Orchards in Slovakia
06.06.2018, by Bénédicte Gaillard
- Fruit-growing in Slovakia has a long tradition. The natural and climatic conditions enable cultivation of varied cultivar, especially plum trees that were cultivated in ancient times.
- Archaeological findings demonstrate that apple trees, pear trees, peach and plum trees have been grown since 4-5 thousand years B.C. As an example, a pear tree found in Šárovce village and a peach stone in Palárikovo village were dated to the Laten period.
- Development of fruit-growing in southeast Slovakia up to the Trenčín region was influenced by the invasion of the Roman legion from the 1st to 4th centuries. Romans began with the growing of cultivated fruit trees, which were part of their daily menu (Komžík, 2007).
- The furthest bloom of fruit-growing was in the 16th and 17th centuries, when large orchards and gardens with fruit trees arose on feudal estatesand glebes. Huge expansion of agriculture started in 1800, including regions of production of fruit-growing (Myjava region – plums, Vestenicko – cherry trees, Bratislava and surrounding – vines, Sabinov – peaches, Trnava – apples, etc.).
- Modern intensive orchards began to be established from 1965, especially on the plains or slightly sloping land, mostly on sandy soils (Záhorie region, districts of Dunajská Streda, Nové Zámky and Komárno, and also on other suitable sites).
At present, the production of fruit in Slovakia is unbalanced. Registered intensive orchards constitute 0.25% of agricultural lands; other statistically recorded orchard areas are extensive.
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Horniak, V. (1992). Z dejín ovocinárstva na území Slovenska – II., Záhradníctvo 12.http://www.skgeodesy.sk/index.php?www=sp_file&id_item=9270
Kohút, F., Mojses, M., Kenderessy, P., Piscová, V.; Barančok, P.; Gerhártová, K.; Krajči, J.; Boltižiar, M. (2011). Inventory and classification of historical structures of the agricultural landscape in Slovakia. Ekológia (Bratislava), vol. 30, no. 2, 157-170.
Lieskovský, J., Bezák, P., Špulerová, J., Lieskovský, T., Koleda, P., Dobrovodská, M., Burgi, M., Gimmi, U. The abandonment of traditional agricultural landscape in Slovakia - analysis of extent and driving forces. In Journal of Rural Studies, 2015, vol. 37, p. 75-84.
Špulerová, J.; Dobrovodská, M.; Lieskovský, J.; Bača, A.; Halabuk, A.; Kohút, F., Mojses, M., Kenderessy, P., Piscová, V.; Barančok, P.; Gerhártová, K.; Krajči, J.; Boltižiar, M. (2011). Inventory and classification of historical structures of the agricultural landscape in Slovakia. Ekológia (Bratislava), vol. 30, no. 2, 157-170.
Špulerova, J., Dobrovodska, M., Štefunkova, D., Piscova, V., Petrovic, F.. Evolution of the traditional agricultural landscapes of Slovakia. In Environment and ecology in the Mediterranean region II. - Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2014, p. 133-145. ISBN (10): 1-4438-5538-3,: 1-4438-5538-3, (13. Available online: http://www.c-s-p.org/environment-and-ecology-in-the-mediterranean-region-ii-3)
Špulerová, J., Piscová, V., Gerhátová, K., Bača, A., Kalivoda, H., Kanka, R. Orchards as traces of traditional agricultural landscape in Slovakia. In Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, 2015, vol. 199, p. 67-76. ISSN 0167-8809.
- They were always extensively managed, as a part of mixed system, only few example of large scale - e.g. Gemer region.
Modern intensive orchards - large-block intensively-managed orchards, as a result of collectivisation of agriculture in the second half of 20th century
- a special soil condition (substrate)
prevailing cambisols (70.5%)
(rendzina 8.7%, ranker - 4.7%, pararendzinas - 4.8%, Fluvisol - 4.9%)
- a certain altitude: prevailing 300-700 m asl
(100-300 m - 10%, 300-500 m - 69%, 500-700 m - 19%, 700-900 m - 2%)
- climate: zone of middle latitudes - Continental region
- hydrology: -
- slope: prevailing 7-17o
0° - 1° - 2%, 1° - 3° 4.6%, 3° - 7° - 7.6%, 7° - 12° - 37.6%, 12° - 17° - 37.2%, 17° - 25° - 10.8%, 25° - 35° - 0.2%)
To study present land use, the three degrees of management intensity were determined based on the field survey and from aerial photos: (1) more than 70% of regularly managed mosaic, (2) 30-70% of occasionally or regularly managed but partly abandoned mosaics and (3) less than 30% of managed plots containing abandoned mosaics overgrown by shrubs and trees (Špulerova et al, 2015).
Result showed that 45.76% of traditional orchard landscape plots are still regularly managed. These are situated close to settlements and dispersed settlements, where fields are mostly managed by elderly residents who still live there and preserve their traditions and way of life.
The highest occurrence and at the same time the highest area was recorded for traditional orchard landscape with dominant grasslands (B) and traditional orchard landscape with dominant orchards (C). This indicates the decreasing trend in arable field management and conversion to grassland.
