History of the Czech Academy of Agricultural Sciences

CAAS claims to the tradition and continues in the activities of former Czechoslovak Academy of Agriculture, which was founded by the edict of the Ministry of Agriculture on November 29th 1924 and the Ministry of Home Affairs of Czechoslovakia on December 5th 1924 as the central scientific agricultural institution supporting scholarly work, popularization and use of scientific knowledge in practice.

The road leading to the establishment of the Czech Academy of Agricultural Sciences (Ceska akademie zemedelských ved – CAZV) and the Slovak Academy of Agricultural Sciences (Slovenska academia podohospodárskych vied – SAPV), and their development of a wide range of activities in the general field of agricultural science, has not been easy. Over a period of many years, fundamental knowledge regarding agricultural activities and related areas had been continuously expanding. It became desirable to create and develop fully, a functioning institutional framework, which would have impact on, and hopefully coordinate, the developing needs of the individual scientific areas of the agriculture, forestry and food industries.

The development of agricultural science, and the activities of the Academies of the development of Agricultural Science in the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic can be understood by considering the following six phases – though bearing in mind a different development in Slovakia:

I. Period of experimentation, beginnings of public awareness of agriculture and agricultural literature (end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th centuries)

The work of the so-called management companies (hospodárské spolecnosti) at this time began after a period of interrupted development of agricultural written documents which had been produced prior to the year 1620, and activities of prominent personalities in this country as well as abroad. This period of activity of the management companies can be thought of as the beginning of organised agricultural research (experimentation), occurring at about the same time as other developments in the field of natural science. In the publishing field, printers were beginning to develop, produce and publish, specialised instructions, calendars, files (monographs) and journals.

At about the same time, management companies were trying to introduce new rotation plans, new crops, increasing use of housed livestock production, fertilization etc. As a method of (scientific) work, the first surveys were conducted and there were targeted research tasks, concentrating on addressing fundamental issues in field management, livestock production, education, public awareness etc. Moreover, the impact of the management companies also accelerated the transition from the three-field management to the alternative one, the introduction of new forage plants, technical crops, development of fruit production, flax production and processing, increasing use of machinery, fertilisers, soil improvements, advisory services, agricultural services, agricultural literature and exhibitions. The first special trial stations were set up in 1848 – followed in 1864 by the establishment of research institutions.

II. Establishing fundamentals of systematic research on scientific basis, foundation of research stations and institutes, development of school system and increasing progress in agriculture (beginning of the 19th century – foundation of CAZ in the year 1924)

The most important mediators between farmers, land and state offices were Agricultural Councils (Zemedelské rady). These took on the role of being centres for propagating new knowledge, and were initially set up in Bohemia in 1872 and Moravia in 1897 – and later throughout the CSR. In Slovakia, these roles were taken on by the so-called District Management Societies (ľupní hospodárské spolky) – the equivalent of the management companies. Around this time, more efficient varieties of field crops were being introduced, work was being carried out on breeding studies, animals were being imported from abroad, and there was a productivity study – and, more specifically, literature was being produced and made available in the national languages.

Agricultural councils, as well as the administration of some institutes, were beginning to develop a range of other beneficial activities, such as establishing farm dairies, breeding to improve cereal production, carrying out trials with fertilizers, etc.

The rapid development of agriculture and the food industry in the second half of the 19th century required new information, and for this reason there was intense activity of research and development in the following areas: plant and animal breeding, nutrition, fertilization, phytopathology and plant protection, veterinary care (medicine), and soil improvement. Within the agricultural industry, sugar production and processing and the production of canned and fermented products, were developed most rapidly. New systems of management, fundamentals of genetics, organisation of companies were studied, agricultural statistics, soil mapping, agricultural chemistry, and the techniques of livestock production were developed. At schools and farms, specialised research stations were gradually established. Forestry, veterinary and economic research were gradually developing.

Because of a lack of coordination of the work of the scientific research stations, there was an increased effort to establish land institutes at a higher than regional level, and these started to become established in 1899. In Slovakia, research stations were created – mostly at farm schools. Despite considerable effort, however, every attempt to create a central research institute for the agricultural industry failed until the end of the Austrian-Hungarian Monarchy.

