April 3rd, 2020 – Since more than half of Croatia’s food products derive from imports, and the crisis caused by the virus corona is only intensifying, we have decided to harness our knowledge and capacity to urgently launch Croatian agriculture.
Due to the difficult times caused by the coronavirus pandemic, many countries, including world superpowers, are forced to rethink their policies regarding their nation’s self-sufficiency. In addition to energy and water, this certainly includes food. In order to ensure this for their citizens, some countries have already taken measures to limit the export of their agricultural products.
In Croatia, where imports of needed food products exceed more than 50 percent, this is becoming a hot topic in light of expected problems in the upcoming economic crisis such as disruption in distribution chains, inability to collect and process agricultural products due to social distancing, problems expected in storing products, etc. These are all topics that Croatian society must work on immediately and without delay so that this agricultural season does not escape us, and we do not have food shortages.
With the desire to help in this, we decided to harness our knowledge and capacities and do what we can and know. We have gathered a few of our excellent experts with extensive experience in the fields of agronomy, ecology, forestry and geoinformatics and together we launched an initiative called “Let’s Plow Croatian fields!”, since Croatia has great potentials, we only need to know and be able to utilize them – our Director Mr. Dalibor Hatić believes.
Vladimir Kušan, PhD., Oikon Board member and Head of two Oikon Departments, adds: – As a first step, we have done a preliminary spatial analysis of the agricultural land potential in the Republic of Croatia and identified over 400,000 ha of unused agricultural land that could be cultivated or used in a relatively short time for food production. All the land that can be used for agricultural purposes is unused or is overgrown and not being used. These preliminary mapped areas also contain mined land, however, for the sake of safety, we will remove all suspicious mined areas from the new detailed and precise map on which we are already busily working and expect will be completed within ten days.
If we estimate that one square meter of arable land per day is needed per capita, that is, one hectare can feed 27 people throughout the year, according to our preliminary calculation, this area of over 400,000 ha could potentially feed almost 11 million people per year! This figure is, of course, significantly smaller, since we have to take into account that a portion of the land in this map is not suitable for conventional intensive agricultural production without investment, however, this information is a very good indicator that Croatia has great opportunity and potential to feed not only its citizens but produce food and raw materials for export – explains Hrvoje Kutnjak, PhD., from the Faculty of Agriculture, University of Zagreb.
Zrinka Mesić, PhD., from Oikon, also a professor at the University of Karlovac, believes that: – According to the Constitution of the Republic of Croatia, land, flora and fauna, or nature, have “special protection” of the Republic. A large number of overgrown farmland surfaces represents our untapped resource, but it also reduces the diversity of our wildlife. The arable land cultivation initiation is also essential for the protection of wildlife.
Oikon shall make its maps and all its further analyzes available to anyone in the Republic of Croatia who may benefit from them. We will submit the results of our analysis upon written request and free of charge in the format of an active spatial data base to local self-government units, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Paying Agency in Agricultural and other participants that are key in the creation and implementation of agricultural policies.
We invite everyone who wishes and who can contribute to join the initiative “Let’s Plow Croatian Fields!” as soon as possible. Every crisis is also an opportunity. Let us seize this opportunity and mobilize Croatia’s agricultural potential. Let’s plow Croatian fields! Let’s plant Croatian gardens! Let’s tidy up the pastures and populate them with animals! But let’s act now! – emphasizes Dalibor Hatić.
Do you have any questions or suggestions regarding the “Let’s Plow Croatian fields!” Initiative? Would you like to join us and contribute with your knowledge? Email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: The maps show areas that are suitable for agricultural use and are not currently in use, former arable land overgrown with perennial weeds or shrubs, grasslands and former pastures in overgrowth, areas of maquis and garigues that were burned in fires, etc.
Method of estimating the unused agricultural land area in the Republic of Croatia
Oikon Ltd. has prepared an assessment and agricultural land use maps in the Republic of Croatia for 2012 (SAGRA 1 – Romić et al. 2014) and 2018 (SAGRA 2 – Ondrašek et al. 2019) as a subcontractor for the Faculty of Agriculture, University of Zagreb. Projects were developed for Hrvatske vode to assess the impact of agriculture on surface and groundwater. These maps also show agricultural land not used in agricultural production. Spatial overlaps of unused agricultural land with a soil suitability map of the Republic of Croatia (Bogunović et al. 1997) and a map of non-forest terrestrial habitats of the Republic of Croatia 2016 (Bioportal RH) provide an estimation as to which areas of unused agricultural land could be utilized for agricultural production in a short period of time. This primarily applies to neglected agricultural areas overgrown with ruderal vegetation and those where succession of woody vegetation has begun and areas that burned in open-air fires.
 Romić, D., S. Husnjak, M. Mesić, K. Salajpal, K. Barić, M. Poljak, M. Romić, M. Konjačić, Vnučec, H. Bakić, M. Bubalo, M. Zovko, L. Matijević, Z. Lončarić, Ž. Brkić, O. Larva, V. Kušan, (2014): Impact of agriculture on surface and groundwater pollution in the Republic of Croatia, Faculty of Agriculture, University of Zagreb, 295 pg., https://www.voda.hr/sites/default/files/dokumenti/utjecaj_poljoprivrede_na_oneciscenje_povrsinskih_i_podzemnih_voda_u_republici_hrvatskoj.pdf, accessed 1. 4. 2020.
 G. Ondrašek, D. Romić, M. Bubalo Kovačić, H. Bakić Begić, M. Mesić, I. Šestak, K. Barić, A. Pintar, R. Bažok, K. Salajpal, I. Vnučec, M. Konjačić, Ž. Brkić, I. Žiža, I. Tomljenović, B. Radun, V. Kušan, (2019): Determination of priority groundwater monitoring areas within an intensive agricultural area, Faculty of Agriculture, University of Zagreb, Study, Client: Hrvatske vode Zagreb, 295 pg.
 Bogunović, M., Vidaček, Ž., Racz, Z., Husnjak, S. & Sraka Mario (1997) Soil suitability map of the Republic of Croatia and its use. Agronomy Gazette, 59 (5-6), 363-399.