The Estonian Centre for Rural Knowledge (METK) is the Estonian Centre for Rural Knowledge and Research under the Ministry of Agriculture. Among other things, METK breeds crops, produces their seeds, studies the effects of crops and agro-technologies on soil properties, takes soil samples and analyses them, carries out soil surveys in fields, develops digital soil maps and advisory systems based on soil properties.Existing activities that depend on soil health:Crop breeding, field trials;1100 ha of high altitude seed production: cereals, oilseed rape, vegetables, fodder grass, legumes.GIS-based advice for crop selection based on field soil properties.Soil health assessment services available:Soil sampling service for farms;Laboratory analyses of soil chemical, physical and microbiological properties for farms;Soil testing in fields to determine the physical and macrobiological properties of the soil.Services available to improve soil health:Digital soil maps help to raise awareness among target groups about soil condition;Field trials to test the impact of soil amendments on soil properties;Field trials to test the impact of technology, practices, pesticides or crops on soil properties.Services under development to improve soil health:A digital map to assess the carbon stock of agricultural soils;A digital map of soil carbon maps.Possible activities to support soil health:“Healthy Soil” certification (seed producer can charge higher price for seed if soil is certified, vegetable producer can charge higher price for vegetables if soil is certified, landowner can charge higher rent for land with certified soil, area payments can be higher if soil is certified);advisory services – reasons for caring for soil health, soil diagnostics, soil maintenance/repair practices;GIS applications for soil and crop management;assessment of soil properties from data collected by remote sensing equipment – field machinery, drones and satellite sensors.
Economic crisis – high input prices (fertilisers, energy, labour costs, laboratory equipment and consumables) and decrease of agricultural supports.Competition with products and services with a lower cost.Lack of motivated/skilled labour in agriculture, agricultural IT (low wages).Climate Change – drought, strong winds and excessive precipitations.Pest attacks – birds, plant diseaseases, insects, wilds.Decrease of pollinators – bees and bumblebees.Hacker attacks to IT systems – GIS systems, digital advisory systems, agricultural big data systems.Lack of good-performance of IT-hardware and grid both, this risk for developers and end-users both.
Social awareness – consumers are interested in high quality crop seeds, which are more resistant to pests.Existing farmer network and policies.Supports for agricultural practices, which are good for soil health.Good IT infrastructure – accessible, safe, reliable, capable.Good laboratory infrastructure – reliable, capable, accessible (not too expensive). Soil health supporting policies (national and EU level – e.g. Soil Mission).Funding of soil research and dissemination/promotion of results.Dissemination of valuable results from previous soil studies.
Other departments in METKMinistry of Rural AffairsMinistry of EnvironmentUniversity of Life SciencesTallinn University of Technology – TalTechFarmers Cooperative “Kevili”Rural Development FoundationEstonian Chamber of Agriculture and CommerceScandagraBaltic AgroEstonia OÜVoore farmid OÜAgroneOther interested producers
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