NEIKER ‐ Basque Institute for Agricultural Research and Development has its origins in an experimental farm created in the mid ‐nineteenth century, but in its actual state was founded in 1998, as a Public Society of the Basque Government. It is devoted to carry out research and development projects in agriculture, livestock, forest, environmental and natural resources. Member since December 2006 of the Technological Corporation TECNALIA, NEIKER is nowadays a Research Centre specialized in Agricultural Innovation, as well as Environment and Natural Resources studies.
NEIKER develops activities of basic and applied research in order to acquire new knowledge aimed at developing new technologies and practical methodologies that help improve competitiveness and productivity of the agricultural, livestock, forestry and natural resource sectors.
Between 130 to 140 scientists, technicians as well as undergraduate and PhD students work at NEIKER, and carry out about 120 R+D projects in the main lines of research, which involves an annual budget of 13 million Euros. Projects are funded by local, national, European Union and non‐EU international bodies, with partners coming from numerous countries working in these projects.
R+D+i activities at NEIKER are structured into five scientific departments, with support for management and administration of a Department of General Services: a) Plant Production and Protection, b) Forestry Sciences, c) Animal Production, d) Animal Health, e) Conservation of Natural Resources.
In Plant Production and Protection we carry out traditional plant breeding to develop varieties adapted to the agro‐environmental conditions of the Basque Country, disease resistant and better adapted to the market, especially in potato, corn and radiata pine, so as to increase yields and improve the product quality. In Plant Protection the activities are focused on epidemiology, diagnosis and control of pests and diseases in crops and forest species of interest in the Basque Country, developing detection methods for pathogens, and paying special attention to the biological control of pests and diseases. The research projects are focused on diseases and pests in field crops, as well as greenhouse crops and tree plantations.
In Forestry Sciences we work in the areas of productivity, health and sustainability of tree plantations and forests. In order to do this we develop a program of genetic improvement of radiata pine based on selection assisted by markers, taking into account in particular those related to the quality of wood. Likewise, techniques of somatic embryogenesis are put in place for the clonal propagation of the improved individuals. Site maps are developed to look for those alternative species that best suit the current and future climate conditions of the Basque Country. Finally, advanced methodologies are designed, applied, and controlled to achieve more sustainable forest management in the field of control and prevention of forest decay caused by invasive and pathogenic agents.
Animal Production works in animal breeding performing systematically genetic evaluations for production traits and composition of milk and udder morphology in sheep breeds Latxa and Carranzana, as well as calving ease in Frisian cattle.
Research in Animal Health focuses on surveillance, control and prevention of livestock and wildlife diseases including those that have a significant impact on animal health and zoonotic diseases, with the aim of improving animal health and welfare, as well as Public Health. Main objectives: development of diagnostic tools and procedures to improve the sanitary status of livestock and control zoonotic pathogens.
In Conservation of Natural Resources agricultural production systems, such as traditional, integrated and organic, are evaluated studying its viability and sustainability, quantifying the possible environmental impacts caused by agricultural practices (erosion, pollution, loss of biodiversity, etc.) and proposing new agricultural practices to cope with climate change and allow their integration within the framework of sustainability.