What was the challenge/ problem that was addressed?  

Soybean meal is a superior source of protein in compound feeds due to its high protein contents and amino acid composition, but the EU is vastly dependent on the import of plant proteins, with the imports of soya for feed dominating. Latvia also imports considerable quantities of soybean meal that is close to the total production of local protein plants. Owing to potential economic benefits for farmers and producers of animal feed, as well as a range of environmental and climate advantages, there is a political support for the development of the growing of protein crops in the EU (EU-plant protein plan, etc.). At the same time, the development of local supply chain of soya largely depends on the competitiveness of Latvian-grown soya. So, this was the main challenge of the project initiator – to tests if it is possible grow and to harvest enough and good quality of soybean to shorten existing supply chains and use local products in animal feed production. Since soybean growing in Latvia is not common and there is lack of information regarding the most suitable soybean varieties, project seemed to be safe environment to boost knowledge about the soybean growing constraints and possibilities. The project though is not only about the growing of soybean for the feed but also test new barley varieties which could be used in feed production. 

The initiator – farmer from southern part of Latvia who owns pig farm, came with the idea to start growing soyabeans in his farm. He wanted to grow own soyabeans and produce feed for the pigs to shorten supply chain and reduce dependence on changing soyabean market prices. As he was already using mainly soyabean protein in pig feed at his farm and knowing that soyabean protein is difficult to replace with other protein plants, he saw great potential in developing this idea in project application. After approaching his advisor, project idea started to grow in project application. Advisor used his cooperation network and attracted more enthusiasts to be involved in the project.  

 How did you solve the challenge/ problem?

Partnership had set up few targets to be reached during this project, including testing new soyabean and naked barley varieties, producing feed for the internal use, to evaluate the economical benefit in growing soyabean in Latvia, to test produced feed and its  quality.  

It was extremely important for the project initiator to evaluate the productivity potential and suitability of soybean varieties created in Europe for cultivation in Latvian agroclimatic conditions, applying organic cultivation practices.  

  • Soybean cultivation experiments were carried out in six different regions of Latvia in order to find out the most suitable soybean varieties and cultivation technologies, identify risk factors affecting soybean yield, evaluate the quality of local soybeans and meet the fodder and requirements of producers in both the conventional and organic farming sectors. Soyabeans variety testing trials and demonstration trials were carried out. 20 varieties tested in 3 years trying to find the most suitable varieties for cultivation in Latvian conditions.  
  • Beneficial is that growing soyabeans do not need a lot of fertilizing and it is producing own nitrogen.  At the same time the biggest challenge is the weed control. Different soyabean seed rates were tested. And different soil and leaf herbicides were tested as well to find possibilities for weed control in the integrated crop cultivation system. During the project we had negotiations with herbicide producers and plant protection authorities about possibilities to authorize herbicides for use in soyabeans in Latvia. In few cases we have succeeded.  
  • More sceptical farmers were approached through field days which were organised to promote soyabean and naked barley growing in Latvia.  
  • Soyabeans and barley yields analyses were carried out to make the correct fodder recipes for fattening pigs or sows. Also, barley and wheat grains were analysed to find the right balance for fodder recipes.  
  • As a result of the project virtual book about soyabeans was prepared.  
  • Economic calculations were made for soyabeans growing at farm in Latvia.  

What is innovative in your practical case?

  • As it was said, soyabean growing in Latvia is new and still underestimated practice. This project was one of the first attempts to bring new soyabean varieties into agriculture as business. This is the first time when soyabean is treated as potential business niche product in Latvia.  
  • Equivalent feed unit calculations, which look at every raw material for animal feed from the feed unit point of view. Probably 2 t of soyabeans contents more relative feed units than 8 t of wheat grain.

What are success factors in solving the problem?

  • First results were very convincing and farmers were ready to invest to introduce technologies at farms.  
  • The project partners were working very active to achieve the results and the farmers were very interested.  
  • Possibly one of the main success factors were regular meetings between the project partners to discuss the project progress and results.  
  • Experience exchange trips were organized for project partners what brought the team closer together and helped to gain additional knowledge.  

Unexpected failures, if any.

  • oyabeans for now cannot be grown everywhere in Latvia. Estonian variety ‘Laulema’ was tested in farm in Northern part in Latvia. The results were not very promising. In one of the project implementation years farmers even couldn’t harvest the crop. In one of the years because of cold spring soyabeans even didn’t germinate.  
  • Not as failure, but still a challenge is to change the mindset of farmers about yield of soyabeans. 2 t/ha of soybeans yield is giving the same outcome or even higher than normal wheat yield per ha.

Lessons learned.

  • Introducing new crop there is no real competence to do it from the beginning. No knowledge about weed control. Can it be done mechanically?  Do we need herbicides?  Still not registered insecticides or fungicides for soyabeans in Latvia.  
  • In the conventional farming there can be more challenges to grow soyabeans than in the organic farming.  
  • In Latvian conditions at the farms with plant production and livestock industry growing of soyabeans for the own animal feed is the best way to keep this cultivation profitable.   
  • Very important is suitable machinery, f. ex., harvester header, which can harvest the pods that are low to the soil.  
  • Latvia is relatively small country, but length of vegetation period differs in different regions up to two weeks.  
  • With the technologies used at farms for oil extraction from soyabeans, more oil remains in the soyabean cakes. Using that for animal feed can increase fat content in meat. But that can be managed by right recipes.  
  • We can grow soyabeans in Latvia, which have the same content of oil and amino acids as imported soyabeans also have.

What role does the advisor or advisory service play within your practical case?

  • In this project advisor was one of the bridges who brought together various involved parties. And usually (as well as in this case) advisor is like a “translator”/ mediator for farmers, who can explain farmers needs to scientists and also explain the results of research to farmers. It is interesting how sometimes advisor seas what is needed for the farmer though farmer has not noticed it.   
  • Advisors found plant production and livestock farmers for this project, attracted scientists.   

Can your approach be transferred and/or adapted for other innovation challenges and regions? 


Contact details of  contact person, agronomist-consultant: Aigars Šutka: