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FAO

Country report Bulgaria

GREENHOUSE CROP DEVELOPMENT IN BULGARIA
Dr. Stojka Masheva, Dr. Christo Simidchiev
Maritsa Vegetable Crops Research Institute, Plovdiv, Bulgaria

1. BULGARIA - General information

Geographical position: 44°13` - 41°13` N and 22°22` - 28°37`E
Total area 110 910 km2
Population 8.15 million
Climate temperate-continental
Capital city Sofia

Vegetable production

Bulgaria is a country with a long tradition in vegetable production. Due to transitional difficulties the agricultural production has declined, and yield decreased. In 2002 the vegetables occupied 136 677 ha and the vegetable production was 1 583 480 tons.
Now Bulgaria is consolidating the economy and agriculture.

Protected cultivation

Climatic and social-economic conditions in Bulgaria are favourable for development of protected cultivation as a specific branch of the agriculture.

The protected cultivation in Bulgaria was started in 1931 when the first "winter garden" for vegetables has been built on the basis of the warm mineral springs.
Seventeen hectares of glasshouses, using mineral water for heating were built during the period 1955 - 1964. The large-scale building was carried out during 1964 - 1985 when 810 ha glasshouses VENLO type, heated with mazut and 1500 ha unheated plastic greenhouses were built.

Energy crisis after 1978 had an effect on protected cultivation and it was reduced to minimum after political and social and economic changes since 1989.
At the present time approximately 650 ha of glasshouse and 700 ha of plastic greenhouses work.

Problems of protected cultivation in Bulgaria

The main problems of protected cultivation are as follows:

  • Moral and physical ageing of the equipment.
  • High power consumption of the greenhouse production.
  • Low yields and high production cost price.
  • Drastic decrease of the export.
  • Slow development of organisation structures for integration of the producers, training and scientific service.
  • Lack of facilitated financing and crediting of the production.
Basis for development of strategy for protected cultivation.

There are several factors, which determine the strategy for development in social and economic conditions of Bulgaria.
  • Climatic
  • Energy (power sources).
  • Scientific and staff potential.
  • Experience and traditions.
  • Market realisation.
  • Government programme.
Climatic factors

Climatic conditions in Bulgaria are favourable for development of the protected cultivation. Bulgaria is in the zone of moderate continental climate with turning cold weather in the spring that turns the early and late vegetable production in the open in venture (Table 1). In addition, there are regions where the number of non frosty days (with temperatures over 0oC) is more than 300 days in the year.

Table 1 Temperature factors for some regions of Bulgaria

Mon. ТоС Regions
Sandanski
41o 31N
Plovdiv
42o 08N
Bourgas
42o 29N
Varna
43o 12N
Pleven
43o25 N
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7.
I Average ТоС 2 1 2 2 -
Average Low - -2 -1 - -3
Lowers recorded -15 - -15 -15 -24
II Average ТоС 5 3 3 2 1
Average Low 1 - 0 - -2
Lowers recorded -12 -15 -13 -15 -
III Average ТоС 9 7 6 5 6
Average Low 5 2 2 2 2
Lowers recorded -8 -12 -15 -13 -13
IV Average ТоС 13 12 10 10 12
Average Low 8 7 6 7 6
Lowers recorded - -2 -2 - -2
V Average ТоС 18 17 15 15 17
Average Low 12 12 10 11 11
Lowers recorded 3 - 0 2 -
VI Average ТоС 22 21 20 20 20
Average Low 16 16 15 15 15
Lowers recorded 7 8 7 7 6
VII Average ТоС 24 23 22 22 22
Average Low 18 17 17 17 16
Lowers recorded 11 10 10 10 11
VIII Average ТоС 23 22 21 22 22
Average Low 18 17 16 17 16
Lowers recorded 10 10 10 10 7
IX Average ТоС 21 19 18 18 18
Average Low 15 13 13 14 12
Lowers recorded 3 2 1 3 -1
X Average ТоС 15 13 13 13 12
Average Low 10 8 8 10 6
Lowers recorded -1 -3 -3 -7 -6
XI Average ТоС 8 7 8 8 5
Average Low 4 2 3 4 1
Lowers recorded -5 -9 -8 -10 -12


Power sources

The heat power that is necessary in whole year use of the greenhouse equipment is about 2.0 GCal/ha (Table 2). This is possible as a result of the gas-transporting system development in Bulgaria and including the country in the energy ring of South-eastern Europe.

