100 Years Devoted to the Oil-Bearing Rose and Essential Oil Production

The Institute of Rose and Essential Oil Cultures has undergone many changes in terms of its structure and scope of scientific work during its existence. Yet, the Institute remains a major center for scientific, research, applied, service and assistance activity in the field of essential oil and medicinal cultures in Bulgaria. We hope that regardless of any future changes in view of our country joining the EU, the Institute will maintain its traditional status of a leading scientific unit in the field of essential oil production and will be able to offer its scientific achievements to farming industry.

The Scientific and Applied Activity of the Institute of Rose and Essential Oil Cultures in Kazanlak, Bulgaria

Director of the Institute of Rose and Essential Oil Cultures in Kazanlak, Bulgaria

The history of the Institute of Rose and Essential Oil Cultures in Kazanlak dates back to 1907. Regardless of the numerous changes and reorganizations, the Institute grew from a small Experimental Field to a leading scientific unit in essential oil production. Generations of experts have contributed to the development and recognition of this scientific unit by the community of agricultural science in Bulgaria. The Institute is proud of its history and achievements, modern ideas and technologies that have found application in agricultural practice.
The idea for the creation of an Experimental Station in Kazanlak, precursor of today’s Institute of Rose and Essential Oil Cultures, dates back to 1906. It was defined during the First Conference of Rose Production in Plovdiv where the following decision was taken: “To file a request with the government to establish experimental fields for studying all the issues of rose and other aromatic plants cultivation”. In 1907, the Ministry of Commerce and Agriculture allocated 26 da of the State Fruit Nursery in Kazanlak where oil-bearing roses and other aromatic plants, brought from France, were planted. This was the beginning of research work with rose and essential oil cultures in Bulgaria under the management of Konstantin Malkov.
The Experimental Field was restored in 1921 as a branch of the Central Agricultural Experimental Station (CAES) in Sofia and its management was assigned to the famous Bulgarian scientist Nikola Pushkarov. Gradually the area expanded as more new essential oil plants were introduced. Konstantin Georgiev, an agronomist, greatly contributed to this progress. Highly educated, trained in many countries with advanced farming practices, he quickly developed extensive research not only with the Kazanlak rose but also with new essential oil crops. The scientific activity was divided into two sections: one for experiments with the rose plant and the other for experiments with essential oil plants. Rose distillation was assigned to the Head of Chemical Department of CAES – Maria Stefanova.
With the expansion of the Experimental Field, the number of farm equipment increased and investments were allocated for the construction of the first laboratory and a residential building. In 1925, a meteorological station was built and in 1928 - 2 modern distillers were installed. During this period, a laboratory for research of rose and essential oil diseases and pests was established and the beginning of librarian activity was set. Within 1928-1943, the Experimental Field functioned as an independent unit directly subordinated to the Ministry of Agriculture. The 22 years of scientific activity of K. Georgiev were very successful. He is the one who identified the aspects of research on rose and essential oil and medicinal plants and carried out a remarkably wide promotion of this activity by publishing books, brochures and articles
With the budget for 1943, the Experimental Field was transformed to Experimental Station for Medicinal and Aromatic plants. The change was only expressed in employing one more agronomist. The assets of the Station amounted to 61 da arable land, two distillers and two horses.
As of 1945, the agronomist Vasil Staikov was appointed Head of Station. The scientific and research work was expanded considerably, the emphasis placed on major essential oil cultures - oil-bearing rose, mint and lavender and breeding work with those plants started. Additionally, other issues were explored such as mechanization, plant protection, plant physiology, technology of processing of the oil-bearing rose and introduction of new varieties of mint, clary sage and fennel. The further accumulation of material and technical assets became an important issue, international relations were expanded and more scientific workers were employed.
