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Field and forest develops innovative solutions for growing technologies and applications of spring medicinal and aromatic plants

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.