R&D outcomes with highest impact

 

R&D outcomes of highest impact in agricultural sciences, veterinary medicine, forestry and fisheries 2010-2015

 

Plant Protection

  • Novel entomovector technology in crop protection was worked out to control the grey mould on strawberry in open field conditions. The application of a biocontrol agent Gliocladium catenulatum by bumble bees Bombus terrestris was proved to be reliable in environmentally friendly pest control strategies in northern climatic conditions. This low cost technology is especially relevant for organic farming.
  • Fundamental knowledge on insect sensory system has been implemented. In co-operation with Roma Tre University (Italy), for the first time, high temperature induced spike bursting thermoreceptor neurons and bimodal hygro-thermoreceptor neurons were discovered in agriculturally important predatory insects, which is an essential contribution to the insect thermoreception theory. Species specific, selective sensitivity of antennal gustatory neurons to various plant sugars and secondary compounds was determined in some beneficial predatory and pest insects. The reaction spectra of the gustatory receptor neurones probably depend on feeding habits of the beetles.
  • Deleterious effects of low dose pesticides on basic behaviours (locomotor activity and behavioural thermoregulation) and respiratory physiology in beneficial predatory insects and pollinators were determined.
  • Permanent phytosanitary expertise and counselling service was established on behalf of the Estonian Ministry of Rural Affairs. Provisional analyses for the priority pest list for Estonia has been conducted to submit a proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on protective measures against pests of plants (COM/2013/0267 – 2013/0141 (COD)).
  • The national climate change adaptation strategy and implementation plan for agriculture were developed. In collaboration with the Dep. of Field Crop and Grassland Husbandry, Dep. of Basic Veterinary Sciences and Population Medicine and Dep of Animal Nutrition, Department of Plant Protection steered the working group on Climate adaptation in agriculture within the framework of the project BioClim, which incorporated inputs into the national adaptation strategy and program development for thematic fields of natural environment and bioeconomy. About the project see: 

http://pk.emu.ee/en/structure/landscapemanagement/projects/bioclim/project/

 

Soil science and agrochemistry

  • First version of practical toolkit „Humus Balance Calculator“ was developed. This enables to assess sustainability of farming practices on the soil carbon status from field to farm level and to optimize fertilization. For most common agricultural crops our model enables dynamic estimation of humus balance depending on yield level, fertilization and soil properties. Calculator is freely available at web:
  •  
    In 2016–2019 follow-up applied research project is running to update humus balance calculator and to develop also dynamic field level NPK balance calculator. 
  • Map of soil trafficability was developed for military purposes (project in 2012-15 financed by the Ministry of Defence), but methodology and adjusted thematic maps are applicable also for agricultural and forestry purposes. Soil compaction is large problem in our agricultural land and spatio-temporal knowledge of soil trafficability is extremely valuable to minimize soil degradation.
  • Several soil suitability models and pedotransfer models were developed and we provided methodology how integrate them to digitized large-scale soil map (1:10 000). Currently jointly with Agricultural Research Centre and Estonian Land Board process of suitability models integration to soil map is going and its will be publicly available at map server hosted by Estonian Land Board.

 

Field crops and grassland husbandry

  • Development and Implementation of an Internet based Decision Support System for Integrated Pest Management (PC-Plant Protection) in Estonia (http://itk.etki.ee/). 

 

Horticulture

  • Increasing of diversity within cultivated top fruit and small fruit crops in Estonia. During the reporting periood(2010-2015) two apple cultivars registered as protected varieties. In the registry of Estonian Agricultural Board new applications for plant breeders` rights were registered for one apple, one sweet cherry and two blackcurrant cultivars.
  • Suitability of selected molecular markers (AFLP, SSR) to identify and distinguish the cultivars and breeding lines within our blackcurrant breeding program was evaluated. Molecular similarity of genotypes was compared with the breeding records and pedigree data. ​
  • The Competence Centre of Knowledge-based Health Goods and Natural Products was established in 2010-2015 in Polli Horticultural Research Centre. The analytical and technological capability of the new centre offers diverse modern opportunities for reasearch of bioactive componds of the biomaterial and development of high value-added natural products as well as supports „zero waste“ conception of plant origin raw material.
  • Leader of WP 2 („Presence of health-beneficial and health-threatening compounds in organic apple juice“) in the Core Organic Project “Drying, juices and jams of organic fruit and vegetables: what happens to desired and non-desired compounds?” The results have shown that traditionally used rack-and-frame –press juice had the lowest content of health beneficial polyphenols. Industrial beltpress -juice showed the highest quality considering the content of polyphenols, but poorest sensory properties. Innovative waterpress -juices had higher antioxidant capacity compared to RFP-juice and also higher content of several health beneficial polyphenols, especially quercetin derivatives. Regarding health-threatening compounds, mycotoxin patulin was detected in 8 samples out of 35 analysed juices. Juice of two cultivars was found to contain excessive amounts of patulin  (4 times above MRL) despite of the fact that fruits had no external visual signs of fungal diseases. 
  • Cultivation of lowbush blueberry may become one alternative to revegetation heavily drained abandoned peatlands and plant cover helps diversify their natural flora and fauna. The peat soil condition in the harvested peat field provided a better supply of nutrients for blueberry plants compared to mineral soil and this, in its turn, secured better growth and a higher yield of bushes. The blueberries picked from a mineral soil plantation had significantly higher total phenols concentration. However, anthocyanins and ascorbic acid content was lower compared to peat soil. Fertilization recommendation of natural manufactured fertilizers were developed for blueberry growing on peat soil in organic farming condition.

