The Research Institute of Mountain Stockbreeding and Agriculture (RIMSA) was established in 1978 as a successor of the State Nursery founded in 1910 and consecutively transformed in Plum Research Station (1950) and Mountain Agriculture Integrated Research Station (1960). The establishment of the Institute was necessitated to preserve the biogenocoenose of the mountain ecosystems and ensure the environmentally safe agricultural production. This task predetermined the integrated nature of the research and applied activities.
The thematic research plan comprises 15 scientific research projects targeted at problems of stockbreeding, grass forage production, fruit-growing, economics of mountain agriculture as well as environment preservation and conservation. Priority is given to advanced theoretical research in genetics, breeding, reproduction and genetic biotechnologies. The major objective is to set the methodological basis of applied projects for breeding of new improved plant varieties and hybrids, livestock breeds and hybrids, elaborating of systems for erosion prevention, for environment-friendly livestock and plant production and in this way preserve the unique beauty of mountain regions.
The principal structural units of the Research Institute of Mountain Stockbreeding and Agriculture are the research departments, the Extension Service, the Experimental-and-Production Base and the subsidiary in Smolyan - the Integrated Agricultural Research Station. In 2002 a college was established at the Institute, which is an educational and scientific centre affiliated to the Higher School of the Agricultural College in Plovdiv. In the 2002–2003 school year a total of 70 students have been taught at the college.
The scientific research projects of the Institute and its subsidiary are developed by a team of 35 researchers allocated in three principal research departments: (1) Mountain Livestock Breeding and Biotechnologies, (2) Mountain Grassland Associations and Maintenance of their Biodiversity, and (3) Mountain Fruit-growing and Conservation of Mountain Ecosystems in Agriculture. The scientific research sector is assisted by a Laboratory Facilities Complex made up of five laboratories and by a mechanization unit. The production sector also serves for the effective execution of the research projects and is divided into two branches - plant growing (production of planting material of fruit trees and raspberries, of plum fruit, wheat grain and sunflower) and livestock breeding (production of cow's, sheep and goat's milk, lambs and goat kids and products from them such as meat and sausages, yoghourt, butter, cow's and goat's cheese).
- The Department of Mountain Livestock Breeding and Biotechnologies carries out projects for introduction, breeding and management of beef and dairy cattle, sheep and goats. In cattlebreeding an integrated system has been developed for beef cattle management, possibilities have been explored for introduction to the mountain regions of the beef cattle breeds polled Hereford, Aberdeen Angus, Limousine and Salers together with high productivity hybrids. By means of absorptive crossing techniques a dairy cattle population has been created from the Jersey breed in the Central Balkan Mountains that is especially suitable for private farms. In sheepbreeding major objectives are preservation of valuable local populations and breeds such as the Karakachanska breed and the local Staroplaninsko variety, breeding and selection of prolific Tsigai ewes using the Romanovska, Drysdale and Perendale breeds. The goatbreeding scientific research utilizes the Bulgarian White Dairy breed as well as Togenbourgh and Anglo-Nubian crosses. Various elements of the biology and biotechnology of reproduction process in livestock (small ruminants and cattle) have been dealt with at the embryo transplantation laboratory and with the use of laparoscopic insemination. The stockbreeding department is also maintaining a farm for shepherd dogs with Border Collie as the major breed.
- The Mountain Grasslands and Forage Production Department's principal research activities include breeding of perennial grasses and perennial legume forage species for grazing, hay and combined utilization, developing of permanent mountain grasslands improvement technologies, agrotechnical mechanization of mountain permanent and temporary grasslands' management for hay and silage production or grazing utilization, evaluation of the economic effectiveness of mountain grass forage production. The results from breeding activities include official listing of two varieties of perennial grasses - tall fescue cv. Elena and meadow timothy cv. Troyan. Variety approval tests are performed with five test-varieties of the species white clover, red clover, birdsfoot trefoil, Kentucky bluegrass and red fescue.
The following technologies have been developed and ready for practical implementation: seed production from perennial grasses and legume meadow grass species; improvement and utilization of natural meadows and pastures in the mountain areas; production of hay, wilted hay and silage from natural and sown grasslands; economically effective solutions in the production of grass forages.
- The research in the Department of Fruit-growing and Mountain Agriculture Ecosystems Conservation is mainly focused on issues of mountain fruit-growing technologies, including introduction, breeding and variety testing of plum, soft-fruit species (raspberry, blackberry, bilberry, etc.) and some medicinal plants. An assortment of 87 plum varieties has been preserved as genetic stock for breeding purposes. By implementing modern in vitro techniques new varieties have been produced of plum (cvs Baleva, Ostreshka, Troyanska Plum and B2-24), one service-tree variety and 124 plum hybrids. Introduction has been performed with 16 raspberry varieties, 4 cultivars of large-berry blackberry and 6 cultivars of large berry bilberry. Nearly 120 raspberry hybrids and elites have been bred and tested. Improved technologies have been developed for plum crop growing using the trench planting method, for the agronomy and management of raspberry and medicinal plants, systems for soil surface maintenance on sloped or erosive ground with minimal input of pesticides or fertilizers. Production technologies for virus-free fruit-tree planting material have been worked out. The virology laboratory performs tests on fruit-tree plantations in the Central Northern Bulgaria region. Assessment has been carried out on the biological characteristics, the prophylactic and medicinal properties of black chokeberry, seabuckthorn, rowan, Chaenomeles fruit as well as other medicinal-fruit crops. The fruit-growing mechanization research has been testing machines for planting and maintenance of plum and raspberry plantations, new plant protection techniques and machines including herbicide controlled droplet application, plum and raspberry pruning and harvesting machines. The department conducts researches on prevention of soil erosion and pesticide pollution in orchards located on sloped ground in mountain ecosystems. A mother garden has been functioning for ten years now, producing tested for economically important diseases grafts of the chief plum varieties grown in the country. The nursery garden of RIMSA has an annual output of over 3000 virus tested plum tree planting stock. Another mother garden has been established with a capacity of over 20000 plants of super elite raspberry planting material of the varieties Samodiva, Bulgarski Roubin, Shopska Alena and Lyulin.
RIMSA scientists have participated in joint multinational research projects with the Livestock Husbandry Institute Belgrad (Zemun, Yugoslavia), the Veterinary Institute in Skopje (Macedonia), with Germany in the FAMAD Project as well as two more projects within the framework of EU programmes.
Since 1998 international scientific research conferences have been held at RIMSA, Troyan, entitled Ecological Issues of Mountain Agriculture, which have become a forum for eminent scientists at home and abroad. This year issue of the conference lasted from 29 to 30 May and apart from participants from leading national universities and institutes attendance from the republics of Macedonia, Yugoslavia, Poland and Romania was registered. In the Livestock and Grassland management session a total of 8 invited papers were presented, plus 23 offered papers and posters, of which 11 on stockbreeding themes and 12 on grassland management; in the Perennial Plantations session there was one invited paper and 30 offered papers and posters. The discussions that were held defined the basic trends in the development of mountain agriculture and stockbreeding over the subsequent years.
RIMSA, Troyan, regularly participates in national agricultural exhibitions and this year it was awarded a honorary diploma and two prizes at the National Stockbreeding Exhibition under the patronage of the Executive Agency in Livestock Breeding and Reproduction at the MAF, Sofia, held in Sliven on 31 May.