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ÖMKi’s landrace tomato research has come to an end

This year a national store chain sold 8,000 Hungarian landrace tomato seedlings that were selected based on ÖMKi research. What does landrace mean, and why is this action so important? Let us explain.

16th May was a milestone in the life of ÖMKI as on this day landrace tomato product development research project, which lasted several years, come to an end. We launched our participatory research on the usability of Hungarian tomato landraces on organic farms in 2012. At that time all landraces had been crowded out of public production, so we obtained the seeds we needed for the research from the Centre for Plant Diversity, which is a gene bank located in Tápiószele. The aim of the analysis was to reintroduce landraces that were the most suitable for organic production into Hungarian gardens so that their special and diverse colour, shapes and flavours could be rediscovered. In other words, the objective was to enrich the genetic diversity of plants produced in Hungary by preserving the outstanding value of our agricultural heritage. In the first years of the research we studied 35 tomato landraces on 28 cooperating organic farms across the country. Then from 2015 10 tomato landraces were chosen to be studied in detail for three production years, in cooperation with the Szent István University.

The landraces that proved to be the best based on production results, tastings and composition analyses were presented to the world during a seedling adoption event last year. Due to the great interest and success, a national store chain helped to bring these landraces back to gardens this year. Our objective was much more than just selling tomatoes. Developing the product path includes ÖMKI directly delivering professional results to the general public in a tangible, growable and – if everything goes well –consumable form. We also want to draw people’s attention to our research topics, which in this case is the importance of organic landrace products.

Hopefully, the 8,000 Máriapócs, Gyöngyös and Mátrafüred variety seedlings will succeed in disseminating our message. They can make the beauty, importance and significance of biodiversity visible and understandable on an everyday basis. And through these landraces we can draw people’s attention to the importance of sustainable agriculture and organic farming, since by consuming Hungarian organic products we are supporting not only for the environment but also our own health.

What is the significance of landraces?

Based on data from 2014, there are 369,000 known species of flowering plant but we only use 200 of these species for food production. Even more thought-provoking, according to some data from 2017, is that from these 200 plant species, just nine account for 66% of global plant production.[1] The problem is that by losing their genetic diversity these cultivated plants become vulnerable to the more and more extreme and unpredictable impacts of climate change. Landrace populations developed through natural and human selection are able to adapt to the continuously changing environment, weather, and market demands due to their diversity. They are the basic genetic resources for implementing a more adaptable sustainable agricultural model adapted to the local conditions and guaranteeing the independence of farmers.

This is a multilateral project. People that grow organic landrace tomato seedlings are not only staying healthy, but are also contributing to the preservation of our agricultural heritage and the protection of our environment. At the same time they are supporting sustainable farming in Hungary, especially among small-scale farmers. By purchasing a product with the ÖMKi logo you are indirectly helping further research on organic farming in our country.



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