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Exploration and Collection of Vegetable, Forage and Other Crop Seeds in the Ukraine

By N. I. Dzyubenko N. I. Vavilov Research Institute of Plant Industry St. Petersburg, Russia · August 3 – September 13, 1996

Ukrainian agriculture is characterized by technologically well-equipped land manage­ment and the wide availability of high-yielding cultivars of various economically impor­tant crops adapted to specific soil and climate conditions.  Intensification of crop production in several regions of the Ukraine has completely ousted local varieties and land­races of food and forage crops.  Large-scale plowing of cultivated areas and over­grazing of limited natural pasture land have led to the elimination of local phyto­coenoses, which in turn has caused considerable losses in the diversity of plants adapted to the local envi­ronments.

However, due to specific economic, political, geographical and other factors, there still are some areas in the Ukraine with sufficient natural and cultivated habitats where it is possible to collect or maintain unique plant genetic materials for food, forage and other purposes.  One such virgin corner is the Ukrainian Carpathian Mountains and surround­ing area.  The factors enumerated below have influenced the genetic diversity of wild and cultivated plants in this region.

Geographic: The complex mountainous relief has led to the development of ecologi­cal niches with diverse habitats – from moderate environments (distribution of wild and cultivated thermophilic and light-demanding species) to extreme ones (distribution of wild and cultivated species with marginal parameters of cold-, frost- and winter-hardi­ness and tolerance of excessively wet and acid soils).

Soil: The explored areas are characterized by an extraordinary diversity of soil types in the horizontal zonality and their variegation (mosaic structure) in the vertical (upland) zonality.  Soils range from the rich­est ones in river valleys and lowlands to the poorest in marginal mountainous areas.

Anthropogenic (technogenous): Plowed lands in the mountains are characterized by complex configuration and small area (mostly 0.5-5.0 hectares, maximum 15-20 hec­tares), which makes it impossible to use large farm machinery.  Until recently, horses were used on smaller fields.  Certain agricultural methods, crops and specific plant varieties, adapted to each given soil and climate environment, are applied on each level of zonality and soil type.

Political: The Western Ukraine was not annexed to the former USSR until 1940.  The agricultural “collectivization policy” began here in 1947 and was implemented in the mountainous areas no sooner than 1955-1956.  This has allowed the local inhabitants to preserve traditional seeds and planting materials.  These have been mainly local varieties and forms of different agricultural crops of economic importance.  In most of the upland areas, where, due to a number of subjective and objective reasons, intensive plant pro­duction had never developed, diverse seed and planting materials were for the most part used by the local population until the present.

However, in recent times, due to changes in the political situation in the Ukraine, collec­tive farms (kolkhozes) have been disbanded and arable lands have been divided into smaller plots or returned to the former landowners (in the former Western Ukraine).  The complicated political situation, lack of any governmental support to small agricul­tural producers, and saturation of the local market with competitive imported food products, have led to an abrupt decrease in the volume and variety of local plant pro­duction.  Unemployment has resulted in emigration.  There is now a real threat of losing a considerable portion of the genetic material, especially of the unique species and intraspecies crop genetic diversity.

Purpose:  Exploration of the territory and collecting seed samples of rare and disappear­ing wild species of vegetable, forage and other crops, as well as landraces and breeding varieties for home and commercial food growing and forage purposes.

Itinerary:  St. Petersburg, Vitebsk, Mogilev, Chernigov, Kiev, Uman, Vinnitsa, Khmel­nitsky, Ternopol, Rovno, Lvov, Uzhgorod, Mucachevo, Rakhov, Ivano-Frankovsk, Chernovtsy, Kamenets-Podolsky, Mogilev-Podolsky, Bar, Vinnitsa, Zhitomir, Gomel, Orsha, St. Petersburg.

Explorers:  Dr. N. I. Dzyubenko, Head of Dept. of Forage Crops, VIR, Russia; and Dr. V. D. Bugaev, Head of Dept. of Plant Breeding, Institute of Forage Crops of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences, Ukraine.

Distance covered:  10,760 km.

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