Table 2. Fuel consumption

Month Required
Toinside = 18oC
GCal/hа
Natural gas,
1000 Hm3/ha
Mazut,
t/ha
Coal,
t/ha
Jan. 824.06 107.72 115.65 190.75
Feb. 655.48 85.68 92.00 151.73
Mar. 527.74 68.98 74.07 122.16
Apr. 238.05 31.12 33.41 55.10
May 62.84 8.21 8.82 14.55
Jun. 3.94 0.52 0.55 0.91
Sep. 34.69 4.53 4.87 8.03
Oct. 230.55 30.14 32.35 53.37
Nov. 447.47 58.50 62.80 103.58
Dec. 719.20 94.01 100.05 166.48


Non-traditional sources of heating are available in Bulgaria.
  • Geothermal water with temperature over 50oC (Table 3, Figure 1);
  • Recycled energy from the gas-compressing stations, Thermal Power Stations and Atomic Power Stations.
Table 3. Geothermal resources in Bulgaria

Location Latitude N Water, ToC Power
installation, MW
Utilization
North Bulgaria
Pleven 43o 23 67 18.0 G., Lh.
Dolny Lucovit 43o 31 71 3.4 G., Lh.
Dolny Dubnik 43o 31 71 9.3 G., Lh.
South Bulgaria
Kazichene 42o 40 62-80 9.8 G.
Pchelinsri Bani 42o 22 72 18.0 G.B.
Kjustendil 42o 18 75 7.0 G.B.
Banja, Razlog 41o 53 55 7.0 G.R.
Erma Reka 41o 24 87-90 20.0 G.R.

G. = Greenhouse; Lh. = Local Heating: B. = balneology; R. = recreation

Model scheme of geothermal station is proposed for heated area 12 - 15 ha.Required heat power is as follows: 250-300 GCal/m2 (2.5-3.0 GCal/ha); 215-258 W/m2 (2150-2580 KW/ha); 3.0 GCal/ha (2580 KW/ha). Government programme In the Government programme the development of protected cultivation is included in priorities of the subsidies planned by the government. The new greenhouse construction and the rehabilitation of existing glasshouses and plastic greenhouses are included in priorities of the programme. The SAPARD programme has opened a credit line. The SAPARD is not yet actively contributing for the development of protected cultivation. There are some associations of the gardeners which are uniting efforts for effective vegetables cultivation in the field and in the greenhouses. Their purpose is to help the private initiative and to solve a part of the financial and technical problems of the modern vegetables cultivation. Type of cultivation facilities
The main types of cultivation in dependence of the heating are:
  • Heated facilities during the period
    - October - April ( 200 - 250 KCal/m2)
    - January - April (100 - 120 KCal/m2)
    - Greenhouse with emergency heating (50 - 70 KCal/m2)
  • Unheated facilities with period of use April - October.

Area and production of vegetables

Vegetables are traditional food in Bulgaria. At present the consumption is about 100 kg per capita of the population of fresh and processed products.
Vegetable production in Bulgaria is 1 580 000 t (Table 4 and 5).
Table 4. Area and production of vegetables - 2002

Crop Area, ha Production, tons
Open field Greenhouse Total
Tomatoes 14 561.5 221 424 23 875 245 299
Pepper 12 926.2 164 640 986 165 626
Cucumbers 1 602.2 19 499 20 510 40 009
Water melon 7 855.2 142 178 7 498 149 676
Musk melon 3 009.5 23 845 309 24 154
Potatoes 51 885.9 627 251 22 627 273
Other vegetables 44 780.8 326 525 4 918 331 443
Total vegetables 136 677.3 1 525 362 58 118 1 583 480


Table 5. Protected cultivation area, ha

Kind of protection Years
1997 1999 2001
Glasshouses 800.0 724.4 642.2
Plastic greenhouses 505.6 582.2 688.2
Tunnels 248.8 250.7 338.5
Total 1 554.4 1 557.3 1 668.9


Crops and technologies

Tomato and cucumber F1 cultivars sweet and hot peppers, lettuce, strawberries and other crops are the ones cultivated in greenhouses.

Structure of production
The following structure is recommended for Bulgaria
  • Tomatoes 30 - 40 %;
  • Cucumbers 20 - 30 %;
  • Pepper 10 - 20 %;
  • Strawberries and other crops 10 - 20 %.

Terms of cultivation
In accordance with the conditions of the country economically the most efficient terms are following:
  • autumn-winter production - September-December;
  • winter-spring production - January-July.

Technologies
Greenhouse crops are grown mainly by the traditional technologies on soil. At present hydroponic technologies occupy insignificant part of the area but it is expected these areas to be expanded and to cover 30 - 40 % from the greenhouse areas.
Maritsa Vegetable Crops Research Institute has developed and adopted in the production a substrate hydroponic technology in containers with agroperlite and peat substrate:
- Substrate:
  • Agroperlite - sieve analyses & residue on 4 mm sieve max 10 % passing through sieve 0.6 mm max 15 %; volume weight 150 - 200 kg/m3.
  • Peat substrate - prepared according to the prescription from sphagnum peat with corrected pH, and perlite that were mixed in volume proportion 1:1.
  • Containers - the substrate is filled in the plastic containers from black-white polyethylene type BG -ponica with volume 28 - 32 l.
  • Location of the containers - they are horizontally arranged along the compartment length, which ensures planting density.
  • Holes in the containers - two holes with diameter 12 - 13 cm are made from the topside of the containers for planting of the plants.
  • Moistening of the containers - the substrate in the containers is moistened uniformly with nutrition solution with pH = 5.5 - 6.0 and E = 2.0 - 2.5 mS/cm. The solution is fed by drip irrigation system.

