LSU AgCenter
Go Local
   Headline News
 Home>News Archive>2014>October>Headline News>

Faculty from Czech university visit AgCenter

News Release Distributed 10/27/14

BATON ROUGE, La. – Faculty from one of the LSU AgCenter’s newest international partners, Mendel University in the Czech Republic, visited Baton Rouge Oct. 20-24.

Mendel University Faculty of Horticulture Dean Robert Pokluda and Vice Dean for International Relations Ivo Ondrášek met with AgCenter administrators and faculty to discuss ways to move forward with a memorandum of understanding the two institutions signed in July. The AgCenter, LSU College of Agriculture and Mendel University are also planning student and faculty exchange programs.

Pokluda and Ondrášek were the featured speakers at the Oct. 23 Global Agriculture Hour, an event sponsored by AgCenter International Programs that highlights the significance of international activities to Louisiana agriculture.

“This is an exciting new relationship,” said David Picha, director of AgCenter International Programs. “We’re working to establish a wider footprint of the LSU AgCenter in Central and Eastern Europe. We look forward to a long-term relationship with Mendel University.”

Mendel University is named after the “father of genetics,” Gregor Mendel, and is located in Brno, the second-largest city in the Czech Republic. Pokluda said the university has about 10,000 students, with about 1,200 in the Faculty of Horticulture. Four other faculties include agronomy, forestry, economics and international studies.

About 100,000 people, or 2.3 percent of the economically active population, work in agriculture in the Czech Republic, Ondrášek said. Agriculture makes up 1.8 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.

Those numbers may decline further because the Czech agriculture industry is struggling to hire enough workers. Most Czechs are not interested in working in agriculture, Pokluda said, so farms tend to hire from countries such as Mongolia.

Still, the Czech Republic is a leader in Europe and the world for several crops and products, such as poppy seed, rapeseed and cereal grains, Ondrášek said. That positions Mendel, the only agriculture university in the Czech Republic, as an important institution.

Gardening and landscaping are also a key area of focus at Mendel. Faculty members conduct research on plant diseases, breed new ornamental annuals and perennials, and teach landscape architecture.

“We have unique conditions for horticulture because of climate, and also because of history,” Pokluda said. “Aristocratic families established agriculture and horticulture in the countryside.”

Preserving the beauty of the countryside is now a concern, Pokluda said. Mendel recently established a Department of Landscape Planning to train people to work with the public in order to maintain landscapes.

Agriculture in the Czech Republic is deeply tied to its own traditions and culture, but its products are noted worldwide. For example, 90 percent of Czech poppy seeds are exported, making the country the world’s No. 1 producer of poppy seeds. Ondrášek said this is because they have low alkaloid content and higher quality.

Poppy seeds play a major role in Czech cuisine, particularly in pastries called kolache.

Another strong point is wine, Ondrášek said. About 20,000 hectares – or nearly 50,000 acres – are used for viticulture in the Czech Republic. Two specialties are ice wine and straw wine, both of which have high sugar content and pleasant aromas but are expensive, he said.

Olivia McClure

Last Updated: 10/27/2014 12:34:00 PM

Have a question or comment about the information on this page?
Click here to contact us.