In memoriam Dr. Kováts Zoltán

Dr. Zoltán Kováts


master breeder at the Research Institute for Fruitgrowing and Ornamentals


Dr. Zoltán Kováts, senior scientific researcher of the Research Institute for Fruitgrowing and Ornamentals, one of the founders of the Institute, who worked as master breeder for 60 years, passed away in 2010.

He enrolled in the College of Horticultural Science in 1945, and he graduated at the Horticultural Faculty of the Agricultural University. As a university student, he worked in Sweden for two years for the company Weibull, which was one of the bigger plant breeding and seed production company. Working for this company not only he could learn the theory and practice of plant breeding, but also gained insight into the running of a well-organized agricultural holding.

After he had graduated, he joined the Horticultural Research Institute, founded in 1950, as a junior member. After ten years he was promoted to manage the Ornamentals' Department as a senior scientist. His research area was the breeding of annual ornamentals. Professor János Domokos, his mentor gave him advice which he took into consideration during his work.

As the head of the department, he focused on breeding varieties suitable to the climate conditions of the country, rich and permanent blooming and low cost. The first step was to establish a big collection of species and varieties of domestic and foreign garden flowers and grasses, to do varietal trials, estimation and comparison of items.

One of his first result was the development of annual—flowering during the first summer—forms of biennial hollyhock (Alcea biennis), the members of the worldwide succesful ,,Balaton’’ and ,,Hungária’’ series.

At the same time he worked on the selection of Bromus and Festuca lawn grass varieties bringing out drought-resistant and trampling tolerant novel ones. As for the flowering plants, he was working with 25-30 species. As a result more than a hundred varieties received state approval.

He worked every time with a high number of plants, as he was convinced that the presence of certain positive variants can be found only in huge populations. Great efforts are needed to satisfy the international DUS standards (Difference, Uniformity, Stability) of seed propagated varieties, among which the stability of progenies requires the most time and effort. He worked til nightfall on the research station and spent the night at his office in Budatétény, later in Érd (Elvira Experimental Farm) so as he could begin the work at dawn, because the small hours are the most suited time to the work of cross breeding.

The international organization for the ornamental plants industry Fleuroselect approved 27-30 varieties of 8 species, including 16 varieties of China aster (Callistephus chinensis) bred by Zoltán Kováts during the past 30-36 years. The All-America Selections approved 9 varieties of 7 species bred by him.

The international horticultural shows held by Fleuroselect helped to spread Hungarian varieties in the world. Since 2000 the breeders can personally receive their awards. In the 2000’s were internationally approved the varieties of Celosia and Rudbeckia.

The proportion of Hungarian annual ornamental varieties increased in the parks. Due to the Hungarian competition of Entente Floral Europe the local governments found out that the international jury appreciates the Hungarian bred varieties which are hardy the most to Hungarian climate.That’s why the settlements, including the largest cities, use mostly his varieties in public parks.

Zoltán Kováts belonged to the generation of researchers that was able to implement his lifework completely at the Research Institute for Fruitgrowing and Ornamentals. He achieved that every year 50-70 varieties are recultivated by the Institute. He was a member of the Commitee on Plant Breeding of Hungarian Academy of Sciences and the Hungarian Plant Breeders’ Assotiation. His awards:

  • Fleischmann Rudolf Plaque 1974
  • Academic Award 1989
  • Major Award of Magyar Gyula Foundation for breeders 1994
  • Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary knight’s cross 1999
  •  Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary officer’s cross 2010

His death is a great loss of the Institute and of the horticultural science.


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