Abandonment of traditional farming remains the most significant threat to maintenance of traditional orchard landscapes. Other factors threatening preservation of traditional farming include (1) tourism which affects 5.79% of the traditional orchard landscapes and (2) house construction threatens 4.96% of the area especially in traditional orchard landscape with dominant grasslands.
a) building type
Hay-barn, barns - - farm building intended for storing hay, next to settlement.
Small loft - sometimes located in the orchard meadows for storing hay - due to their remoteness from the villages of mountainous terrain
b) production type
Species composition of orchards had changed through history and was specific in a given period. Except dominant plums, apple trees are also rather frequent; less frequent are pear trees, walnut trees, cherry trees and sour cherries. Other trees such as serviceberry, quince, mulberry, Mirabelle, and chestnut are rare. Old original cultivated varieties of fruit trees are a source of genetic species richness, but they are slowly disappearing from traditional orchards and gardens.
- jams, fruit juices, fruit pyre, fruit wine and alcohol, dried fruits
fruit production – distillery (more than 150 small or bigger operation/distilleries, cannery (16 in Slovakia) – large production factories or small farmers production
- Although individual orchard fruit tree composition was specific for a given period and region, some have altered over time. For instance, natural conditions in the Považský region are prerequisite for the special and extraordinary taste of Prunus sp. dominant in almost all orchards in that district, and cultivated there from ancient times (Hanušin et al., 2008). Other regions have a predominance of Malus domestica trees, with less frequent Pyrus communis, Juglans nigra and Cerasus sp. trees. Other trees including Mespilus amelanchier, Cydonia oblonga, Morus alba, Prunus domestica syriaca and Castanea sativa are relatively rare.
- The mosaic of traditional orchard landscape often consists of grassland and arable fields. Grassland management is associated with sheep, goat and cattle breeding which is still maintained in some areas, but on a much smaller scale than in the past (Galvanek et al., 2012).
- marketing, accessibility: fresh market, „sale from the yard“, e-shopping: box-shopping, web: „honest food“ – promotion of small farmers and their products
- Association – Fruit growing association were established to support fruit production. The oldest in Slovakia - was the Joint Association of Cherries (founded in 1796). Two hundred and eighty one agricultural associations with fruit-growing and 9 collective distilleries were established in Slovakia before 1918. The first Slovak Fruit-growing Society was established in September 1920. They were aimed at establishment of fruit nurseries, the training of breeders, to increase the level of fruit growing in the regions (Drábiková, 2011)
- nowadays – new civic association (e.g. PANGEA, TILIA, Zivica, Gemerské grúne) devoted to support the fruit growing and the conservation of old and regional varieties of fruit trees, management, traditional ecological knowledge, education and training
- aesthetic - Orchards as a characteristic land use elements in traditional orchard landscape significantly influence landscape scenery, improve its beauty.
- biodiversity - flowering plant species in orchards provide food for insects, they played a major role in biodiversity conservation and agro-ecosystem functions and form one of the crucial levels in the trophic pyramid and pollination service. The old orchards and surrounding meadows are important refuge for many birds, butterflies and moths species.
- inspiration in folklore – fruits mentioned in many folklore song (red apple, cherries, pear...)
- harvest festival in fruit-growing regions – to maintain tradition, more attractive for tourists (e.g. Apple festival “Jablkové hodovanie”)
- religious – „Harvest festival“ – thanksgiving festival in church, fruit decoration
- inspiration for artist – national collection of paintings
- enjoying orchards landscape - support for regional Agroturism related activities, selling regional products
- they are aware, proud of that type of landscape, but not very interested in traditional management due to financial reason (Lieskovský et al., 2015)
- Extensively managed orchards: 1348,0366 ha (www.uksup.sk) (22%). They are part of the traditional agricultural landscape; mostly forming mosaics interspersed with other land use forms including the permanent grassland and arable fields adjoining dispersed settlements.
- Intensively-managed orchards: 4837,0156 ha (78%) large scale orchards have been planted during collectivisation in the second half of the 20th century (high-stem orchards, low-stem orchards).
The Central Control and Testing Institute in Agriculture (Ústrený Kontrólny a Skúšobný Ústav Poľnohospodársky) in Bratislava registers operators in Slovakia and keeps updated register of orchards, engaged in growing fruit market on the area of 0.3 ha. The register is updated annually, particular:
- registration number of the orchard and its geographical location
- cultivated species
- varieties, including rootstocks, quantity of trees
- LPIS – land parcel identification system
- Exercises control of integrated production in the mid-term crop forecast
- agricultural technology of orchards in an integrated system of growing
- Determination of production potential of plantations of selected species of fruit
- Acquires medium-term estimates of the volume of production and market supply selected fruit crops
- Providing information to government administrations to decide on the granting of aid
- Carry out surveys on crop forecasts apples (by variety), pears, peaches
- Carry out surveys on the storage of apples and pears (by variety)
- Conduct surveys of actual harvests of fruit species in registered orchards
Traditional orchard landscapes were classified in five types based on the presence and dominance of land-use elements; as in Špulerová et al. (2011):
A.) Traditional orchard landscape with dominant arable land
B.) Traditional orchard landscape with dominant grasslands,
C.) Traditional orchard landscape with dominant orchards,
D.) Traditional orchard landscape with arable land, grasslands and orchards – none of the land use form is dominant
E.) Traditional orchards – created by mosaic of dominant orchards