The case study of biological pest control in Latvia was carried out in Vidzeme region, located in the North Eastern part of the country. Vidzeme is a predominantly agrarian region. Agricultural land covers 34% of the region’s territory, while forests count for 56%. One fifth of all Latvian farms are located in Vidzeme, and agriculture, forestry and fishing make a considerable contribution of 13,4% (2017) to the regional total added value. Farms in Vidzeme are slightly bigger than average in Latvia in terms of utilised agricultural land (31 ha and 29 ha respectively (2016)). Animal husbandry, especially dairy cows and sheep, and growing of cereals, fruit and vegetables are typical farm specialisations.
Vidzeme was selected as the focus region for studying the innovation domain of biological plant protection due to prominence of organic farming in the region, as we assumed that organic farmers are the principal users of biological plant protection methods. The region is home to several pioneer organic farms in Latvia established after the de-collectivisation in agriculture in the beginning of the 1990s. Nowadays, Vidzeme has the highest share of organic farms among the Latvian regions (7.5 %, national average – 5.3 %). The sector experiences a steady growth as the number of organic farms and the organic area (including land in conversion) continue to increase (between 2013 and 2016 the increase was by 19% and 37% respectively).
The case study explores the role of farm advice in the uptake of biological plant protection methods in farms. The case study does no focus on one particular biological plant protection technique, but some notable examples include the targeted use/introduction of natural predators of pests (e.g. ladybirds and parasitic wasps to control greenflies), providing special shelters for useful animals (insect houses), etc.
Stimulated by public support and notably subsidies for organic agriculture, biological plant protection methods are receiving growing attention among Latvian farmers as a means for protecting crops in more sustainable ways. However, according to experts’ opinion, farmers’ knowledge and application of these methods remains limited. The case study aimed to identify sources of information and advice that farmers consult, and to explore their role in farmer decision making in different innovation stages, starting from raising awareness of biological plant protection methods to their assessment and implementation.
Full report is available here.
Baltic Studies Centre
Baltic Studies Centre (BSC) has vast research experience in the fields of agricultural knowledge and innovation systems and sustainable agriculture, including studies on organic farming and learning and innovations networks for sustainable agriculture. BSC has studied development of organic agriculture in Vidzeme as well as elsewhere in Latvia in several research projects since 2000 (MAS, 1998-2000; SUS-CHAIN, 2003-2005; RETHINK, 2013-2016; SALSA, 2016-2020). BSC undertakes action-oriented research strategies that frequently focus research on the needs of practitioners and support practical innovations towards sustainability.