On May 10, about 70 people from Poland and abroad (Belarus, the Netherlands, Germany, Serbia, Ukraine) took part in the grand opening of a new in vitro laboratory - a plant microreproduction lab of Plantin, a company from Cracow, Poland. This family-owned firm belonging to the Kusibab family is a unique European producer of berries - mainly highbush blueberries and Kamchatka berries - using the tissue culture method.
It started with orchids
Plantin is the successor of Horticultural Farm Tadeusz Kusibab - the owner, along with his wife Ewa and daughter Justyna Kusibab-Mruk, guided visitors around the laboratory built last year, the history of which dates back to 1978 and the then humble beginnings. They are associated with microreproduction of orchids - interest in these plants, which are reproduced through the tissue culture method only, drove Tadeusz Kusibab, then a student at the Krakow Academy of Agriculture, to set up a small laboratory in the basement of his family home.
Microreproduction on an increasing scale, or four decades in the laboratory
During this year's May celebrations, Ewa Kusibab noted that after 20 years since the start of "growing in test tubes", when the business was expanding and the owners were gaining experience (except for orchids, they reproduced, for example, gerberas, ferns and saintpaulias), they created their first real laboratory - in a separate building, near the house.
After another twenty years, a new object was built, with an area of625 m2, which was put into use at the end of 2018. This year, the laboratory produces ca. 4-4.5 million plants - in addition to those mentioned at the beginning, these are also: rhododendrons, azaleas, kalmias, blackberries, raspberries, boysenberries, amelanchiers, plums (virus free), sea buckthorns, gooseberries, currants and cranberries. According to Tadeusz Kusibab, there are 300-400 plant taxa in the laboratory assortment. He added that new products are constantly being introduced, but some cultures for which there is insufficient demand are also being dropped (this was the case with fruit varieties of common dogwood or peonies). Although they mostly reproduce highbush blueberries, the owners promote mainly Kamchatka berries (Lonicera caerulea var. Kamtschatica) - modern varieties with large, tasty fruits whose health benefits are an important advantage of the plant.
In vitro and in vivo
Visiting and watching the next stages of in vitro production (preparation of nutrients, establishing sterile cultures and multiplying them, rooting and cultivating in growth rooms with artificial light - phytotrons, storage of cultures in coolers) was the first part of the program of the meeting. You could, for example, find out that 1000-1500 growth medium vessels are prepared daily and that "streaking" (from one medium to the next) of 1500-2300 microplants takes place in 15 chambers with a laminar flow of sterile air.
The second part of the program took place away from the Plantin “headquarters”, about 30 km from Muniakowice near Słomnik. There is a branch of the company, where plants reproduced in the laboratory are cultivated - from acclimatization, as well as additional in vivo multiplication from micro-seedlings, which are rooted in peat paper-pots (Ellepots).
The final stage of production at Plantin is under covers. In modern plastic blocks (1.2 ha), which were erected in Muniakowice, visitors could see primarily highbush blueberries in multi-pots. This young starting material is sold to many native arborists, and exported to over a dozen countries, including Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Serbia.
Very interesting was also a young field plantation of Kamchatka berries in Muniakowice, founded by the owners who believe in the still underestimated power of the fruit of this plant.
The hosts of the May meeting, the goal of which was not only the grand opening, but also showing the whole production cycle (from laboratory to plastic tunnel) heard many compliments from the guests, regarding the method, technological level, quality and organization of the plant production in Plantin.
Some visitors (clients, scientists, other specialists) emphasised the owner’s ability to predict market trends and introduce timely solutions. Tadeusz Kusibab said that the market is becoming less and less predictable, and the changes that occur are profound and sometimes "irrational". That makes it increasingly difficult to act in the long-term, especially in the context of significantly growing costs of horticultural production. On the other hand, it is easier to function when the whole family support each other and when two generations cooperate in the business.
Around the Muniakowice branch of the Pantin company, there are also two other farms belonging to the daughters of Ewa and Tadeusz Kusibab and their sons-in-law, also producing nursery plants for orchard and decorative plants - Horticultural Farm Aleksandra Kusibab-Wyka and Marcin Wyka and Horticultural Farm Waganowice Paulina Kusibab-Popowicz and Mirosław Popowicz. All three companies cooperate with and complement each other (they offer plants of various sizes), building a common brand.