Institute and activities of the Institute of Plant Protection – National Research Institute in years 1951–2019
In 1816 the Institute of Rural and Forestry Economy was established in Marymont, Warsaw, a date considered to be the beginning of scientific research in the scope of plant protection in Poland. It acted as a school of higher education. This was the facility where for the first time information on the occurrence of diseases and pests in fields and forests was collected.
In 1861, the Institute in Marymont was closed down, and the personnel and equipment were moved to Puławy. There, the Institute of Agriculture and Forestry was opened the name of which was changed to the Institute of Rural Economy in 1869. With winning the independence by Poland in 1918, the national structures, including the scientific ones, started to reconstruct. An important centre of agricultural sciences was the National Research Institute of Rural Economy in Puławy. However, the World War II interrupted the research conducted there. Once the war was over, the research was commenced anew. In 1946, the first book “Plant Protection” was drawn up in Puławy. The research focused on the protection of orchards, corn, rape, corn storages, flax and potatoes. Growing potatoes constituted a significant element in the national economy then. But in 1950, the growth of potato was for the first time endangered by the unknown pest potato beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata Say). The consequences of its actions contributed to the development of the Institute of Plant Protection.
On 8 January 1951, the National Research Institute of Rural Economy was dissolved by the resolution of the Council of Ministers. Six scientific and research institutes were established instead. The above act was then changed by the Act of 15 December 1951, on school system and scientific employees, and by the resolution No. 33 of the Cabinet of 24 January 1951, on the organisation of agricultural science. Subsequently, the Institute of Plant Protection (IOR) was created and it reported to the Minister of Agriculture.
The Institute was assigned vast and multidirectional tasks aiming at the prevention of the occurrence and combat of diseases, pests and weeds in agricultural crops, gardening, as well as the protection of stored crops. Already then, the ecological research on the changes in the agriculture was believed to be necessary due to the application of different methods of plant protection.
The first headquarters of the newly-established Institute of Plant Protection was in Puławy but already by 1952 it was moved to Warsaw. Zdzisław Dąbrowski, MA was appointed its director. In years 1955–1956 the function of the director was held by Klemnetyna Stępniewska, MA, and from autumn 1956 till the end of 1988, the Institute was led by Władysław Węgorek, Ph.D. Prof. Węgorek took over the leadership of the Institute once the decision of the Minister of Agriculture by Order No. 232 of 25 October 1956 was made as to move the directorate of the Institute to Poznań. At the beginning, the Institute had a complicated structure, in terms of both, location and research. The particular departments were scattered all over Poland, and the research programme was not constructed properly. Professor Węgorek took up the challenge to organise the Institute. Apart from the strong team in Poznań, other IOR departments were established: in Bydgoszcz, Wrocław, Pszczyna (from 1955 transferred to Sośnicowice in the vicinity of Gliwice) and Reguły in the vicinity of Warsaw. The Institute of Plant Protection started to flourish intensively. In 1963 it took over the farm in Winna Góra and established an Agricultural Experiment Plant there. Currently, there is also a Field Experiment Station of the Institute there, and important research, including that focused on the pre-registration of plant protection products, is conducted.
On 14 December 1956 the first historic meeting of the IOR Scientific Council took place in Warsaw, which was appointed and approved by the Minister of Agriculture. In the 70s it was granted the qualifications to review and accept Ph.D. and habilitation theses.
Professor Węgorek was building, organising and leading the IOR for 32 years. It was him who won recognition for the Institute in the scope of plant protection nationally and abroad. When Prof. Węgorek retired, Professor Stefan Pruszyński, Ph.D., took over his position in 1989, and continued to do so till 2007. One of the greatest investments of the Institute then was the construction of the Congress Centre – Hotel IOR which started to operate in 1999. The Congress Centre became a significant part of the Institute organising trainings, courses and conferences. In order to follow the modern research trends fulfilling the needs of the Polish plant protection and Polish agriculture, Professor Pruszyński made many changes in the Institute, both in its organisation and infrastructure. During the period of his service, the Bank of Pathogens and the Inter-Company Laboratory of Molecular Biology were created.
The following IOR directors, Professor Marek Mrówczyński, Ph.D. (2007–2012) and Professor. Danuta Sosnowska, Ph.D. (2012–2017) – continued the work started by their predecessors and simultaneously adapted the Institute to the implementation of new challenges the Polish agriculture had to face, especially once Poland joined the structure of the European Union. Thanks to the endeavours of Prof. Mrówczyński and Prof. Sosnowska, the name of the street where the Institute is situated was changed into Węgorka Street, thus paying tribute to its creator and director.
By Order of the Council of Ministers of 8 April 2008, the Institute of Plant Protection was granted the status of the National Research Institute (NRI) (Journal of Laws of 21 April 2008, No. 66, item 403). In 2009, the Research Centre of Quarantine, Invasive and Genetically Modified Organisms started to be active within the IOR. It is a modern and unique unit fulfilling the highest standards of phytosanitary standards determined by the Order of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. In 2010 the IOR Plant Disease Clinic was established, dealing mainly with the research on the diagnostics of plant diseases for phytosanitary services and agricultural producers.
The first IOR Scientific Session was organised in 1961. Ever since, this significant event takes place annually. Specialists from different Polish and foreign scientific centres, employees of state agencies, advisory services and individual recipients take part in the sessions. Throughout the 50-year-long history of the IOR Scientific Session a total of 4,000 posters and 2,200 papers were presented.
The Institute is also very active disseminating the results of its activities and research. Together with the Committee on Agronomy Sciences of the Polish Academy of Sciences and Polish Association of Plant Protection, the Institute issues two scientific quarterlies: Journal of Plant Protection Research (in English) and Progress in Plant Protection (in Polish). Besides, numerous scientific, popular and dissemination periodicals are published.
After 2017, the Institute was managed by Jacek Piszczek, Ph.D., Assoc. Prof. (from March 2017 to July 2017) and Prof. Bożena Łozowicka, Ph.D. (from July 2017 to November 2018). Since November 2018, Prof. Marek Mrówczyński, Ph.D. has been the director of the Institute.
During the 65 years of its activities, the Institute has significantly influenced the development of the plant protection in Poland by drawing up, organising and introducing among others:
From 2006, IOR – PIB has been implementing the Multiannual Programme “Crop plant protection with consideration of food safety and of limiting losses in crops and threats for the health of the human race, pets and environment” approved by the Council of Ministers. The programme includes the most important tasks in the scope of plant protection and has a strategic meaning for the Ministry. Its implementation is based on legal acts of the European Union (for example Directive 2009/128 establishing the framework of actions of the Community for the benefit of a balanced application of pesticides). To the recipients of the Institute belong the following: Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, State Plant Health and Seed Inspection, centres of agricultural advisory, agricultural producers and entities of the European Union (e.g. the statistical office of the European Union – EUROSTAT).
Currently, there are 250 employees at the IOR – PIB, including over 100 scientists in eight departments in Poznań, Sośnicowice and in the Regional Experiment Stations in Białystok, Toruń and Reszów. In Winna Góra there is the Agricultural Experiment Department and Field Experiment Station.
It is the employees that have always been the foundation of the Institute. Their research, often of pioneer nature, constitutes valuable contribution to the development of plant protection in Poland and has been continued by generations. The results of the research conducted by the IOR employees have had a fundamental meaning to the progress of many agricultural sciences. The development of the Institute and its future is associated with the activities of young scientists well prepared for work to the benefit of the Polish agriculture.