The Station changed its profile several times during its existence. In 1955, it became a unit of the Bulgarian Academy of Science, in 1961 – it was separated as an independent scientific unit with its own Scientific Council under the umbrella of the Academy of Agricultural Science. A decree of the Council of Ministers dated January 1, 1967 transformed the Experimental Station to the Institute of Oil-bearing Rose, Essential Oil and Medicinal Plants. The arable land of the Institute increased to 8570 da (by incorporating the land of the Co-operative farm of Shipka village), 7400 da of which assigned as an Experimental Base and 1140 da used for the field experiments. A new laboratory building and a greenhouse were built, the required farm machines and laboratory equipment were purchased and the number of scientific workers significantly increased. Hard work began for the development of new varieties of the three main cultures - oil-bearing rose, lavender and mint with the application of hybridization and breeding methods. Breeding objectives targeted the solving of major problems of essential oil production - higher essential oil content, higher yield per unit of area, disease and pest resistance, cold tolerance and improvement of essential oil quality. The first varieties were developed - oil-bearing rose Prolet, lavender Kazanlak and mint Kliment-63.
The studies on agrotechnics and mechanization reflected directly on production - the requirements of crops for main nutritive elements were specified, the location of root system on different soil types was studied and a new method of oil-bearing rose rooting was developed. At the same time, specialized equipment for essential oil cultures was designed - for lavender rejuvenation, for lavender harvesting, for earthing up of mint rootstock and for herbicide application in rose and lavender. Successful solutions were found to some plant protection issues – agrilus and rust in rose, rust, stag-beetle and acari in mint.
The transformation of the Station to an Institute triggered medicinal plants research that was previously carried out at the Plant Breeding Institute in Sofia. More species were included in the investigations such as summer snowflakes and valerian and new species were introduced.
With a decree of the Council of Ministers of February 25, 1972, the Institute became a department of Pharmachim State Economic Enterprise. This transition resulted in the complete detachment of the Institute from the Agricultural Academy, restructuring of the scope and plan as well as the discontinuation of fundamentally important theoretical research work for essential oil production. The scope of the Institute was limited to applied studies aimed at increasing the efficiency of Pharmachim SEE industry.
The achievements in the field of breeding of oil-bearing rose, mint, lavender and other EOMC (essential oil and medicinal cultures) were the contribution of a whole generation that created the Institute in the period 1970-1980. New varieties of oil-bearing rose, lavender, mint, valerian, thorn apple, yellow poppy, clary sage and decorative roses were selected. Funded by Pharmachim SEE, a large experimental workshop was built as well as distillery, microdistillery laboratory and laboratory for technological experiments. With a decree of the Council of Ministers of March 23, 1983, the Research Institute of Rose, Essential Oil and Medicinal Plants became a division of Bulgarian Rose Scientific and Production Plant. The objective was to close the cycle land-science-final product. New laboratories were created during this period: laboratory of cytology, tissue culture laboratory, technological laboratory of medicinal raw materials, laboratory of perfumery and cosmetics and experimental extraction laboratory. The experimental and industrial division developed into a major seed and seedling production unit for basic and pre-basic sowing and seedling material of essential oil and medicinal plants for the whole country. Prof. Nikola Astadjov was Director of the Institute as of 1980 to 1983. In the period 1983-1985, Prof. Valko Topalov was appointed as Director and in 1985-1991 – Assist. Prof. Spas Kurtev, B.S.M.E.
A number of new names and reorganizations followed. In 1991, the Institute was registered as an individual limited liability trade company with public property with the name RIREMC Ltd. and Ivan Dyankov as Manager. In 1993, the company was enrolled under the umbrella of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Industry with Managers Evgeni Hristov (1992-1996) and Prof. Georgi Chaushev (1996-1997). During that period, neither of the scientific institutes in the country was financed by the budget. Applications were made to all relevant authorities to allow the inclusion of the Institute in the system of the Agricultural Academy in order to discontinue this irrelevant and ungrounded existence of the Institute as a trade company.