III. Activities of the Czechoslovak Academy of Agriculture and Union of Research Institutes in the years 1925 – 1952

During this period there were significant developments in agricultural science in the CSR – particularly between 1918 and 1938. In 1924, a central scientific and public education institution dedicated to agricultural science was finally established. Thus, the Czechoslovak Academy of Agriculture (Ceskoslovenská akademie zemedelská) became the third oldest scientific agricultural institution of this type in Europe – after Sweden and France.

CAZ had responsibility throughout the whole of the CSR, and concentrated its efforts mainly on the support of research work; the scientific study of the conditions for the development of agriculture; training for scientific workers; publication and distributions of the results of science and research in scientific journals, textbooks, and produced a series of popular contributions; organization of scientific surveys to resolve practical development issues in agriculture; and, the food and forestry industries. It built the Central Slavonic agricultural library (the third oldest in Europe), founded the Institute for the Solution of Economic Issues in Agriculture, and sent young agricultural specialists abroad, and generally within its mandate, supported creative scientific work. It participated in the development of the agricultural school system (especially at university level) and succeeded in building a pan-European reputation.

CAZ developed a wide range of foreign relations, and organised (and participated in) many events of international importance. It drew up a proposal for the plan for agricultural production. To a great extent, it supported cultural activities as well as activities to improve public awareness in the country, and provided support to agricultural writers and journalists. In addition to the close connections it had with universities, it was also involved with the development of the secondary agricultural school system.

In 1925, the Union of Agricultural Research Institutes (Svaz výzkumných ústavu zemedelských) was established, to bring together all the research work sites, and coordinated the development of research in all areas of agricultural production. By the end of the 1930’s the union comprised 22 research institutes, 67 research stations, and 22 trial facilities and farms.

After 1945 the activities of the Academy were weakened, under the influence of the well known political-economic changes of the time, and in 1952 the Academy was closed. Between the years 1945 to 1950 the Union of Agricultural Research Institutes assembled 76 research institutes and 46 research stations, but it was closed in 1950.

IV. Activities of the Czechoslovak Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CSAZV) in the years 1953 – 1962

The main characteristic of this period was the establishment of a centralised model of research institutes management through CSAZV, and its branch office in Bratislava. CSAZV was established by an Act of the National Assembly (12.12.1952), and at that time the act was important for maintaining the integrity of research facilitating the impact of CSAZV departments on the development of specialised research institutes. It ensured individual financing, the possibility of building new research work sites, and planning and managing research in a coordinated manner. Regarding the efficiency of the managing model and organisation of research in the post-war period, CSAZV played a mainly positive, and, in the context of this period, least destructive role.

In the period of establishing joint agricultural cooperatives (JZD), state farms, however, and within the concept of the development systems of the 1950’s, its activities were often associated with a non-critical introduction of Soviet knowledge, and with non-scientific approaches, and supported by an administratively created monopoly of opinions, organisation and personal measures. Many well respected personalities from previous years, associated with the activities of the former CAZ, refused to be associated with CSAZV.

At that time, in the Czech lands, the departments and committees of the Academy managed a total of 49 research institutes, stations, laboratories and cabinets, while the branch office of CSAZV in Slovakia managed 16 research institutes and laboratories. CSAZV continued to develop international cooperation, the publishing activities, and other work.

Food industry research stayed out of the CSAZV in this period, and gradually divided and was weakened. It was only in 1967 that the Central Research Institute of the Food Industry became a part of the existing Centre of Agricultural and Food Industry Research – though other food industry institutes remained out of the organisational model.

In 1962 CSAZV was closed on the basis of a systematic administrative decision, by giving the reason that, if general research of CSAZV were to be included into the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences (CSAV), then agricultural progress would be accelerated. In reality, only an insignificant number of the scientific-research work sites were moved to CSAV, with the other institutes being moved to the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Forestry, and Ministry of Water Management, as appropriate, with the aim of establishing "an accelerated implementation of research information".

Thus was closed, the scientific body whose views had previously been taken into account by the state administrative. A period of frequent reorganisation, improvisations and errors regarding the management of scientific activities then began, resulting in an overall weakening of agricultural science.

In 1968 structural changes commenced, resulting on January 1st 1969 with the re-establishment of the Czechoslovak, Czech and Slovak Academy of Agriculture with their related institutes – from the existing Centre of Agricultural and Food Industry Research. It heralded a brief period of hope for stabilisation of research and a perspective management of science. The Czechoslovak Academy of Agriculture, however, was never completely formed, and in the middle of 1974 the institutes were again assigned to the Ministry of Agriculture and Nutrition as departmental companies, and gradually the Czech and Slovak Academies of Agriculture were closed. In November 1974 CSAZ was reorganised, theoretically to keep a central scientific institution, but unfortunately it was never given the necessary authority or tools with which to act.

V. Period of weakening of creative work, its coordination, efficient long-term planning, and breakdown of the companies. Work of CSAZ as the advisory institution for the Ministers of Agriculture and Nutrition, Forestry and Water Management (1974-1989)

The management of research in this period was taken over by the Ministries of Agriculture and Nutrition, and gradually by the departmental companies. Planning, management, financing and implementation of research work faced an increasingly more difficult situation, because elements of administrative management of science prevailed. From 1974 to 1979 the Czechoslovak Academy of Agriculture was operating on the basis of a temporary arrangement, and later on the basis of a range of tasks assigned to it by an advisory body of ministers. These tasks could not always be fulfilled, because the necessary competencies, materials or organisational conditions were not always available.

Despite this, CSAZ gradually became a platform for three thousand scientists, practical workers and other specialists within its 12 scientific bodies and 84 committees.

In this period CSAZ undertook dozens of serious studies and topical plenary sessions, which were handed over to the management sphere and delivered in the form of publications, as well as in practical applications. In time, however, CSAZ, became gradually isolated from research and development, international cooperation and the other activities which created the necessary conditions for its efficient performance.

VI. Establishment of CSAZ and SAPV in response to democratisation of society and to a new country arrangement (1993); development of Czech and Slovak agricultural science through to accession to the European Union (2004)

In addition to the start of the process of democratisation, and the transition to the market economy, November 1989 marked the start of many critical changes in the field of management, financing and implementation of agricultural science and research. On December 5th 1989, the whole of the existing board of management of CSAZ resigned, and a temporary managing committee was established on 5th January 1990 to work through the first period of renovation. By January 1st 1991 the Czech Academy of Agricultural Sciences and the Slovak Academy of Agricultural Sciences were established, and in April the Academy of Agricultural Sciences of CSFR that was closed after a short period of activity, as a result of the split of CSFR at the end of 1992. From the beginning of 1993, their work was taken over by the Czech Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAZV) and the Slovak Academy of Agricultural Sciences (SAPV) – each within their own newly created independent republics.

Between 1993 and 2004, Czech and Slovak agricultural science was developing with the market economy, while the state guaranteed (and still guarantees) general financial, organizational and competence conditions to ensure study of specific topics and completion of current scientific tasks and research. Nowadays there are additional resources becoming available, through the EU, with international cooperation, grants and with orders from the business world. In the restructuring of the research-science, some of the research institutes were moved from the state to the private sector, and in 2004 there were 10 research institutes working within the Ministry of Agriculture, and co-financed by state resources. Additionally, and in the same year, there were 13 privatised research institutes participating in the development of agricultural, food industry, forestry and other related scientific areas.

The present work of the CAZV and SAPV are clearly defined from their foundation deeds (as amended). Apart from their traditional role of supporting the development of agricultural science and research, of bringing new information into practice, and of raising public awareness, both academies also play a large part in the relationships between agricultural research, the school system, the environment, and also the Academy of Science of the Czech (Slovak) Republic. They work on behalf of the Ministries of Agriculture of the Czech and Slovak Republics to acquire new contacts, and seek out new information and research findings from the scientific and research activities of the aforementioned institutions.

In their roles as members of CAZV or SAPV, there are many important persons who participate in directing the research and other activities of the institutions, including directors, chancellors, deans, chiefs of departments, top representatives of state administration bodies etc. In short, both institutions cooperate with each other, and with all other relevant organisations working in the field of agriculture, food industry, forestry and water management in the two republics.

VII. Position and activities of CAZV in the future – visions, opportunities and challenges

In the short term it can be assumed that CAZV will have a similar position as today, and will continue with those activities commenced in the final decade of the 20th century. The process of formulating research goals will be continued, identifying new research priorities, and with the participation of the Academy, updating the concept of research and development of the Ministry of Agriculture field of performance, whilst ensuring special guarantees for the organisation of public tenders for research programmes.

