The history and activities of the Institute of Plant Protection – National Research Institute
in years 1951–2022
In 1816, the Institute of Rural and Forest Management was founded in Marymont, Warsaw. The date of its establishment is considered to mark the beginning of research on plant protection in Poland. The Institute has also been operating as an institution of higher education. lt was the first institution to collect data on the occurrence of diseases and pests in fields and forests.
In 1861, the Marymont Institute was closed down, its staff and equipment moved to Puławy. There, the Institute of Agriculture and Forestry was established, renamed the Institute of Rural Economy in 1869. Once Poland regained independence in 1918, it began to restore its scientific and other structures. One major centre of agricultural sciences was the National Research Institute for Rural Economy in Puławy. However, World War II interrupted its research work. Once the war was over, research was resumed. In 1946, the Puławy facility produced its first book titled "Plant Protection". lts research focused on the protection of orchards, corn, rape, corn storages, flax and potatoes. At the time, potato growing was a vital part of the national economy. However, in 1950, potato growers were confronted with their first major threat posed by a previously unknown pest potato beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata Say). The response to this threat led to the establishment of the Institute of Plant Protection (IPP).
On 8 January 1951, the National Research Institute of Rural Economy was dissolved by a resolution of the Council of Ministers. Six scientific and research institutes were established in its place. The Resolution was subsequently amended by the Act of 15 December 1951 on the school system and scientific staff, and by Resolution No. 33 of the Cabinet of 24 January 1951, on the organisation of agricultural science. The Institute of Plant Protection was then created, reporting to the Minister of Agriculture.
The Institute was vested with a wide range of responsibilities having to do with disease, pest and weed control and prevention in agricultural crops, gardening, as well as the protection of crops in storage. Even then, ecological research on changes to agriculture was believed to be necessary in view of the use of new methods of plant protection.
The first headquarters of the newly-established Institute of Plant Protection was in Puławy. Soon afterwards, in 1952, the HQ was moved to Warsaw. Zdzisław Dąbrowski, M.Sc., was appointed its director. In 1955–1956, the post of director was held by Klementyna Stępniewska, M.Sc. From autumn 1956 until the end of 1988, the Institute was led by Prof. Władysław Węgorek. Professor Węgorek took leadership of the Institute after the Minister of Agriculture moved the lnstitute's headquarters to Poznań by Order No. 232 of 25 October 1956. In its early days, the Institute had a complicated structure, in terms of both, location and research. lts departments were scattered all over Poland, while its research programme was poorly designed. Professor Węgorek took up the challenge of reorganising the Institute. In addition to the strong team in Poznań, other IPP departments were established in Bydgoszcz, Wrocław, Pszczyna (transferred to Sośnicowice near Gliwice in 1955) and Reguły near Warsaw. The Institute of Plant Protection started to flourish. In 1963, it acquired a farm in Winna Góra and established an Agricultural Experimental Plant there. Currently, the Institute maintains a Field Experimental Station where important research is conducted, including that focused on the pre-registration of plant protection products.
On 14 December 1956, the first history meeting of the Scientific Council of the Institute of Plant Protection took place in Warsaw. The Council was appointed and approved by the Minister of Agriculture. In the 1970s, the Institute was authorised to review first and second degree doctoral dissertations and confer the related degrees.
Professor Węgorek built up, organised and led the IPP for 32 years. He deserves credit for having the Institute recognised nationally and internationally for its contributions to plant protection. Upon his retirement in 1989, Prof. Węgorek was replaced by Prof. Stefan Pruszyński, who remained in the post until 2007. One of the greatest projects of the Institute at the time was to construct the IOR Hotel & Congress Center, which started to operate in 1999. The Congress Center became a significant part of the lnstitute's training and conference activities. In order to follow the modern research trends and meet the needs of Polish plant protection and agriculture, Professor Pruszyński thoroughly revamped the lnstitute's organisation and infrastructure. Under his management, the Bank of Pathogens and the lnter-Departmental Laboratory of Molecular Biology were set up.
The subsequent directors of the Institute: Professor Marek Mrówczyński (2007–2012) and Professor Danuta Sosnowska (2012–2017) continued the work started by their predecessors while adapting the Institute to address new challenges faced by Polish agriculture, especially since Poland joined the European Union. Thanks to the endeavours of Prof. Mrówczyński and Prof. Sosnowska, the street at which the Institute is located was renamed Węgorka Street as a tribute to its founder and director.