Prof. Dr. Nedko Nedkov was Director of the Institute in the period 1996-1997. In 1998, the Council of Ministers separated the Institute from the company RIREMC Ltd. and established it as an independent scientific division of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Land Reform. Prof. Georgi Chaushev was Director during this period. Prof. Dr. Ana Margina was appointed Director in 2001.
As of the end of 2001 to this moment, Prof. Dr. Nedko Nedkov is Director of the Institute of Rose. In different periods, the Institute has been home to breeders such as Prof. Y. Yankulov, Ph.D. in biology, Assist. Prof. R. Tsvetkov, Ph.D., Assist. Prof. G. Djurmanski, Ph.D., Assist. Prof. B. Chingova, Ph.D. and Assist. Prof. D. Stanev; agro-technicians Assist. Prof. Sr. Zlatev, Ph.D., Assist. Prof. S. Slavov, Ph.D., Assist. Prof. J. Atanasov, Ph.D. and Assist. Prof. G. Paskalev, Ph.D.; mechanical engineers Assist. Prof. K. Kanev, B.S.M.E., Assist. Prof. M. Todorov, B.S.M.E. and Assist. Prof. St. Tsachev, B.S.M.E.; plant protection experts Assist. Prof. I. Tanev, Assist. Prof. K. Kazakova and Assist. Prof. P. Tsalbukov; Assist. Prof. A. Balinova, Ph.D. in the field of technology of plant raw material processing as well as Assist. Prof. G. Zolotovich, Assist. Prof. D. Koseva, Ph.D. and Assist. Prof. R. Decheva, Ph.D. from Plant Biochemistry and Physiology Department as well as other famous specialists in the field of essential oil production. A number of scientists that had a career with the Institute have contributed to its development and recognition.
The scientific and research work is concentrated on 21 scientific topics and one project of the Ministry of Education and Science. It is organized by the Science and Scientific Service Department and includes the subjects of introduction, breeding and selection, variety maintenance and seed production; agrotechnics and plant protection and technology of essential oil and medicinal plants processing.
Introduction is a priority for IREOC. It is devoted to the study and introduction of local and foreign varieties of essential oil and medicinal plants. Today, plant genetic resources introduced in IREOC include specimens of 216 varieties of 45 families, 77 of them being essential oil varieties, 127 – medicinal plant varieties and 20 species threatened with extinction from Bulgarian flora. Assist. Prof. Anatoli Djurmanski is working on introduction related issues.
Breeding and selection activity with oil-bearing rose dates back to 1924 with a vast expansion after the 60s of last century in IREOC. The results of this selection are varieties such as Svejen (author Prof. Staikov) and Iskra (author Assist. Prof. N. Astadjov). Variety Iskra is recognized and used as a standard in the system of the Seed Inspection, Approbation and Control Agency. High-yielding and cold resistant varieties Eleina and Yanina (author Assist. Prof. Raicho Tsvetkov) were selected in the recent years by the method of irradiation and chemical mutagenesis. Currently, the Institute is working on a breeding and selection program for the creation of a white oil-bearing rose variety with high and balanced essential oil content close to that of Kazanlak oil-bearing rose. New types of oil-bearing roses, introduced from Great Britain, are currently in the process of testing, some of them for replacement purposes and breeding at the same time. The Ministry of Education and Science project introduced for the first time the inzucht method for homozygous oil-bearing rose forms development – a step forward to defining the genetic identity of our rose that is yet not clear from scientific point of view. The research program uses microsatellite and molecular markers as an important method of both genetic variability evaluation and characterization of IREOC gene pool. Hybridization is being recently applied as a means for the development of new disease and pest resistant specimens and restoring the white oil-bearing rose population. Assist. Prof. Natasha Kovacheva, Ph.D., is in charge of these issues.
