NIB completes successful co-operation in FARMA project

National Institute of Biology is completing a very successful collaboration in the four-year project FARMA (Fostering Agricultural Markets Activity), which is carried out in Bosnia and Herzegovina by an international development consulting firm Chemonics International. Project is financed by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). It aims at improving competitiveness of BiH agricultural producers and agricultural businesses including opening opportunities for export to EU. In the area of potato production this also requires proving the absence of quarantine potato diseases, brownand ring rot of potatoes.

Experts at NIB have longstanding experience in the field of plant pathogens diagnostics. Department of Biotechnology and Systems Biology, headed by Maja Ravnikar, are involved in official potato monitoring, conducted by The Administration of the Republic of Slovenia for food safety, veterinary and plant protection with other authorized institutions, from the very beginning. We test potato samples for quarantine bacteria and provide scientific and expert support to Slovenian NPPO. Our expertise is recognized at home and internationally, where we actively cooperate with partners in developing novel diagnostic methods and research of pathogens' biology and organize hands-on trainings (e.g. . "qPCR Experience® workshops in Plant Pathology" in cooperation with BioSistemika). Increasingly we offer our expertise as co-operators, auditors and advisors to international organizations i.e. Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) of the European Commission and the European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organization (EPPO).


Our expertise and professionalism has also been recognized by the FARMA project in BIH and Tanja Dreo, our specialist in plant bacterial diseases, has been contracted by Orgut, a Swedish consulting company which support Chemonics International in implementation of FARMA, for assessment of phytosanitary laboratories in BIH and as advisor for strengthening of their capacity. Dr. Tanja Dreo therefore visited laboratories in BiH for laboratory assessments of phytosanitary laboratories, conducted trainings and provided advice on the organization of testing for quarantine potato diseases and performed a training course on quality assurance.

In the frame of establishing a system of testing for potato quarantine bacteria in BiH the National Institute of Biology conducted two five-day, intensive hands-on training courses (Figure 1) on detection and identification methods for brown rot (Figure 2) and ring rot (Figure 3). We have also organized two proficiency tests for participating laboratories.

The success of the project is shown in the successful implementation of monitoring of potatoes in Bosnia and Herzegovina, successful proficiency tests and joint publications reporting on implementation and results of potato monitoring.

Figure 1: Participants and trainers of the 2012 five day training course on identification and confirmation of bacteria causing brown and ring rot.

Figure 2: Browning of vascular tissue with bacterial ooze on potato tuber infected with Ralstonia solanacearum.Figure 3: Browning and rotting of the vascular tissue in advanced stages of infection with Clavibacter michiganensis subsp. sepedonicus (potato ring rot)

From the Departement of Biotechnology and Systems Biology headed by Maja Ravnikar, the following participated:

· Dr. Tanja Dreo, as a consultant and trainer in BIH and trainer in Slovenia, (tanja.dreo@nib.si)

· Dr. Manca Pirc, Lidia Matičič and Špela Prijatelj Novak as trainers in Slovenia (manca.pirc@nib.si; lidija.maticic@nib.si; spela.prijatelj.novak@nib.si)