 

  • Animal genetics and breeding
  • Transgenic cloning technology was developed (pending patent priority No 14193488.5 - A method of producing biotechnological drugs using transgenic bovine) and the first cloned and transgenic cloned calves were born.
  • Genetic correlations showed that breeding for higher milk fat and protein content, shorter coagulation time and curd firmness favor higher conception rates and shorter calving interval.

 

Animal nutrition

  • In cooperation with the Bio-Competence Centre of Healthy Dairy Products LLC and with the industrial partner STARTER ST LLC, the silage inoculant based on Lactobacillus plantarum E-98 NCIMB 30236 has been registered as a silage additive in the European Union register of Feed Additives (Commission implementing regulation (EU) No 1111/2011; OJ L 287/30).
  • In cooperation with the Bio-Competence Centre of Healthy Dairy Products LLC, two patents are obtained: 1. Microorganism Lactobacillus brevis TAK 124-1 NCIMB42149 and its use; Owners: Tervisliku Piima Biotehnoloogiate Arenduskeskus; Authors: Kristiina Kokk, Andres Olt, Epp Songisepp, Meelis Ots, Olav Kärt, Helgi Kaldmäe, Merle Rätsep; Priority number: EE201400005; Priority date: 14.02.2014. and 2. Microorganism Lactobacillus plantarum TAK 59 NCIMB42150 and use thereof; Owners: Tervisliku Piima Biotehnoloogiate Arenduskeskus; Authors: Andres Olt, Kristiina Kokk, Epp Songisepp, Meelis Ots, Olav Kärt, Helgi Kaldmäe, Merle Rätsep, Jelena Štšepetova, Siiri Kõljalg; Priority number: EE201300027; Priority date: 30.07.2013.

Animal welfare, housing environment and herd health

  • Clarification of epidemiology and impacts on calf and cow health of Bovine Herpesvirus 1 infection in large dairy cattle operations. Determination of the effect of disease control (vaccination) on health and productivity parameters of dairy cattle herds.
  • Participation in the 7th FWP project AWARE (Animal WelfAre Research in an enlarged Europe) which mapped the current situation in the areas of welfare research, education and societal awareness; actively promoted networks of institutions and experts on animal welfare; strengthened the skills of researchers and lecturers from the new and candidate EU countries through their involvement in specialized workshops, and the project set out to describe future strategies to support pan European collaboration on animal welfare.
  • In cooperation with the Bio-Competence Centre of Healthy Dairy Products LLC, preparation of a protocol for the evaluation of dairy cow welfare on Estonian dairy farms.
  • Advised Estonian Parliament on fur production in Estonia.
  • Produced material for new VET frameworks for the transfer and recognition of organic livestock management skills in Europe.
  • Buffaloes and cows have consistent orders into the milking parlour, and disruptions to this order might indicate health and/or welfare problems, buffaloes also have a strong preference for one side of the milking parlour.
  • After transition from a tied to a cubicle system several dairy cow behaviours were affected during the first days after transition and milk production of multiparous cows was negatively

 

Animal morphology and physiology

  • The muscle characteristics of one of the most old hotblood horse breed, Akhal-Teke, was studied. In order to understand the role of the changes in myosin isoforms’ composition during aging in horse skeletal muscle, the myosin isoforms` patterns between different age groups were compared.  A significant difference was found MyHC and MyLC isoforms` composition between mares and stallions – mares had higher proportion of MHC IIx and MLC 3fast isoforms than stallions.  The heritability of MyHC and MyLC  was from low to moderate value. Though the full genetic performance potential of the horse is greatly influenced by numerous other factors, such as the environment, temperament, the training method and others, the knowledge about the heritability of the physiological and performance traits is of great help in choosing the right animals for sport and breeding.
  • Comparative studies of bovine osseus pelvis confirmed the influence of breeding on the suitability of pelvis for the delivery. Pelvic dimensions and calving ability of bull dam and daughters should be considered when selecting breeding bulls.

