Poland is an important producer of fruits. It produces yearly over 4 million tons of 12 fruit species, among them 3.5 million tons apples, and over 600 thousand tons of soft fruits. Nearly one million tons of apples is exported. The rest is consumed in the country and processed to concentrated juice and exported. About 60 % of soft fruits are frozen and also exported. Concerning export of processed fruit, Poland plays unique role in Europe. Production is done mainly in small farms situated among natural environment thus the fruits are free from admixture and healthy.
The main scientific centre developing innovative directions in fruit production in Poland is Research Institute of Horticulture at Skierniewice near Warsaw. Its research programme covers all areas related to fruit, vegetable, ornamental plant and bee sciences, from basic studies on physiology, biochemistry and molecular biology, through biotechnology, creative breeding, protection of genetic resources, agronomy, plant pathology, fruit and vegetable storage and processing, food safety, horticultural engineering, economics and marketing.
Its research programme covers all areas related to fruit, vegetable, ornamental plant and bee sciences, from basic studies on physiology, biochemistry and molecular biology, through biotechnology, creative breeding, protection of genetic resources, agronomy, plant pathology, fruit and vegetable storage and processing, food safety, horticultural engineering, economics and marketing. Since all of the fruit and many vegetable plants are entomophilous and require bees for pollination, bee science was also included in the Institute’s programme.
According to Prof. Ryszard Holownicki, more than 200 new varieties of fruit plants and vegetables have been grown at the Research Institute of Horticulture (INHORT) in Skierniewice. Approx. 7 percent of apple varieties in Polish orchards, 40-50 percent of cabbage, onions and peppers and more than 70 percent of raspberry varieties are the varieties obtained at the Institute.
The Institute also takes part in several governmental research programmes on food safety, integrated and organic fruit and vegetable production, protection of genetic resources and in campaigns aimed at changing nutritional habits of the Polish consumers toward increased consumption of fruits and vegetables. Due to active extension and implementation programmes and close cooperation with major stakeholders, the Institute has contributed in a large extent to the development of horticultural production in Poland.
Besides research, the Institute is also involved in commercial activities, especially in food analysis. Several Institute’s laboratories has ISO/IEC 17025 and/or GLP certificates and perform analysis (pesticide residues, heavy metals, nitrites and nitrates and mycotoxins) for food producers and wholesalers. It is estimated that Institute’s laboratories have 50% share of commercial food analysis market in Poland.
The Institute actively participates in building European Research Area. Cooperative links have been established with most of the horticultural research centres and clusters in Europe and several joint research project, co-financed by European Commission and other international organisations, were initiated. At present, the Institute is involved in four projects within 7th Framework Programme and in several others within Central European, LIFE and COST programmes and in bilateral projects financed by respective governments within agreements on cooperation in science and technology. Besides, the Institute is an active member of the European Fruit Research Institutes Network (EUFRIN). In Poland, the Institute is a coordinator of Centre of Advanced Technologies “AgroTech”, which is a cluster of three universities, two R&D Institutes and four commercial enterprises aiming at developing and implementing innovative technologies in Polish agri-food industry and of a network “Agroengineering for sustainable development of agri-food industry and rural areas”. It is also a founding member of Polish Food Technology Platform.