CEEM Report for NIAB Trust 2017 - by John Law and Mike Day
We visited Moldova again from the 20th to the 27th of April. Every year we subtitle the visit “Expect the Unexpected.” This year was no exception, and we arrived in the middle of the worst April snowstorm they had experienced in 120 years!
It snowed heavily for 36 hours and up to 18” accumulated, blocking roads, breaking trees which were in full leaf, severing electricity wires and damaging many polythene tunnels. We were trapped in Chisinau for a day but managed to get out the next day and quickly caught up.
After last year’s problems with getting seed, donated in the UK, through customs, we took it with us this time in excess baggage. As usual, we purchased some extra seed for distribution at the seminar in Chisinau. At our main destination at Burlacu the electricity was cut off for our entire stay – and some nights were chilly!
Our main test site at Hirtop again looked well. Tomatoes cv Gravitet were a little later than usual. Mini Cucumbers cv SV4097CV had started harvest.
Heating remains a problem. We contributed towards a new boiler for one tunnel last year and that is working well. The second tunnel is heated by a homemade solid fuel stove which needs stoking at hourly intervals all through the night so Oleg actually sleeps in the tunnel during the critical period.
Oleg had tested Asparagus, several Tomato varieties, & Aubergines which were reported at the Seminar. Data has been collected for next year’s Seminar.
Our transport manager, Igor, has invested in a mobile Steam Sterilization system for glasshouse and polythene tunnel soil sterilization. This is the first such system in Moldova since the departure of the Russians. He has carried out trials on a number of crops and at several sites. The Ministry of Agriculture are interested and have paid to have some of their tunnels treated. We donated money to pay for further trials and demonstrations.
Igor is also researching the addition of Trichoderma fungi to the soil to replace any beneficial organisms that are killed by the steaming.
Last year we trained locals at two locations to identify and collect plants of Gromwell Lithospermum arvense, for which NIAB are involved in a joint breeding programme. One collected a large quantity of seed from a blue-flowered variety which will need evaluating. Small quantities were collected from white-flowered plants at the other location but once again itinerant sheep flocks make it difficult to protect marked plants through to harvest.
Some of the small tunnels donated by NIAB in 2008 are still in use. Others have been replaced by larger tunnels
A new drying plant has been opened in Burlacu with “state of the art” equipment. We were given a tour and discussed the possibility of exports to the UK.
Beekeeping is becoming popular and we visited one man with 120 hives. He has been to Germany to study methods and is changing to a new system of grouping hives in sets of four with the ability to add extra sections when necessary. He produced between 2 and 3 tons of honey last year.
We held the Agricultural Seminar in Burlacu. There were five speakers:
1. Angela Zimmerman an American volunteer soil scientist based in Vadul lui Isac who explained the projects she has undertaken.
2. Igor Hmelic talked about his steam sterilization business.
3. Oleg Taralunga described his glasshouse set up and seed he has tested.
4. John Law talked about “Possible New Horticultural Activities” including Super hot chilies, Honey, Iris multiplication and Dried fruit following his link with “Edible Ornamentals” at Chawston.
5. I spoke about the seed we were distributing after the seminar.
Over 50 people attended which was the best attendance we have had, possibly boosted by being a holiday and having no power at home? There was a good atmosphere and plenty of questions.