Minutes of the meeting DONAU SOJA – SEASN Advisory Initiative to up-scale Productivity and Sustainability and Competitiveness of soybean production in SE Europe

7 December, Ilok, Croatia
Start: 09:00, End: 12:30

The meeting started that each partner was introducing them to the group. M. Husnjak briefly explained the background and the history to the theme of this conference. The collaboration of SEASN and DONAU SOJA dates back to a meeting of M. Kuegler and M. Kroen in Brüssel in summer 2018. That was followed by a first meeting between SEASN and DONAU SOJA in Vienna on XX which resulted in a Memorandum of Understanding, signed by M. Krön and M. Husnjak.

Presentations by Donau Soja

Part 1 – Marija Kalentic, Regional Director, Donau Soja, Novi Sad

M. Kalentic presented the wider relevance of increasing soybean production in Europe and how this can contribute to a sustainable development of agriculture in Europe. More information about the members of Donau Soja are entailed in Annex 2. M. Kalentic presented the opportunities for soybean production in Europe and emphasised the importance of developing value-chains through corporate social responsibility (CSR), labelling and further market development activities. One of the tools applied by Donau Soja, are the quality standards ‘Donau Soja’ and ‘Europe Soya’.

Part 2 – Leopold Rittler, Head of Research & Innovation, Donau Soja, Vienna

L. Rittler presented general opportunities and challenges for producing soybeans in SEE countries. Based on his experiences, he concluded that the agro-climatic conditions in South-Eastern Europe (SEE) are good for producing soybeans. Participants pointed out that soybeans are not suitable for all agricultural production regions, such as mountainous areas of Bosnia & Hercegovina and Western parts of Croatia. The presentation of Donau Soja identified also challenges and bottlenecks for increasing soybean production in SEE. Some of the problems are crop-specific: Many producers have started these years for the first time soybean production and failures in crop management are commonly observed among this group. The presenters and the audience identified inoculation practises as being insufficiently understood and applied. L. Rittler pointed out that soybean production is facing also wider challenges such as a limited and decreasing pool of available pesticides or insufficient processing capacities. Last are needed to develop short supply-chains.

L. Rittler further described also the work of Donau Soja to respond to opportunities and challenges in soybean production and presented activities which particularly support producers. L. Rittler concluded the presentation with common interests for a collaboration between SEASN and DONAU SOJA (see also Annex 5) and referred also to the recently started H2020 project “Legumes Translated”.

Participants discussed the importance of achieving beside good yields also a high quality of the seed composition in terms of protein and oil content. Due to its high need in the feed industry, factors affecting the protein concentrations in harvested soybeans were addressed. Among crop management operations, inoculation was assessed as very essential. Participants discussed the opportunities for small-scaled farming in achieving higher protein concentrations. The discussion concluded that the quality depends rather on abiotic factors and on professional crop and field management and efficient technology than on scale of fields or farms.

Presentation by Tatjana Međimurec – Challenges of soybean production in Croatia

Tatjana presented the spatial distribution and statistical information of soybean production in Croatia and the developments in recent years. She remarked that due to EU policy new producers tried soybean production in regions where soybean was not having an important role on the fields. Some crop production advisors are also insufficiently experienced in soybean production. Tatjana addressed shortcomings in crop and seed management, such as weak awareness about inoculation. The presentation identified specific action proposals for advisors to support producers: variety selection, training of trainers, joint field days and disseminating benefits about soil analysis. Soil analysis shall not support maintaining or improving soil fertility but also to identify fields non-suitable for soybean production (e.g. pH value).

Frölich remarked that the disease Sclerotinia should receive attention, because soybean- crop rotations are frequently narrow.

Remarks of Milan Husnjak on FAIRSHARE project

M. Husnjak briefly introduced to H2020 FAIRSHARE project, which started recently in November. SEASN has a substantial in the project which aims to support the uptake of digital tool for advisory systems. FAIRSHARE could have an opportunity for the soybean development partnership between DONAU SOJA and SEASN. In the third project year, use-cases will allow external groups to apply for a grant.

Presentation Miloš Nožinic and Walter Frölich

Milos introduced his institute and his work in soybean production to the audience. He remarked that the potential of soybean production for Bosnia & Hercegovina is smaller than in e.g. Croatia or Serbia due to the mountainous landscape. Milos briefly addressed the protein strategy of B&H which was developed at this institute. The institute is faced with insufficient research equipment (specialised harvester).

Frölich remarked that B&H has a potential of 12,000 ha and therefore also other grain legumes – suitable for mountainous regions – shall be considered. He proposed to work in future more with alfa alfa, lucerne and remarked that fertilisation with trace elements delivered promising results. Frölich described the special role of soybean varieties with low trypsin-inhibitors: Varieties such as Xonia enable farms with livestock and crop production to use home-grown soybeans and save efforts for processing or expenditures for purchasing feedstuffs. In the discussion, Milos remarked that these farm types might have a promising for increasing soybean production. M. Kalentic complemented that processing capacities are missing in B&H and also in Croatia. Insufficient processing capacities were identified as bottlenecks as consumption in the region is hindered.


M. Kalentic chaired a discussion aiming to define more details on the soybean development partnership between SEASN and DONAU SOJA. Participants shared following comments:

Eleni Zarokosta (Greece) emphasised the advantages of discussion groups, peer-to-peer learning and the importance of supporting producer in gaining a deeper understanding.

From Hungary [Ver Andraš] GMO-free cultivation receives in Hungary strong political support. Hungarian soybean supply use is similarily characterised like in Croatia: GMO-free soybean cultivation is expected to increase and advance, but consumption relies on genetically modified imports. The proposal of ‘train the trainers’ is supported. DONAU SOJA could play a supportive role.

From Kosovo [Zenel Bunjaku] Soybean production has not played a role so far, but developing a regional value-chain appears to be promising for the region. A closer collaboration with DONAU SOJA was briefly discussed.

Tatjana Međimurec (Croatia): The remarks about the lacking processing infrastructure were again discussed. M. Kalentic proposed to survey if the agri-food sector would be interested to increase the use of local soybeans.

M. Husnjak proposed and chaired the discussion about the next steps:

Participants agreed to establish a working group which will further the plans for cooperation. Members of these working are Miloš Nožinic (Head), Marija Kalentic (Deputy), Aleksandra Sudaric, Tatjana Međimurec, Leopold Rittler, Walter Frölich, Milan Husnjak and a secretarial supporter.

The group is organised on a voluntary basis and is open for new members. Further members from Hungary, Slovenia, Serbia are announced and further are welcomed.

It was discussed who could represent the SEASN-DS partnership at the annual conference of EUFRAS in Lisbon (12-13 Feb 2019). L. Rittler was invited and announced to feedback soon after the Ilok meeting about his availability. Miloš Nožinic requested Marija Kalentic if she could replace him at this event. The participation to the EUFRAS conference is open to all participants of the Ilok meeting.

For preparing the presentation at the EUFRAS conference, participants agreed to meet in late January in Banja Luka to draft work plans.

Drafted by Leopold Rittler 11 December 2018