For the concept of research and development of the Ministry of Agriculture field of performance, CAZV proposed a number of basic ideas, which will be relevent in the future as well as today:

Research focus and its results have to contribute to reaching a target state of sustainable and competitive agriculture, forestry, food industry and related processing industry, and soil and hydrosphere protection, whilst ensuring productive, and non-productive functions of agriculture, to serve the needs of society in the field of healthy nutrition and careful use of non-renewable natural and human resources.

Research has to be oriented in such a way that its outputs contribute to fulfilling the stated goals, especially in increasing the efficiency of the whole sector, and must have impact on removing the negative trends of development in the field of agriculture.

The goals of the concept of research and development for the next period were suggested by CAZV in accordance with the proposal. They are:

  • To interconnect the concept of research with agrarian policy, its connection with advisory services and coordination with other fields of public interest in order that research and development significantly contribute to sustainable development of society and economic prosperity of the Czech Republic.
  • To ensure efficiency and a greater performance of scientific-research basis of the agricultural field through a purposeful organisational structure of research and development and by a system of research management and financing, by establishing and fulfilling priorities and by strengthening the principle of credits.
  • To improve the connection of general and applied research for the purpose of development of new competitive products and services and to create conditions for a more efficient transfer of research results for practical use in the business environment.
  • To support the development of efficient international cooperation, especially with the EU countries.
  • To ensure sufficient support for research in the field of competence of the Ministry of Agriculture in accordance with the trends of support for both science and research in the Czech Republic.

Establishing priorities for research represents an important step for fulfilling goals for the research concept. CAZV proposed, or directly participated in, the process of priority-setting in the existing research programmes of the Ministry of Agriculture and the National Research programme, and is prepared to continue with these activities.

In the future, the Academy will create, to a greater extent, a platform for communication between research workers of various institutions within the field of agriculture, as well as out of it, and within one scientific field as well as between the fields. An opportunity for the Academy and all its members, which is not yet recognised as much as it should, is its neutrality – its independence from managements of research organisations and political interests which could result in the Academy of new non-conventional proposals, ideas, solutions and changes in the orientation of research that will be a source of progress, though not necessarily always in accord with majority opinions.

The role of the Academy in the development of scientific fields of the whole agrarian sector is non-substitutable. A significant contribution of the Academy in the last few years has been the quality of its published scientific journals. It is expected that this trend will continue into the future, and that the publishing activities of the Academy will be further developed. The Academy would like to follow the tradition of activities from previous periods, and to renew – in cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture – publication of methodological instructions for practice, methodological instructions for advisory services, and special books and monographs under a professional guarantee of the Academy.

Despite the fact that communication between the Academy and representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture has, in the course of the last 10 years, significantly improved, and bodies of the Academy or its members are increasingly used for activities and tasks of the Ministry, there are some reservations in fulfilling the function of the Academy as the advisory body for the Ministry of Agriculture.

Strengthening its position when developing international cooperation in science and research, and finding methods for a higher use of results of global research and know-how, in practice represents a lead for the future activities of the Academy. The Academy could significantly influence the anticipated changes in the agrarian policy of the Czech Republic, and in the EU, and by implementing this policy thus contribute to sustainability of agricultural and forestry activities, to the stability and development of the countryside, and the prosperity of all related fields of the agrarian world.

VIII. Final word

From a chronological overview of the development of the existence of the Academies, and of Czech and Slovak agriculture, forestry and food research in relation to that, the reader could mistakenly get the impression that, apart from reorganisations and general administrative activities, there has been little room for actual professional activities.

In reality, the organizational changes concerned mainly the managerial structures, and had little effect on the “lower” bodies. Departments and their committees, sub-committees, advisory councils – whatever they were known by in any given period – have fortunately been able to continue to develop their activities with little or no interruption – even despite the fact that the Academies did not formally exist. Within the departments and the specialized committees, there were assembled, and are still assembled, leading specialists of specialized fields of scientific-research, universities, bodies of state administration, and agricultural and food industry practice, so that within their (often multidisciplinary cooperation) they generate concrete values and establish trends for development of individual scientific fields.

In the course of the 1980’s, in the departments and committees of CAZ, CAZV, and SAPV, were many workers, willing to devote their time to joint activities, with no claim for material remuneration. At this point we would like to express our grateful acknowledgement to them.

© 2018 Czech Academy of Agricultural Sciences