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Organic Farming Research - Latvia

This article is an excerpt of the country report on organic farming in Latvia at the Organic-World.net homepage. It was provided by Livija Zarina of the Priekuli Plant Breeding Institute.


Research activities in organic farming in Latvia started in the beginning of the current century. During the 1990s, too, some scientists began to acquaint themselves with scientific literature, and took part in scientific conferences, workshops and other international activities connected to organic farming.

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Key institutions

There are several research institutions that are active in the fields of organic farming and food production:

  • State Priekuli Plant Breeding Institute PBI;
  • State Stende Cereal Breeding Institute;
  • Research Centre Skriveri of the Latvia University of Agriculture;
  • Research farm “Vecauce” of the Latvia University of Agriculture;
  • Research Centre “Sigra” of the Latvia University of Agriculture.  

At each institution research is carried out by different research groups. There are opportunities to make use of the best expertise and the best research facilities. At the Priekuli Plant Breeding Institute, the Stende Cereal Breeding Institute, the Research Centre Skriveri and the research farm Vecauce scientists have access to converted organic experimental fields.


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Priekuli Plant Breeding Institute PBI

Priekuli Plant Breeding Institute PBI (Dr.agr. Livija Zarina), commissioned by the Skriveri Research Centre (Dr.agr. M. Vaivare) is a pioneer of research into organic farming. Initial experiments tested biodynamic preparations (horn manure, horn silica) on potatoes. The next step was to use the knowledge gained from the long-term field trials (established in 1958) on crop management without pesticides to set up systems suitable for organic farming.

Today mainstream activities of the organic farming group at Priekuli PBI  are:

  • To carry out research on the suitability of plant varieties under organic farming conditions. Tests have been performed on rye, wheat, triticale, barley, oat, and potato varieties;
  • To determine the efficiency of plant protection activities, as well as to research plant protection using different methods;
  • To evaluate the triticale, barley, and potato breeding material under organic farming conditions; to determine the most significant feature selection criteria for the creation of varieties suitable for organic farming;
  • To carry out the record keeping and analysis of weed growth dynamics; to estimate ways of decreasing the amount of weeds in organic farming fields;
  • To conduct research on preserving soil fertility levels in crop rotation fields;
  • To propagate the seed material of rye, barley, oat, clover, and potato varieties.

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Key research themes

Research on organic farming in Latvia focuses on 3 topics:

  • Crop management (optimisation of nutrients, control of weeds, diseases and pests);
  • Variety testing for organic farming (suitability of varieties for organic farming);
  • Organic livestock production.

Currently the main activities concentrate on variety testing and organic crop management methods. Trials of crop variety suitability under organic growing conditions have been carried out since 2001 in some research institutes.

Official VCU (Value for Cultivation and Use) testing of field crops for organic farming started in 2004. Breeders included in trials have already registered varieties which could be appropriate for organic farming. Varieties of different crops are tested for yield, maturity, lodging and disease resistance, and quality systems. Testing was subsidised by the Latvian Ministry of Agriculture. Since 2008 there have been no special subsidies for organic VCU.

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Training at the University of Latvia

The Faculty of Agriculture of the Latvia University of Agriculture, parallel to its basic study programme, offers a course in organic agriculture. Upon completion of the course, a certificate is awarded certifying that a theoretical and practical course of study in organic agriculture has been successfully completed.

Third year students have the opportunity to extend their knowledge in the principles of organic agriculture, biological pest management, certification and legislation of organic agriculture in Latvia and the rest of the world.

In the fourth year of study students continue studying specifics of crop production and horticulture, weed control techniques and production of seeds. They can learn the fundamentals of bee-keeping, the peculiarities of rearing and feeding cattle, pigs, sheep, poultry and fish, and optimising feed rations according to environmental demands.

An educational excursion and individual practical training (at least two weeks) is included in the study programme. The completion of theoretical and practical courses leads to the final examination.

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Training and advice

A training programme aimed at improving professional skills in organic agriculture has been established, and it is licensed with the Latvian Agricultural Advisory and Training Centre. The aim of the programme is to train the participants on legislation and state support policies in organic agriculture and to provide basic information on the following themes:

  • Living soil and rational use of organic fertiliser;
  • Crop rotation;
  • Pest and disease control;
  • Animal husbandry;
  • Horticulture;
  • Optimum soil tillage systems, farm mechanisation and farmyard manure removal technologies;
  • Ecological measures;
  • Economics.

During these courses, farmers have the opportunity to meet the teaching staff of the Latvia University of Agriculture, extension workers from the Latvian Agricultural Advisory and Training Centre and the Association of Latvian Organic Agriculture Organisations.

The duration of the courses is 180 hours; they consist of:

  • Theory 60 hours;
  • Practical work 22 hours;
  • Independent work 38 hours;
  • Practical training on family farms 60 hours.

After completion of the theoretical and practical components, the participants work on practical, concrete projects on organic farming or the transition to organic farming. At the end of the course successful participants receive a state approved certificate.

The Latvian Agricultural Advisory and Training Centre have several experts that provide advice on organic farming. A list of these experts is available on the internet site of the Latvian Organic Farmers Association.
In 2007, the course on organic farming (180 hours in total) was completed by 748 farmers.

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