Arable crop experts help farmers in Moldova

Crop plots are to be established in Moldova, Europe’s poorest country, as experts from Britain’s National Institute of Agricultural Botany strive to improve the country’s farming.

The scientists will visit Moldova early in 2008 to establish an agricultural aid site in the former Communist-run country, which is sandwiched between new EU state Romania and westward-looking Ukraine.

Moldova suffered its worst heatwave in living memory during the 2007 summer, when wells that are the main source of water dried up for the first time in 70 years.

The four-man NIAB team from Cambridge, headed by chief executive Prof Wayne Powell, are being given a 2ha plot of land in the village of Burlacu. The aim is to transform it into a productive agricultural site to demonstrate how different crops can be grown successfully throughout the year.

The initiative is being organised by the charity Central and Eastern European Ministries (CEEM), whose Secretary John Law, a former NIAB scientist, says the Moldovan region is desperately in need of agricultural aid. It has little expertise and limited access to improved cultivars or sources of seed to plant new crops.

The team plans to set up poly-tunnels in the village, which has a population of 1,200, and establish a mini research site to show how various crops can be grown to provide food over a longer growing season for example cabbage, which can be produced throughout the year, as well as maize, peppers, tomatoes and sweetcorn.

Prof Powell says he is looking forward to helping Moldovans in this hands-on project which will make a real difference to their lives, helping them to produce healthy crops, as well as providing advice and sponsorship in the poorest European country.

The region suffers from a lost generation of 30-50 year olds who have moved to other countries to work, leaving their young children and elderly parents behind, adds Mr Law.

“This is a very important visit to promote self sufficiency in crop production, regardless of climatic conditions. We are also hoping NIAB’s high profile support will encourage other organisations and seed companies to follow suit and offer sponsorship too.

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