Fruit-Growing in Latvia – Industry and Science

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Abstract

In all times, fruit trees for family use have been grown at Latvian farms. Yet these fruits obtained market value only after the land ownership reform in 19th century. This facilitated rapid area increase of different fruit crops, allowing supply with fruits not only the local market, but also for export to the largest cities of Russia. Especially fast development of fruit-growing was observed during the first independent republic (1919–1940). The demand for planting material increased, and plants were imported from Western Europe. Choice of unsuitable cultivars and rootstocks was the main reason of the massive orchard area loss during the following severe winters. After the Second World War, the Soviet powers supported only the establishment of large orchards for processing needs, 200-300 ha, which were unsuitable for the Latvian climate and terrain. At the same time, numbers of allotment gardens rapidly increased and part of their produce was sold also on the market. After regaining of independence and private property, interest in fresh fruit and berry production for market, as well as processing, renewed. It was hindered by lack of continuity in experience and knowledge. Diversity of terrain, soils and climate all demand considerate choice of suitable orchard location and cultivars. Direct use of foreign experience often led to failure. At present, development of the fruit industry is most of all hindered by lack of qualified specialists of different levels, which does not allow to establish an appropriate consulting system. Cooperation of growers for easier marketing also is developing too slowly. Insufficient economic and market research does not allow to balance the demand with increase of plantation area, especially for large-scale processing and export, so strategic guidance of the fruit industry is not possible. Development of fruit-growing is hindered also by a lack of continuous long-term support to horticultural science. As a result of research by the Institute of Horticulture: 1) new local breeding fruit crop cultivars were obtained and recommended for commercial orchards; variety testing including growing technologies was initiated in different regions of Latvia; 2) monitoring of harmful and favourable organisms was conducted in plantations, with development of a system for prognosis and control; and 3) research results were transferred to growers through practical recommendations, publications, seminars and demonstrations.

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