It is geographically diverse, with flat plains along the Hungarian border, and low mountains and highlands near the Adriatic coast. The coastline includes numerous islands. According to Koeppens classification, the climate is of temperate type with mild winters and dry summers along the coast; inland, where the influence of the Adriatic Sea ceases, there are hot summers and cold winters.
Arable land and permanent crops cover 1.6 million ha, permanent pastures cover 1.6 million ha, and forests and woodlands cover 2.1 million ha.
The main crop species planted include maize, wheat, potatoes, barley, soybeans, sugar beet, and sunflower. The country reported 100% use of improved seed varieties for these crops. Production includes also alfalfa, clover, olive, citrus, grape, fruit and vegetables.
Average daily available calorie supply per caput in 1995-97 was 2 455. The labour force participation ratio of women to men was 0.8 in 1998.
In agricultural exports, Croatia has become the largest exporter of tobacco of the region; other exports include grains, vegetables and fruits.
Agriculture is varied, reflecting the countrys geographical diversity, with cultivated lowland regions, mountainous regions in which pasture predominates, and coastal areas where viticulture and fruit and olive production are prominent. The agricultural sector was severely disrupted by the prolonged period of civil strife, resulting in considerable decline of wheat, maize and sugar beet production. Livestock production was equally affected. The government introduced reforms aiming at improving the macro-economics of the country and policy stability; loans to farmers boosted the programme for the renewal of agricultural machinery. Free trade agreements were signed with neighbouring countries, benefiting the agricultural sector.
Agricultural land was either privately owned or belonged to large cooperatives. The latter are being re-structured, privatized and assigned to a large number of small farmers. Part-time farming is very common (70% of all farms). The privatization process is making slow progress due to the need to reconcile land books and cadastral records. Letting of privately owned land is rather common.
Plant breeding and research is organized in eight institutions and enterprises (public and private) at Zagreb, Osijek and Krizevci, with a total of 56 breeding experts. The main crop species bred are maize, barley, soybean, sunflower, alfalfa and tobacco. Some breeding centres maintain collections of landraces and primitive varieties for breeding purposes. The national plant breeding programme includes improvement of local varieties and adaptation of imported germplasm to local needs. Croatia has applied to become a member of UPOV.
Variety testing, evaluation, registration and release
Variety evaluation follows field and laboratory testing, and usually requires a period of three years. The agency responsible for variety testing and registration is the Institute for Seed and Seedlings in Osijek. There is an extensive National List that comprises varieties already in the list of Yugoslavia. Separate lists have also been created for foreign and locally bred varieties. Varieties are released by the Committee for Releasing New Varieties of the Ministry of Agriculture.
Seed production is an active subsector, with 28 institutions and enterprises in the country. Local varieties are of relatively poor calibre when compared to those of international companies. Yield is usually much lower and the seed quality often deficient. The better vegetable growers use Italian and Dutch hybrid seed where and when available. The loss of the most productive land in the eastern part of the country, due to war, has led to a reduction in seed supply, especially for the production of sugar beet, soybean and sunflower. The country reported 35 seed processing and storage plants.
Seed quality control
The Ministry of Agriculture uses 19 authorized laboratories to carry out seed quality control testing of certified seed for varieties on the National Registration List and available for sale. Regulations for seed quality standards, packing and official certification were last updated in 1999 (NN 133). Croatia is affiliated to ISTA and participates in four OECD Schemes (Herbage and Oil Seed; Cereals; Beet; Maize and Sorghum). The rules followed for testing include ISTA rules. Officials of the Ministry of Agriculture Inspection Department collect seed samples of 10% of seed traded and send them to the SISS Seed Testing Laboratory for examination. For vegetatively propagated material, samples are collected only in case of doubt.
Plant genetic resources
The Ministry of Science and Technology supports PGR activities. A section for rare, vulnerable and protected plant species has been established under the Croatian Plant Genebank project.
Ex situ conservation in Croatia has a long tradition and many of the landraces have been used in breeding programmes. Alojz Tavcar, professor at the Faculty of Agriculture in Zagreb, established a wide collection of traditional varieties of cereal and legume crops in 1921. The Yugoslav Plant Genebank was established in 1987. The work was organized in groups. The programmes for cereals, legumes and brassicas were led by the scientists from the Faculty of Agriculture in Zagreb. A part of collected and processed material has been sent to the Yugoslav Plant Genebank. Croatia (within former Yugoslavia) contributed 35% of the financial support of the Yugoslav Plant Genebank (circa US$ 500 000/year) in the period from 1987 to 1991, but following the civil upheaval, the former federal facility, located in Belgrade, is no longer available. Thus, the Yugoslav Plant Genebank still holds a valuable collection of Croatian PGR, which are not accessible by Croatian geneticists and breeders.
In 1991, the Ministry of Science and Technology, in coordination with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of the Republic of Croatia, initiated the Croatian Plant Genebank - (HBBG) project under leadership of the Department for Plant Breeding, Genetics and Biometrics, Faculty of Agriculture, University of Zagreb. The main aim of the project is to collect, characterize and evaluate local landraces, as well as related wild species, and to make them available to the agricultural community.