ideas, including that of legislative initiatives. Already from the very beginning of the association, close cooperation with the Lithuanian Seed Growers Association and Estonian Seed Growers Association was established, and annual delegation visits are taking place. The association also has good contacts with the European Seed Association (ESA); its members have visited Latvia several times and the members of the association have participated in various European events. The Association plant breeders' section has organized international seminars (2008, 2010) on the experience of breeding rights. Other crop sections of seed production are represented by other agricultural associ- ations, such as Latvian Organic Farming Association and Society of Potato Growers and Processors. Those are dealing with spe- cific issues that are more topical for their association’s members. PLANT BREEDING IN LATVIA To get a better view on Latvian plant breeding, European Seed sat down with Roberts Stafeckis, Director of the Institute of Agricultural Resources and Economics (AREI) (http://www. He shares that the AREI was founded on 1 January 2016. “We merged several institutions, namely, the agricultural research institutes State Prieku i Plant Breeding Institute, State Stende Cereals Breeding Institute and Latvia State Institute of Agrarian Economics and the scientific staff of Latgale Agricultural Research Centre, Ltd. Now this is the only research institute in Latvia engaged in breeding of field crops. Its researchers specialize in breeding, arable farming and inter- disciplinary studies in the science of economics” he says. The institute covers a wide range of activities on areas of practical plant breeding, seed production, preservation of plant genetic resources, applied and fundamental research, evolve- ment in postgraduate studies and advisory activities. “Since we have a long history (more than 100 years in agricultural research and breeding of predecessor institutions), we have created more than 150 varieties of about 30 species“ says Stafeckis. There are 150 employees in AREI at this moment, 10 of them are breeders. “The main aim of our researchers is to develop and introduce new varieties with traits suitable for Latvia grow- ing conditions and acceptable to producers’ demands. It is an advantage that our scientists have the opportunity to carry out research in three locations of Latvia – in the West (Stende), in the East (Vilani) and in the North-East of the country (Priekuli)” according to Stafeckis. He adds that the institute is breeding new varieties of spring and winter wheat, spring barley, winter rye, winter triticale, spring oat, spring pea and potato. “But our researchers are also working on bean, flax and hemp breeding.” he adds. For any breeder, it is crucial to have access to good ger- mplasm which is arranged by the Genetic Resources Bank of Latvia ( According to Stafeckis, the users do not experience any problem with access germplasm. PUBLIC RESEARCH In addition to AREI, there are several other public institutions: the Latvian Agriculture University (, mainly operating in the field of agriculture. Then there is the Institute of Horticulture with main activities in research of fruit growing, preservation genetic resources and breeding of fruit tree, small fruit and lilac ( and two botanical gardens, the latter dealing primarily with the breeding of decorative plants and maintenance of genetic resources of Latvia varieties. CUCUMBER SEED FROM MONSANTO Seed breeder Monsanto has recently opened a new facility in Latvia for the production of its hybrid cucumber seeds. The agri- cultural giant thereby hopes to raise and ensure its production of cucumber seeds to the amount of four tonnes per year. With the help of co-financing from European funds, the company has invested about three million euros in the new hybrid cucumber seed-producing greenhouse over the last few years. As the ini- tial tests proved to be successful, the company expanded the existing farm with one hectare. Seed of over 40 hybrid cucumber varieties are currently in production. Latvia’s State Plant Protection Service: PLANT BREEDING AT AREI The main research directions of the Institute of Agricultural Resources and Economics, related to the seed sector: crop genetics and breeding for integrated and organic farming sys- tems, improvement of seed production methodology, especially potato seed propagation, maintenance and research of plant genetic resources in field collection and preservation of potato genetic resources in vitro. The crop breeding for organic farming systems is one of the most important ways of collaboration with researchers in other European countries. This is done in the framework of different research projects. For example, scientists of AREI are involved in the EU programme Horizon 2020, and its recently started project LIVESEED, which aims to improve the performance and compet- itiveness of the organic sector by boosting organic seed and plant breeding efforts. Beside development of new plant varieties, AREI produces high generation seeds of their own varieties. The seed has been produced not only for the integrated farming system but also for the organic farming system. 66 I EUROPEAN SEED I EUROPEAN-SEED.COM