The foundations of lavender breeding in Bulgaria were set by Vasil Staikov and Blagovesta Chingova in 1945-1967. They are authors of two lavender varieties - Kazanlak and Karlovo - by the method of hybridization and individual breeding as well as variety Hemus in 1974 – an outstanding achievement of breeding with a yield of 10-11 kg/da essential oil of excellent quality as it was adopted as a standard by the State Sanitary Control Agency. Varieties Drujba, Sevtopolis and Ubileina followed and were extensively introduced all around the country. A team of the Institute, lead by the breeder Assist. Prof. R. Tsvetkov, recently created the varieties Raya and Hebar with exceptional essential oil yield - 17.2-16.8 kg/da. Currently, scientific objectives in lavender are related to progeny testing of several varieties, creation of super-elite plantations and hybridization.
Mint was included in the scope of the Experimental Field of Kazanlak as early as the beginning of its establishment. A population of Mentha piperita has been cultivated for a long period of time – it is characterized with high quality essential oil, yet, it has some shortcomings such as rust susceptibility, tendency to stem laying and long vegetation period. These shortcomings were eliminated with the new varieties, created as a result of the breeding activity of Assist. Prof. Dimitar Stanev, namely Kliment-63 in 1968, followed by Tundja in 1972 and Zefir in 1987.
At this stage the scientific work with mint is directed to crossing the best varieties with selected representatives of mints for breeding of high-yielding varieties and populations suitable both for oil production and dry mint leaf. Assist. Prof. Stanko Stanev is working on breeding issues related to lavender and mint. Achievements in breeding of other essential oil and medicinal cultures are the result of wide introduction, research, improvement and breeding activity at the Institute. The first Bulgarian variety Shipka of Valeriana officinalis L. species was created in 1973 (author N. Astadjov) and was characterized with high valepotriate content. In 1979, two high alkaloid content yellow poppy varieties - Glaucin 436 and Glaucin-poly - were recognized by the State Sanitary Control Agency (author G. Djurmanski), in 1980 the first polyploid chamomile variety was selected - Lazur (authors D. Stanev and U. Mihailova) as well as clary sage variety Trakiika (author R. Tsvetkov) and common balm Melissa-2 (author G. Djurmanski) and many others. Over 40 varieties of essential oil and medicinal cultures have been created here, 19 of them patented by IREOC.
Variety maintenance and seed-production scientific and research work includes research on methods and schemes for variety maintenance and production on basic and pre-basic sowing and seedling material from main essential oil and medicinal cultures.
A. Djurmanski, St. Stanev and N. Kovacheva are in charge of introduction and breeding issues in IREOC.
Cultivation technique – new optimal fertilization and irrigation variants are defined, new specialized equipment is designed and universal application equipment is adapted to essential oil and medicinal plant production practices. The MVG-1 unit, designed at the Institute for granulated herbicide application in oil-bearing rose as well as UPR-1 for old rose plantations rejuvenation, etc., have proved very successful. In 1986, the Institute introduced a new technology for production of oil-bearing rose seedlings by rooting of green cuttings in a cultivation vessel. This method was characterized with high propagation coefficient and short term of production therefore it became the most popular scientific product of the Institute for practical purposes.
At this stage, the scientific issues are related to the effect of drip irrigation on different oil-bearing rose varieties and types as well as optimum irrigation variants of others essential oil and medicinal cultures. Prof. Dr. Nedko Nedkov is working on these issues.
In the field of plant protection, new pesticides and growth regulators are tested as well as new bio-preparations for substitution of chemicals both in seedling production and plantations. Sustainable farming is a major issue. Our young colleagues Assist. Prof. Hristo Lambev and Assist. Prof. Desislava Angelova are involved in these studies.
Research in the field of essential oil and medicinal plants processing technology is devoted to optimum operation regimes of technical equipment for processing of raw material from essential oil and medicinal plants, development of modern methods for deriving oil and extracts as well as testing of means for more complete essential oil extraction. New methods for more complete essential oil extraction by means of surfactant agents have been explored in the recent years. These issues are covered under the management of Assist. Prof. A. Dobreva and the Head of the Test Laboratory A. Hairol, B.S.M.E.