 

Veterinary microbiology and parasitology

  • Clarification of the epidemiology of non-foodborne parasite, bacterial and viral zoonotic pathogens in Estonian human and animal populations in large scale seroepidemiological studies

 

 

Clinical veterinary medicine

 

  • The usefulness of animal acute phase proteins for the evaluation of inflammatory response and efficiency of treatment was demonstrated in several studies.
  • In the studies on bovine reproduction several novel factors influencing fertility of dairy cows and novel risk factors of cytological endometritis  and ovarian disorders were revealed.
  • An original instrument was developed for the collection of uterine samples (Authors: Andres Valdmann, Merle Valdmann; Priority number: EP202902681; Priority date: 02.12.2015).
  • Sensitivity and specificity of radiotelemetric technology ALPRO® for estrus detection were evaluated and recommendations how to best use the technology were elaborated.
  • Professional laboratory milk progesterone assay service and counselling was established. https://adapter.ee/en/teenus/professional-laboratory-milk-progesterone-assay-service-and-counselling/
  • The milk progesterone lateral flow test P4 Rapid was evaluated against quantitative EIA and the reproductive status in cows. Recommendations for classification of milk samples were given.
  • In collaboration with Knowledge Centre for Agriculture, Skejby,Denmark; Aarhus University, Denmark; Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences; INRA UMR 791 Modélisation Systémique Appliquée aux Ruminants (MoSAR), AgroParisTech, France and National Veterinary Institute, Denmark uterine bacterial flora in postpartum Danish Holstein dairy cows was determined using DNA-based fingerprinting.
  • In collaboration with Norwegian School of Veterinary Science; GENO Breeding and AI Association,  Norway; AgroParisTech, UMR791 Modélisation Systémique Appliquée aux Ruminants,  France; INRA, UMR791 Modélisation Systémique Appliquée aux Ruminants, France; Hedmark University College,  Norway;  Norwegian Computing Center and  Animal and Grassland Research and Innovation Centre, Teagasc, Ireland a novel estrus sign— Sexually active groups in cattle was revealed.
  • In collaboration with Norwegian University of Life Sciences and Nofima—Food Research Institute, Norway the relationship between fatty acid profiles in milk identified by Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy and onset of luteal activity in Norwegian cattle were established.
  • The differences in biological characteristics related to fertility between sex-sorted (SS) and regular sperm were assessed and the strategies developed for the efficient use of SS-sperm for the insemination of heifers and cows. Mathematical models based on sperm function tests were developed for the prediction of fertility of young bulls. The surface proteome of bull sperm cells was described and possible biomarker candidates  for the evaluation of semen quality were identified.
  • In collaboration with the University of Tartu spread of the antibiotic resistance and the possible transfer routes between humans, animals and environment in Estonia were described, and the joint databases established.
  •  In collaboration with Wildlife Pharmaceuticals South Africa the novel fixed drug combination BAM (butorphanol-azaperone-medetomidine) was evaluated and described for immobilization of several African animal species, as lion, cheetah and blesbok.

 

 

Food science and hygiene

  • Peer-reviewed research monograph: Püssa, T., Principles of Food Toxicology, 2nd Edition. 2014. Taylor & Francis, Boca Raton, London, New York, 415 p., ISBN: 9781466504103. 
  • In cooperation with the Competence Center of Food and Fermentation Technologies, one patent was obtained and two patent applications were published: (1) Estonian patent No EE05730 B1: Device and method for processing raw material of animal origin. Inventors: Sannik, U., Tamm, M., Poikalainen, V., Lepasalu, L. Priority date 12.12.2011; (2) PCT Patent Application WO 2013/087735 A1. Device and method for processing raw material. Inventors: Sannik, U., Tamm, M., Lepasalu, L., Poikalainen, V. 2014. Application No./Patent No. 12823148.7-1712, priority date 12.12.2012; (3) Estonian Patent Application EE 201100070 A. Device and method for processing raw material of meat and fish origin and for other organic materials. Inventors: Sannik, U., Tamm, M., Poikalainen, V., Lepasalu, L. Priority date 12.12.2011.
  • Estonian Patent Application EE 201400011 A. Gravitational impulse method and device for estimation meat shear energy. Inventors: V. Poikalainen, L. Lepasalu, U. Sannik, J. Olt, A. Põldvere, R. Martinson, A. Tänavots, H. Mootse, A. Sats. Priority date 23.04.2014.
  • Registered utility model U201000001. Method for manufacturing sea buckthorn organic ice-cream. Authors: Mootse, H., Ojaperv J., Poikalinen V. Priority date 5.01.2010.            

