort to enhance potato growing, potato industry (alcohol, starch and drying) and also economic utilization by the scientific work. The progress of State Potato Research Institutes activity was very slow. There was a lack of specialists, inadequate facilities for the activity and insufficient equipment. Later, in 1938 the Ministry of Agriculture initiated a substantial reorganization of the Institutes resulting in more employees engaged and creation of conditions for formation of basic departments. Organizational structure of State Potato Research Institutes from the years 1938 and 1939 remained unchanged till 1951, when agricultural experimentation was subjected to changes with a view to separate control activity and research. That year, State Agricultural Research Station Valečov became a part of the Institute. The history of the Station stretches back to the nineteenth century; it was founded as Station for Potato Research in 1863. At present, Valečov is the main base for field experimentation of all research departments and two of them are located there. State Potato Research Institutes entitled Institute for Potato Research and Breeding became a part of Czechoslovakian State Farms. However, a year later the Institute became specialized as Potato Research Institute. During subsequent years both external (involvement of the Institute to various state organizational units) and internal structure (various sections, departments and laboratories) has been frequently changed.

In 1956, the Institute belonged to Czechoslovakian Academy of Agricultural Sciences and the breeding section was separated from the Institute. In 1962, the Institute, similarly as other research institutes, fell within the direction of Ministry of Agriculture, Forest and Water Resources In 1969 the Institute was included into new established Czech Agricultural Academy, in 1974 (after dissolution of the Academy) it fell within the direction of Ministry of Agriculture and Nutrition again. In 1976 the Institute was a part of production and economic unit Oseva, Breeding and Seed Enterprises in Prague and from 1977 all breeding stations for potatoes belonged to the Institute. Potato breeding and research were reintegrated. Established Potato Research and Breeding Institute performed both research and breeding activities.

During its activity at the time of the First Republic and after World War II, the Institute fulfilled the role of research and advisory centre for potato growers, users and processors in the entire country. It is necessary to mention that at that time potato area nearly amounted a half of million hectares and in addition to growing ware potatoes, the utilization was mainly directed to industrial processing into starch and alcohol and also feeding of livestock and drying. Substantial changes in modern history began in 1990. At first, breeding and research were separated again within Oseva enterprise. Instead of existing Potato Research and Breeding Institute two institutes were established, as branches of state enterprise Oseva – Potato Research Institute and Potato Breeding Institute. The delimitation of these institutes was not easy, at that time more attention was paid to centralized economic activity of managed subordinate stations than to research and breeding. The management of the Institutes coped very well with the situation.

The fate of both separated units substantially differed. Due to helpfulness and understanding of the Ministry of Agriculture led by Ing. Lux, the privatization of Oseva research part was excluded from so-called second wave of coupon privatization and the institutes had the possibility to change legal identity to limited companies.

The privatization of Oseva, Potato Research Institute was done in 1994, when privatization process of state enterprise Oseva Prague was finished. Potato Research Institute Havlíčkův Brod, Ltd. (PRI) was founded and is still acting under this name.

Early activities in private PRI were affected by low supports for research in that time. Direct and planned funding terminated and grant agencies started their activities. It was a very difficult period, when the Institute only acted in basic R&D fields. In that time PRI solved projects especially from National Agency for Agricultural Research (NAZV) falling within Ministry of Agriculture (MZe) and to similar extent from Grant Agency of the Czech Republic (GAČR).

The revival was recorded in 2003, when private research institutes got an opportunity from Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports (MŠMT) to apply in a public competition for so-called institutional means for research plans that had been intent to long-term development of universities and state-controlled institutes by that time. PRI was successful in the competition and during 2004–2010 solved the research plan entitled “Molecular and technological basis of quality potato production.” Due to the research plan new useful devices, equipment and other facilities were purchased, new modern equipped laboratory of analytical chemistry started its activity, space was created for development of molecular methods in pathogen and genetic structure detection, working with genetically modified material, unconventional methods of breeding procedures, verification of methods for pest, disease and weed management and also research in the field of potato beneficial and harmful substances for human health. Simultaneously, a success was recorded in competitions within research and development; however, on contrary to the past only in NAZV and newly in projects of MŠMT in the framework of National Program of Research or Research Centres.

After 2010 realization of research plans was finished and replaced by the system of research organization evaluation based on the level of scientific publications and applied results in the practice. Means for development were allocated according to reached scores. The system has been continuously changed and has not taken into account the type of our research organization, which is especially directed to applied results and cooperation with practice. Further, we participate in public R&D competitions, mainly NAZV, Technology Agency of the Czech Republic (TA ČR) and several programmes of MŠMT (Eureka, Ingo, Kontakt).

All projects are solved in cooperation with partnership research organizations and universities, we cooperate with Central Potato Association of the Czech Republic, breeding organizations, public institutions, and in tight relation with agricultural and processing enterprises.

Within the international cooperation we are active in European Association for Potato Research (EAPR), our researchers participate in oral and poster presentations during international conferences.

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