Plant breeding in Croatia has a long tradition stemming back to the beginning of 20th century. Up to now, the activities were mainly focused on arable crops with varying intensity and success resulting in about 1,200 cultivars registered in the past 60 years. In the last 25 years global multi-national breeding companies gradually became major players on Croatian seed market reducing the share of former public and nowadays mostly private Croatian breeding institutions and companies. This is particularly reflected in the dominating share in hybrid seed market (arable and vegetable crops), while for self-pollinating crops (e.g., wheat, barley and soybean) state of affairs is to a certain degree more favourable due to fact that regional breeding to a better extent reflects local agro-ecological conditions thus having more success.
The economic value of the most important arable crops in Croatia (maize, wheat and soybean) is reflected through the annual value of crop production that varies between 350 and 400 millions of euros. The estimated annual value for royalty fees (incorporated into the seed value) is between 7 and 8 millions of euros. Out of this amount, 4 to 4.5 millions of euros go to multi-national breeding companies and leaves Croatia, while 3 to 3.5 millions of EUR is retained by domestic breeding companies and institutions. The average annual genetic gain for these crops in domestic breeding programs is ca. 0.5 to 1.0% which translated to the contribution to the increase value of production is 2 to 4 millions of euros. The conservative estimate is that the expected direct contribution in increasing annual genetic gain by the adoption of new technologies, developed by the CoE, will be 20% or translated to the contribution to the increase value of production will give us the value of 400 to 800 thousands of euros each year.
One of the major constraints observed in breeding methodology among Croatian plant breeders is insufficient and very slow adoption of new technologies such as high-throughput phenotyping, marker-assisted selection, genomic selection, doubled haploids and resilient use of exotic germplasm for short and long-term breeding objectives. Although there are some examples where such attempts were made in a recent past, novel approaches have not become integrated into any breeding program. A partial justification lies in the fact that research activities are off the mainstream of the breeding work. Breeders cannot invest their time and resources in adopting emerging technologies. Another reason is the lack of financial resources. The amount of money the Croatian breeding companies and institutes invest in research and development is incomparable to that the multi-national breeding and seed companies have at their disposal. As a consequence, breeding output and productivity is often reflected in slower genetic gain and release of non-competitive germplasm.