 

Silviculture and forest ecology

  • Ecological aspects of forest management were analyzed and the models of forest dynamics were constructed. The disturbance dynamics of forest ecosystems was used as the basis for conceptual prognosis.
  • Improved knowledge on post-disturbance (fire, wind, ungulates) forest recovery and natural forest regeneration dynamics, and based on research results several papers were published in high level international peer-reviewed journals.
  • In managed forests of Estonia the dead wood basic density, and carbon and nitrogen concentration changes in different decay classes for main tree species were assessed. The obtained values allow a more accurate estimation of dead wood carbon and nitrogen changes and dynamics of Estonia's forests, and are important to ensure Estonia's greenhouse gas inventory quality and reliability of data.
  • Department of Forest Biology in collaboration with EFINORD-SNS networks (incl FORDISMAN) organized an international scientific conference “Forest landscape mosaics: disturbance, restoration and management at times of global change” on August 11–14, 2014 in Tartu. Altogether about 150 people from 22 countries participated in the conference.
  • The main carbon (C) sink in the fertile silver birch stands was tree biomass. The C pool in tree biomass increased with stand age, whereas the soil C pool remained stable.
  • Young and middle-aged downy birch stands growing on drained fertile Histosols acted as effective C sinks. The over-matured downy birch stands are C emitting ecosystems, i.e. a C source. In terms of more effective C accumulation, optimization of rotation length for management of downy birch stands on drained swamps is important.
  • Grey alder stands on forest land accumulated C mainly in biomass, while in first generation stands (growing on previously non-forested land) C was transported both into soil and biomass. Soil C exchange depended on land use history; intensive C accumulation in soil took place in a stand growing on former agricultural land.
  • The effect of stump harvesting on soil net nitrogen mineralization (NNM) flux is highly site specific: in dry sandy soils (Endogleyic Arenosol) stump harvesting decreased NNM, in fertile soils (Endogleyic Cambisol) no effects were revealed and in the moist sandy soils (Endogleyic Albic Podzol) stump harvesting increased NNM.
  • In cooperation with the research group of ecophysiology and applied ecology from University of Tartu, climate change impact on growth, physiology and functioning of deciduous forest ecosystems were studied on Free Air Humidity Manipulation (FAHM) experiment. The results have been published in high level international peer-reviewed journals
  • The impact of novel use of land (short-rotation forest plantations on abandoned agricultural) on floristic diversity was studied. Data analysis indicated that mid-term plantations host a rich understory flora, where species with different ecological requirements are present, ranging from typical fallow species to shade-tolerant forest species. Further studies will clarify how close the habitat in intensively managed plantations can approach that of natural forests.
  • An important result is that we have designed two new species-specific conventional PCR assays to discriminate ash dieback agent (Hymenoscyphus fraxineus) and Hymenoscyphus albidus species. In addition, sequencing can be used to differentiate the European and Asian strains of H. fraxineus. Using these primers we found the earliest herbarium specimen of H. fraxineus was sampled in 1997 from Europe (Estonia) and 1962 from Asia (Russian Far East). We designed a new probe that allows effective qPCR detection of DNA of Asian H. fraxineus strains.
  • The modified and designed new oomycete-specific ITS region PCR primers show improved specificity for metabarcoding and identification of oomycetes from complex substrates (e.g. soil). The primers were successfully used in identifying pathogens directly from infected plant tissues with Sanger sequencing.
  • As a collaborative work, involving participation of 66 researchers from 33 different countries, we detailed records of Dothistroma Needle Blight (DNB) from 65 countries all over the World and collated them to the international Dothistroma needle blight geo-database. Country records show that most DNB outbreaks in Europe occur on Pinus nigra and its subspecies. It is anticipated that the collaborative work described in this review will both underpin a broader global research strategy to manage DNB in the future and provide a model for the study of other forest pathogens.
  • The observed conspicuous differences in ITS rDNA sequences between ash dieback agent (H. fraxineus) isolates from Russian Far East and European populations suggest that the current ash dieback epidemic in Europe does not directly originate from the East Asia.
  • We documented a new invasive pine pathogen, Lecanosticta acicola in northern Europe and discovered new host species for pathogens (e.g. Hymenoscyphus fraxineus and Diploda sapinea).