Cost - benefit analysis of different types of greenhouse heated with natural gas and cropping cycle

The economical analysis (Table 6 and 7) was based on the investigations carried out in the Maritsa Vegetable Crops Research Institute and on the production practice in the following conditions:
  • Hydroponic technology - container cultivation;
  • Heating with natural gas
  • Two cycles of production
  • Labour expenses in conditions of Bulgaria;
  • Realization of the produce at the local market

Table 6. Production from heated glass greenhouse (hydroponic culture)

Position Tomatoes Cucumber
I cycle II cycle I cycle II cycle
Seedlings 01.11. 25.06. 20.11. 01.08.
Planting 05.01. 30.08. 25-30.12. 25.08.
Harvesting 20.02.-31.07. 10.10.-20.12. 25.01.-20.07. 20.09.-15.12.
Yield*, tons/ha 200-230 70 300 120-140
Prime cost,
€/kg
0.40
0.60 0.28 0.35

The expected yield from soil culture is 20-30% less.

Table 7. Production from heated plastic greenhouse

Position Tomatoes Cucumber
I cycle II cycle I cycle II cycle
Seedlings 20-25.12 15.06 10.01. 20.07.
Planting 15-20.02. 25.07. 20.02. 25.08.
Harvesting 15.04.-30.07. 20.09.- 10.12. 25.03.-30.07. 20.09.-30.11.
Yield*, tons/ha 110 60 170 70
Prime cost,
€/kg
0.43 0.65 0.30 0.56


Role of the Maritsa Vegetable Crops Research Institute

Maritsa Vegetable Crops Research Institute was found in 1930. It is an institute with many branches and carries out the whole activity in the field of scientific research and introduction of new technologies in vegetable growing.

Investigations and implementation work, performed in the Institute is directed to increase of the protected cultivation effectiveness.
  • Technological solutions
    • Improvement of the traditional technologies
      • Optimization of the plant configuration and formation.
      • Nutrition regime.
      • Use of bio-products as an alternative method for fertilization and protection of plants from diseases and pests.
      • Irrigation regime and fertigation.
      • Collection of varieties and introducing of non-traditional crops for Bulgaria, possessing low temperature requirements (asparagus, Brussels sprouts, Chinese cabbage etc.).
      • Compact greenhouse use
    • Technologies for soilless cultivation
      • Study of substrates with different origin (organic, mineral, synthetic).
      • Prescriptions for nutrition solutions depending on the crop, phase of development, production direction.
  • Integrated and biological control of diseases and pests on the plants.
  • New covering materials, including support-free covers (self-carrying) for forced production.
  • Seedlings production
    • Development of seedlings mixtures from organic, mineral and synthetic substrates.
    • Age of the seedlings depending on the crop and the direction of production.
  • In addition to the research work
    • Consultations
    • Open days and demonstrations
    • Services of juridical and physical persons
Proposal for building of REGIONAL CENTRE OF PROTECTED CULTIVATION IN THE MARITSA VEGETABLE CROPS RESEARCH INSTITUTE - Plovdiv, BULGARIA

On the basis of the traditions and achievements in Bulgaria in the sphere of horticulture and according to the geographic location of the country in the South-eastern region of the Balkan Peninsula we suggest to be built a Regional Centre of protected cultivation, based in the Maritsa Vegetable Crops Research Institute - Plovdiv which possess the require base and personnel.
The Regional Centre will act as an organized system for:
  • Demonstration of new cultivation facility constructions;
  • Implementation of new technologies in protected cultivation;
  • New achievements in seedlings production;
  • Services for agro-chemical control of soil and plants, produce quality;
  • Disease and pest diagnostics, recommendations for integrated plant protection;
  • Training, consultations, specialized exhibitions
  • Advertisements - brochures, folders, guides and instructions.
For that purpose it is necessary to be built a modern infrastructure:
  • Glasshouses - constructions, models, equipment;
  • Plastic greenhouses - constructions, covers, heating, equipment;
  • Low cultivation facilities for forced production;
  • Forced vegetable production with support-free cover materials, mulching materials etc.
  • Mini enterprise for seedlings production mixtures;
  • Laboratory for agrochemical control and plant protection.
Regional Centre will collect, analyze and disseminate information on successful practices, implemented by country and abroad and will assist to create strategic partnerships.
Every new contact and every new partnership may be the way to the easier success. That's why the building of the Regional Centre of protected cultivation in the Republic of Bulgaria is a problem of the present day for the Balkan region and it could be realized with participation and support of FAO.
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