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Agriculture experts and organic farming company SIA “Field and Forest” in cooperation with researchers from the Institute for Environmental Solutions, as well as Latvian Institute of Organic Synthesis develop innovative technologies for organic farming of 9 wild spring medicinal and aromatic plants (MAPs) to test their potential of commercial use in medicine, cosmetics and food industries.

Blossoming woodruff. Image: IES

Emerging market trends show growing demand on commercially grown aromatic and medical plants. Nine wild species with high market potential and different biological properties grow in Latvia – cowslip (Primula veris), woodruff (Galium odoratum), mezereon (Daphne mezereum), coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara), pasqueflower (Pulsatilla pratensis), lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis), ground-ivy (Glechoma hederacea), greater celandine (Chaledonium majus) and lady’s mantle (Alchemilla spp). Team of researchers and organic farming experts explore selected MAPs under Latvia’s agroclimatic conditions regarding their potential in commercial growing for organic farming and characteristics of their active substances.

Lady’s mantle in experimental garden, Priekuļi municipality. Image: IES.

To develop innovative technologies for growing wild spring MAPs, during summer of 2019 researchers conducted a study of historical and existing knowledge of chosen plants by implementing ethnobotany expeditions. Researchers visited rural areas to conduct interviews with locals. While in Rūjiena county (Vilpulkas, Ipiķu, Jeru and Lode parish) researchers conducted 24 interviews, in Naukšēni county (Naukšēni and Ķoņi parish) they collected information from 14 interviews. Overall, during ethnobotany expeditions the researchers interviewed 38 respondents who were more than 40 years-old – 29 women and 9 men. The results revealed fresh and unexpected information about the traditional use of spring MAPs. For example, most of the respondents did were not familiar with woodruff and ground-ivy, but lady’s mantle turned out to be the most commonly used in these regions.

To evaluate genetic resources of Latvia’s local herbs, the researchers also carried out sampling expeditions to collect local genetic resources (plant seeds and herbal drugs).  Gathered seeds that can sprout in short period of time were planted into the experimental gardens in Priekuļu municipality. Seeds that takes longer to sprout will be tested in laboratory where new methodologies for accelerated sprouting will be developed. Afterwards, chemical analysis to estimate genetic resources of local plants will be conducted.

After the new methods for improving seed germination have been developed for each of 9 wild spring MAPs, the research will be ready to go into the next phase – evaluation of main risks for commercial growing of MAPs, as well as searching for alternatives to prevent the identified.

The research is a part of the project “Innovative solutions for growing technologies and applications of spring medicinal and aromatic plants” (Nr. 1.1.1.1/18/A/043). It is supported by European Regional Development Fund, as a part of Measure 1.1.1.1 “Industry-Driven Research” of specific objective 1.1.1 “To increase the research and innovation capacity of scientific institutions of Latvia and their ability to attract external funding by investing in human resources and infrastructure”.

More about the project here.

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Researchers from the SIA “Field and Forest” and Institute for Environmental Solutions are about to finish 3-year field research on 5 medicinal and aromatic plants (MAPs), which has been carried out in the experimental garden located in Priekuļi municipality in Latvia.

This is the final season of the field work in experimental garden. It has been dedicated to research on 5 medicinal and aromatic plants – valerian (Valeriana officinalis L.), chamomile (Matricaria recutita), echinacea (Echinacea angustifolia), common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), and siler (Saposhnikovia divaricata), their morphological and biochemical parameters, genetic diversity, stability of yield and other parameters. As a result, the research team will select the genotypes of above mentioned plants that are the most suitable to Latvia’s climate conditions, as well as develop innovative methodology for organic cultivation of high value MAPs.

Root of valerian in experimental gardens in Priekuļi municipality. Image: SIA “Field and Forest”.

In September and October 2019, researchers continued the final field works campaign – tests on agro-technical parameters and sampling of genetic resources of valerian, common dandelion, echinacea and siler. Roots of the MAPs were gathered, weighted, dried and chemical parameters of them were analysed. Simultaneously with the fieldwork campaign, the researchers started the last phase of the research – analysis of the MAPs’ parameters to announce the most appropriate genotypes and organic production for Latvia’s climate and agro-technical conditions.  Then the team will select the MAPs that are the most suitable for diverse use in organic farming, pharma, food and cosmetics, and households.

Root of siler in experimental garden in Priekuļi municipality. Image: SIA “Field and Forest”.

According to the researchers, the first assessments highlights that local dandelions are suitable for commercial cultivation. Further, the researchers will analyse gathered data to determine which dandelion species are suited the most. Data results of local valerian species in commercial cultivation variates a lot. Therefore, to be able to make any conclusions, researchers need to fulfil careful analysis of gathered data. The analysis of other researched MAPs (siler, echinacea, camomile) will be carried out after the finishing final experimental field campaign. 

The research is a part of the project “Growing genetic diversity of medicinal and aromatic plants” (Nr.1.1.1.1/16/A/307). It is supported by European Regional Development Fund, as a part of Measure 1.1.1.1 “Industry-Driven Research” of specific objective 1.1.1 “To increase the research and innovation capacity of scientific institutions of Latvia and their ability to attract external funding by investing in human resources and infrastructure”.

Find more about the project here.

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