The Silesian landrace called "Slezská" was most likely bread from the cultivar Brunschvick which has a common ancestor with other cultivated varieties of chicory such as Magdeburg Canine variety. The breeding took place at historic Breeding Station in Dobřenice (Hruška, 1966).
The whole chicory production system in the Silesian region is based on an understanding of the historical heritage which, has in the past ensured the prosperity of local farmers. They were grouped in drying cooperatives, which built monumental brick kilns typical for the area. There were still a few of them before the velvet revolution in 1989. In the 1990s they were closed and the root was dried on the modernized line in the Kratonohry Dryer. It is also property-related with the only current Czech processor of coffee, Kávoviny Pardubice Ltd. The production of the root corresponds to the processing capacity of the factory and the sales of the product. In recent years there has been a great promotion of chicory products in the media. The importance of inulin in human nutrition is indisputable.
The chicory landrace Slezská practically disappeared from cultivation in late eighties including available seed stocks. It was maintained in the Research Institute of Beet, Semčice, which was partly privatized by a Dutch company and partly abolished after 1989. The enthusiastic Silesian farmer, agronomist Pavel Veselý considered it as an agronomic challenge to rescue the Silesian landrace. He was looking for the chicory seed in the region for a few years. He addressed seed companies until he encountered one old sack for free at Bedihošť Station, a branch of the former Semčice Institute from Joseph King of Hileshog. It has become the source to start growing chicory again. Then he received more material. The old chicory breeder Mr. Husek once told him that there was still left some seed supply in his office of the abolished breeding station Dobřenice, belonging also to the Research Institute of Beet, Semčice. He went to the Dobřenice Station, the site was already in desperate condition and abandoned, but he found the seed and took it away, a few patched glass jars of seed. This was the last reserve. It was possible to rescue the material from both sources successfully.
Cultivation System: low-input conditions.
Country: Czech Republic
The current place of growing Lhota pod Libčany, East Elbe River basin, is in the centre of the historical distribution of the landrace. In addition, there was a dryer company nearly in all larger village in the region (Sedlice, Praskačka, Libčany, Kratonohy, Osičky, Černůtky, Bydžovská Lhota). The building of a dryer company in Osičky is shown on historical postcard (fig 2.), Currenttly the building is owned by Agrolhota and it serves for mixing of feeding mixtures for animals. From the old technology only the washing process is saved functional in Kratonohy.
At present, its cultivation in the Czech Republic has stabilized on an area of about 30 ha. It is grown by the farmer Pavel Veselý (farm Agrodružstvo Lhota pod Libčany in the Hradec Králové region) and by another farmer Mr. Červený in Tetov near Kladruby nad Labem. However, only ‘Agrodružstvo Lhota pod Libčany’ maintains the gene pool of Slezská. The characteristic Slezská is that the beet-shaped root allows harvesting by means of self-propelled sugar beet machines; only minimal adjustments on the machines ensure minimal harvest losses. According to the monopoly customer, the dryers Kratonohy, the difference in yield between ´Slezská´ and other modern foreign cultivars is large in favour of ´Slezská´. Among the reasons for the successful conservation and use of this landrace is the fact it can tolerate a lower supply of rainwater than other cultivars.
Propagation system: Seed, cross-pollinationMultiplication procedures and consequences on landrace diversity:
Chicory is grown in a system similar to sugar beet. It is an excellent nematicidal pre-crop. It is sown in rows 45 cm apart. The aim is to reach about 200 thousand plants per hectare. The seed is regenerated on the farm. The chicory is a biennial plant, it is necessary to select suitable part of fields for seed production for the next year. It is important to verify, there is no wild chicory around, which of course would have a major impact on the gene pool of cultivated chicory. Contemporary winters provide fairly reliable winter resistance and survival of almost all individuals until spring. During the vegetation, the seed regenerating field must be kept manually free of weeds. Unsuitable plant types are also removed. The actual harvesting is done manually. Almost ripened stems cut off, transported under the roof to the hall, where they are allowed to dry. Threshing takes place manually by inserting the stems into a harvester. The threshed seed is then precisely cleaned in a specialized seed production company. The returned pure untreated seed is then used for sowing next year. Vegetable sowing machines with vacuum sowing system are used for sowing. The sowing is set to the precise finite distance to minimize manual unity. Sufficient amount of own cheap seed also allows rapid over-sowing in cases where sown stands are damaged for some reason (soil crust, hail, frost, etc.).Management plan existence:
The landrace management relies completely on farming activities in the area.
The crop is industrial and therefore the market is based on agreement with the producer, the Dryer Kratonohy company, depending on market demand. The landrace Slezská is nearly monopole cultivar source of the coffee substitute reaching up to 80 %. The coffee product is of chicory only or as a mixture of different coffee substitute such as rye. The leading role of ´Slezská´ landrace is a result of good properties and yield in a regular rain-fed agriculture. The resulting chicory coffee is marketed within the whole Czech Republic and Slovakia with occasional export. By maintaining the old Silesian variety ´Slezská´, we hope that we will be able to increase the cultivated area in the event of future demand increases. The complexity of cultivation and the impossibility of using pesticides make this crop a family silver that awaits its opportunity.Others (e.g. commercial/geographical brands or special traits):
One of the most prosperous early factories for coffee substitutes from chickory was ‘Továrna na cikorii, Josef Balounek’ founded in Humburky nr. Nový Bydžov in 1880. The factory purchased chicory landrace from farmers in the region. Their product Balounek´s Chicory was advertized as local and Czech product.
Currently the only end-producer Kávoviny, stockholder co., Pardubice offers a diversity of products based on the chicory landrace ´Slezská´. Some products were awarded by a stamp Klasa (high quality, Czech made), some are stamped as gluten-free. These products are sold in Czech and Slovak markets.
The landrace Slezská was not fully lost, because it is also kept in the collection of vegetables in the Dept of Vegetables and Special Crops, Olomouc, CRI, a part of National Programme. However, the remarkable effort to rescue the landrace within the region of former cultivation by enthusiastic agronomist and farmer Pavel Veselý was highly appreciated by Czech Board on Plant Genetic Resources (RGZ) and by the National Coordinator. The National Programme for Conservation and Use of Plant Genetic Resources and Agrobiodiversity (https://www.gzr.cz/ ) understands the rescued system of keeping historical Czech / Silesian chicory with the link to producers as an excellent model case of on farm conservation which is aimed at safeguarding and promoting the cultivation of local genetic resources. It is marked in the national documentation system GRIN Czech as an alternative conservation.
The information on chicory production and on farm conservation was provided by ing Pavel Veselý, agronomist and proprietor of Agrodružstvo farm, Lhota pod Libčany. He was interviewed by Vojtech Holubec, National coordinator for PGR of the Czech Republic, who also wrote the text.
- Botany.cz (2019) at https://botany.cz/cs/cichorium-intybus-intybus/
- Hruška L. (1966) Čekanka. Naučný slovník zeměldělský. SZN Praha
- Konečný I (1997) Pěstování čekanky. (Chicory growing). Metodiky pro zemědělskou praxi 2. UZPI Praha, 22 str.
- National Programme (2019) National Programme for Conservation and Use of Plant Genetic Resources and Agrobiodiversity, accessed at (https://www.gzr.cz/ )
- Wendys Herbar (2019) at: https://botanika.wendys.cz/