 

 

Forest management

  • In the frame of COST Action FP1206 European mixed forests Integrating Scientific Knowledge in Sustainable Forest Management (EuMIXFOR) definition of mixed forests was developed and research perspectives in mixed forests were reviewed.
  • In 2010 forest tree improvement program for Scots pine and Norway spruce was launched in collaboration with State Forest Management Centre, during the period 2010–2015 extensive plus tree selection was carried out and trials with 341 Scots pine plus tree progenies were established.
  • The growth model for grey alder stands of Estonia was elaborated. Grey alder is a prospective tree species for short-rotation forestry and woody biomass production in Estonian conditions and for short-rotation management of grey alder stands, the recommendable harvesting age could be 20-25 years.
  • It was confirmed that management of grey alder stands by traditional silvicultural methods (clear-cutting) is reasonable and does not increase N losses through leaching and N2O emissions.
  • Norway spruce stumps are a potential bioenergy resource in Estonian forests. Stump harvesting at the fertile autotrophic sites with high nutrient and carbon storages did not cause problems in terms of nutrient and carbon depletion of the ecosystem owing to high corresponding soil storages. Also stump harvesting did not increase soil respiration intensity.
  • Ecological, environmental and practical aspects of short-rotation forestry with silver birch and hybrid aspen on abandoned agricultural land were evaluated at their mid-rotation age. Short rotation forestry with silver birch and hybrid aspen can provide a promising biomass supply on unused lands and mitigate climate change by intensive carbon sequestration. The results have been published in high level international peer-reviewed journals.

 

Fisheries and aquaculture

  • Genetic biodiversity in the Baltic Sea - spatial patterns of intraspecific genetic diversity and differentiation in seven ecologically important species of the Baltic ecosystem - Atlantic herring, northern pike, European whitefish, three-spined stickleback, nine-spined stickleback, blue mussel, and bladderwrack – were estimated. Overall, patterns of genetic diversity and differentiation among sampling regions were unique for each species, although all six species samples indicated strong resistance to Atlantic-Baltic gene-flow. Major genetic barriers were not shared among species within the Baltic Sea. Most species show genetic heterogeneity, but significant isolation by distance was only detected in pike and whitefish. These species-specific patterns of genetic structure preclude generalizations and emphasize the need to undertake genetic surveys for species separately, and to design management plans taking into consideration the specific structures of each species.
  • SNP genotyping and allele frequency estimation in individual and pooled DNA from historical samples of Atlantic salmon - SNP genotyping was highly successful in degraded DNA samples, paving the way for the use of degraded samples in SNP genotyping projects. DNA pooling provides the potential for large scale population genetic studies with fewer assays, provided enough reference individuals are also genotyped and DNA quality is properly assessed beforehand.
  • Genetic and life-history changes associated with fisheries-induced population collapse of Eurasian perch population in the Baltic Sea over a 24-year period - marked changes in size- and age-distributions, reduction of age at sexual maturity in males and increase in juvenile growth rate were detected. Combined individual-based life-history and genetic analyses indicated increased immigration of foreign individuals with different life-history patterns as a mechanism behind the observed phenotypic change.
  • Population genomic analyses of early-phase Atlantic Salmon domestication/captive breeding - we analysed a genome wide set of SNPs in three domesticated Atlantic salmon strains and their wild conspecifics to identify loci underlying domestication. The genetic differentiation between domesticated strains and wild populations was low (Fst<0.03), and domesticated strains harboured similar levels of genetic diversity compared to their wild conspecifics. Only a few loci showed footprints of selection, and these loci were located in different linkage groups among the different wild population/hatchery strain comparisons. Simulated scenarios indicated that differentiation in quantitative trait loci exceeded that in neutral markers during the early phases of divergence only when the difference in the phenotypic optimum between populations was large. This study indicates that detecting selection using standard approaches in the early phases of domestication might be challenging unless selection is strong and the traits under selection show simple inheritance patterns.
  • Proliferative kidney disease (PKD) agent Tetracapsuloides bryosalmonae in brown trout populations in Estonia - PKD caused by the myxozoan parasite T. bryosalmonae is a serious parasitic disease threatening both farmed and wild salmonid populations. Our results demonstrate a highly heterogeneous distribution of T. bryosalmonae at the micro-geographic scale, indicating that PKD could have an important negative effect on recruitment in Estonian brown trout populations. The first polymorphic microsatellite markers were developed for T. bryosalmonae and for the bryozoan Fredericella sultana, the primary host of the T. bryosalmonae.