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Focus on the NBS Fruit Tree Genebank or 'Genebank Flanders'

The NBS or "Nationale Boomgaarden Stichting" (National Orchard Foundation) is a Belgian NGO organization that has been collecting and evaluating old fruit tree cultivars in Belgium, and particularly in its northern part Flanders, since 1970. From the beginning the collection especially focused on old landraces, regional diversity and local fruit varieties in the many rashly vanishing orchards in Flanders.

Over a period of 10 years about 1,000 accessions were collected by its founder Ludo Royen, deriving from old orchards in practically all the regions of Flanders and occasionally in the rest of the country. The idea of preserving this collection as full standard trees in new created orchards at different places in Flanders, mostly in the province of Limburg, was quite the exception.

After the foundation of the NBS as a charity NGO organization in 1984 the collection grew very quickly. Now the conservatory and experimental orchards of the NBS number more than 3.500 accessions from all over the country. 

From the beginning the major goal of the foundation was to save the old Belgian bred and cultivated fruitraces and to realize this in a place were they belonged, in orchards and collections.

After focusing on vanishing orchard races the NBS went in search of disappearing Belgian fruit collections and took over a lot of collections from institutes and private collectors, no longer interested. In this way the foundation became patron of mostly all old fruit collections in Flanders, such as:

the Vilvoorde Horticultural School collection (now HORTECO)

the Leuven Horticultural Institute collection

the Mechelen ... collection

the private collections of Mr. D. Bertand / Mr. J. Baggen / Mr. JP. Billen

Nowadays the NBS manages more than 100 ha of orchards with collections of full standard fruit trees, such as:

  • The Diepenbeek Keizel orchard
  • The Hoeselt Steenbroek orchard
  • The Kortessem Enkelenberg orchard
  • The Kortessem Konijn orchard
  • The Sint-Truiden Hoogmolen

in common with mother-collections with doubles, mother-trees for graftwood, observation and evaluation, such as in:

  • Schalkhoven Colmont
  • Hoeselt Hardelingen
  • Vliermaal Berenveld

Flemish Grapes Foundlings

In Borgloon, a little medieval city in the south of Limburg, an experimental collection of grapes (for dessert and wine) is kept on the slopes of an old wine site called "De Hoge Graaf", which was part of the city walls fortress in the Middle Ages. On this site more than 400 grape accessions, most of them collected by Wies Mariën in the years ..., are kept and tested . These are local winestocks found on walls of old farms, railway stations, upper-class houses or in old gardens of castles, abbeys, churches and are called "Our Flemish Foundlings".

Nowadays the NBS collection numbers more than 3.500 accessions, mostly of apples, pears, plums, cherries, persimmons, nuts, grapes, quinces and medlars. A large proportion of the collection consists of old Belgian and Flemish bred cultivars, regional races, local landraces and until now unnamed old cultivars. Most of them were never described and after years of observation and evaluation their characteristics are now progressively published in POMOLOGIA (since 1984), the quadrennial periodical of the organization.

NBS Genebank Flanders

Under the leadership of president Ludo Royen more than 1.500 old apple, pear, plum and cherry accessions were gathered and planted as full standard trees in different NBS collection orchards forming the NBS Fruit Tree Genebank, more commonly called 'Genebank Flanders'. They are continually evaluated and judged, specially by their behaviour in the landscape, their specific adaptation to the soil, their biological cultivation, their disease resistance, their pomological specifications, their history and cultivation purposes and at last their culinary use found in old recepies.

The NBS data base of fruit accessions

A data base, as a list of accessions held in the NBS collections, is realized for all of them and is still growing on. 

For a substantial amount of the apple, pear, plum and cherry accessions a data base with information about passport, evaluation and characterisation is completed. It is based on a European approved minimum description list that is used in the PODO project, modified by the NBS and edited in Flemish. (Minimum Karakteriserings- kenmerken voor Pitvruchten – 2005).

For the land and regional races and the local varieties this work keeps going on.

The NBS represents Belgium and Flanders on several occasions at European exhibitions and activities. The NBS organized a European fruit happening and international fruit exposition EUROPOM for the first time at Limburg University in 1985 and every 5 years since then.

This EUROPOM exposition has become an international event following up at every turn in another country every year under the by the NBS registered name. EUROPOM also covers a by the NBS created European platform, a Pomological Working Group of NGO's from all over Europe.

The NBS is involved in several national and international projects, such as:

  • the PODO Apple project
  • the Europom Working Group of NGO's
  • several Euregional Projects 

The NBS collection is worldwide registered.

Bringing the landraces back to their origins

For the last 5 years the NBSW (National Orchard Social Working Group), a NBS spin off, has been realizing in practice step by step one of the NBS first and basic aims i e bringing back the typical local and regional landraces to where they belong: in their own region and their original habitat of full standard trees.

In this way the NBS succeeded in replanting or reconstructing original or new orchards in all the provinces of Flanders at a rate of 4.000 full standard trees every last year. As old landraces go back to the countryside of origin they restore the landscape in its own historical shape. On the other hand this 'collecting on the farm' guarantees a supplementary maintenance of these old genepool of varieties in situ.


The latest publication about local and regional landraces was realized by the NBS for the province of West Flanders. It contents the colour pictures of more than 100 fruitvarieties of West Flanders, provides their full description and gives information about cultivation, diseases, pollination, use, etc. .

  •  Royen L. e.a., Hoogstamfruitbomen in West-Vlaanderen (Full standard fruit trees in West Flanders), Brugge 2005.  
  • Geyselinck J.B., Padonck wijngaard Borgloon. Deel 1: Een decennium teeltgegevens en vaststellingen (Part 1: A decade (decennium) of culture, evaluation, characterisation and description of the NBS vitis collection ), NBS 1999.
  • Geyselinck J., Padonck wijngaard Borgloon – Deel 2: NBS vitis genetic resources in sito. Druivenrassen in de NBS collectie, NBS juli 2001.