Estonian University of Life Sciences and non-profit MTÜ Põllukultuuride Klaster hosted the SoildiverAgro Nemoral regional meeting virtually on October 30th. Building on multi actor approach 26 local stakeholders participated, including 9 farmers and 17 researchers representing university and two public sector research institutions.

The aim of the meeting was to take a stock of the project so far, introduce the preliminary results and planned further activities and to activate local communities of practitioners and collect their input for the further planning, design and implementation of case studies and analysis.

The agenda included introduction of the project, presentation of the results so far, discussion questionnaire survey of potato producers conducted in February, ongoing and planned case studies and socioeconomic analysis.

The discussion on the agronomic problems in nemoral region and management practices to help to address those started with introduction of survey results in which the following main agronomic problems were identified as most challenging: rainfall scarcity, low and variable yields, soil compaction, fungal diseases, low soil fertility. Those have been previously discussed in a discussion group with organic producers, but regional meeting offered an opportunity to include cereal crops producers and other additional stakeholders. The participants raised additional issues related to erratic weather conditions, measurement of soil fertility, optimal fertilization and nutrients use practices, fungal diseases in organic production. Producers emphasized the need to have a holistic approach to soil management as the topics surveyed with questionnaire – organic matter content, water infiltration, soil fertility, load carrying capacity and soil biota – are interconnected issues.

In the discussion on what topics are particularly relevant to Estonian condition, problems such as leaching, soil acidity and liming, how to optimize soil management were raised. Additional questions such as how producers can assess soil microbiological diversity, optimal fertilization and nutrients throughout the year, were raised. The discussion of disease control and pesticide use pointed out that most of conventional farmers in the region need pesticides, but important aspect is to optimize its use and combine it with crop diversification, disease resistant varieties.

Important aspect of regional meeting was to involve the stakeholders into further project activities. The details of Case study 12 in nemoral region was discussed for stakeholders’ input. to field. The first case study focuses on pesticides accumulation rate in the litter layer of no-till cereal fields and on management impact to soil biodiversity with the goal to improve pesticide application and soil biodiversity. Scientists from other institutions wanted to discuss the technical implementation of the tests, while producers’ questions were on pesticide use.

Second case study focuses on the control of phytopathogenic fungi by studying the spread of spores by air in order to improve the pest monitor and control. Producers in particular had additional question on how often the collected spore samples are analyzed and how this can affect the practical use of the data by farmers.

The further plans for assessment of socioeconomic impacts of management practices were also introduced to the stakeholders.

SoildiverAgro has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement no. 817819