By Order of the Council of Ministers of 8 April 2008, the Institute of Plant Protection was granted the status of a National Research Institute (NRI) (Journal of Laws of 21 April 2008, No. 66, item 403). In 2009, the Research Centre of Quarantine, lnvasive and Genetically Modified Organisms was launched as part of the IPP. This modern and unique unit met the highest phytosanitary standards as put in place by the Order of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. The year 2010 marked the establishment of the IPP – NRI Plant Disease Clinic, dealing mainly with detecting plant diseases for phytosanitary service providers and agricultural producers.
The first Scientific Session of the Institute of Plant Protection was held in 1961. Ever since that year, this significant event has been held annually. lts sessions are attended by experts from many Polish and foreign scientific organisations, the staff of state agencies, advisory services and individuals. Throughout the 60-year history of the Scientific Sessions of the IPP – NRI, a total of 4,500 posters and 2,200 papers were presented.
The Institute is also actively disseminating the results of its activities and research. Together with the Committee on Agronomic Sciences of the Polish Academy of Sciences and the Polish Association of Plant Protection, the Institute publishes two scientific quarterlies: The Journal of Plant Protection Research (in English) and Progress in Plant Protection (in Polish). lt also puts out numerous other scientific and popular and awareness-raising periodicals.
After 2017, the Institute was managed by Jacek Piszczek, Ph.D., Assoc. Prof. (from March 2017 to July 2017) and Prof. Bożena Łozowicka (from July 2017 to November 2018) and Prof. Marek Mrówczyński (from November 2018 to September 2021). Since September 2021, the director of the Institute has been Roman Kierzek, Ph.D., Assoc. Prof.
During the 70 years in operation, the Institute has significantly advanced plant protection in Poland by drawing up, organising and introducing, among others:
· a system of collecting information on the occurrence of diseases and pests in the whole country;
· a system of monitoring residues and quality control of plant protection products, as well as technical concentrates;
· application of biological methods of plant protection;
· programmes of agricultural plant protection against pests, causal diseases and weeds;
· a methodology of integrated plant protection for producers and advisers;
· methods of restoration of areas affected by industry for agricultural use;
· strategies of combating the resistance of selected pest species, pathogens and weeds to plant protection products;
· innovative methods of identification of pests by applying molecular biology and modern equipment;
· methods of forecasting and signalling pests, and systems of supporting decisions relating to plant protection;
· innovative analytical methods of designating the residues of plant protection products;
· recommendations regarding chemical pest control.
Since 2006, IPP – NRI has been implementing the Multiannual Programme and Special-purpose Subsidy "Crop protection to ensure food safety and reduce crop losses and threats to human health, pets and the environment" approved by the Council of Ministers. The programmes include key tasks relating to plant protection that are deemed to be of strategic significance for the Ministry. The programmes are implemented in keeping with European Union law (e.g. Directive 2009/128 establishing a framework for Community action to achieve the sustainable use of pesticides).
The beneficiaries of the Institute include the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the State Plant Health and Seed lnspection, agricultural consultancies, agricultural producers and European Union institutions (e.g. the statistical office of the European Union – EUROSTAT). EU countries have reported significant reductions in the use of chemicals for plant protection. Since 2014, integrated plant protection has been in force throughout the EU, giving priority to protection methods based on the use of biological products, plant varieties that are resistant to or tolerant of pests, complete agrotechnology, avoiding corner cutting and monocultures, and, only as a last resort, the use of chemical products, but in the lowest possible doses and with a view to protecting beneficial organisms and the environment.
In 2020, the European Commission passed two strategies: "From Farm to Fork" and "EU Biodiversity strategy for 2030''. which build on earlier guidelines and establish the 2030 target date by which EU countries are expected to reduce the use of plant protection products by 50% and increase the share of farmland used for organic farming to 25%. The IPP – NRI is committed to doing relevant research to address all these new trends. For this purpose, two new research units have been established: the Department of Organic Agriculture and Environmental Protection and the Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology.
Currently, IPP – NRI employs 230 staff members, including over 70 scientists working out of its nine scientific departments in Poznań and Sośnicowice and in the Regional Experimental Stations in Białystok, Toruń and Rzeszów. Winna Góra is the site of the Agricultural Experimental Department and Field Experimental Station.
Staff members have always been the lnstitute's biggest asset. Their research, much of which has been ground-breaking, is a valuable contribution to the advancement of plant protection in Poland and has been continued for generations. The findings of the research conducted by the IPP – NRl's staff have been of fundamental importance for progress in many agricultural sciences. The development of the Institute and its future is associated with the activities of young scientists who are well-prepared to work for the benefit of Polish agriculture.