2019 02 14

Lithuanian Agricultural Innovation Finds Demand in Lithuania and Abroad

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Scientists at the Lithuanian Research Centre for Agriculture and Forestry (LAMMC) are developing innovative fruit and vegetable storage and processing technologies. Professor Pranas Viškelis, head of the Bio-Chemistry and Technology Lab at the LAMMC’s Institute of Horticulture, asserts that this technology is actively being applied by businesses and farmers alike.

With the sweet manufacturer Rūta as their long-term partner, LAMMC researchers have developed products that have found their way into national and international trade fairs and went on to win awards. One such example is lyophilised diced pumpkin with quince juice. Or lyophilised kiwi fruit in white chocolate. Two of these sweets contain as much natural vitamin C as a single synthetic vitamin pill.

LAMMC scientists have also developed a unique carrot juice pasteurisation technology in partnership with a business partner in the food industry. The technology allows manufacturers to preserve the flavour of fresh vegetables. The products developed by the team have already established themselves in the international market, becoming favourites in the Baltic and Scandinavian countries as well as in Germany.

“Together with our business partners, we are currently working on a project developing functional food products that offer additional health benefits. One of our largest client segments are bee-keepers and honey product manufacturers because honey products that contain lyophilised berries and medicinal plant powders are gaining in popularity. Products enriched with various ingredients are also very in demand in our export markets, for example, Germany, the UK and Ireland, because the honey stays liquid, it doesn’t crystallise. It’s also a suitable choice for those with diabetes,” reveals Professor Viškelis.

A partnership between the pharmaceutical specialists at the Lithuanian University of Health Sciences and the Švenčionys-based medicinal herb factory Acorus Calamus has produced various medicinal teas and lyophilised products for the pharmaceutical industry. A host of food products are also being developed for the purpose of improving athletic endurance.

“We have several partnerships with both businesses and foreign researchers based on our work developing electroporation technology. For example, electroporated blackcurrants and viburnum berries contain an immense amount of incredibly valuable nutrients. This non-thermal and innovative processing technology allows us to extract up to 75% of the bioactive components of the plant,” explains Professor Viškelis.

A new environmentally-friendly supercritical technology uses carbon dioxide to extract oils for cosmetic products from raspberry pulp, sea buckthorn and quince seeds. And drying technology, which makes products crispy, is also used, for example, when making healthy beetroot or carrot crisps.

Lithuanian Grass in Canada

“We can boast of the plant varieties that have been developed in Lithuania,” emphasises Professor Zenonas Dabkevičius, head researcher at LAMMC, “Lithuanian varieties make up a quarter of the plants we grow in this country. That’s quite a lot when you think about the competition – all the international varieties”.

For example, our scientists have just finished developing Minija, a variety of winter wheat that contains amylopectins – a special starch that can be recycled into bioplastic. Businesses in Germany and other countries are very interested in green industrial pea varieties, as opposed to yellow varieties, because the former have better technological and nutritional characteristics.

Many horticultural varieties have also been developed. For example, the apple tree varieties Auksis, Rudenis, Poema and Alemanda look appealing, are disease-resistant and a great choice for ecological farming. They have already found a market in Latvia and Estonia.

Our scientists have also successfully developed several perennial grass varieties. For example, the Lithuanian Elena variety has even made it to the US and Canada.

Fertiliser Made of Decomposed Lake Weed

The LAMMC has divisions all over Lithuania, which means that some branches are located in very specific conditions. For example, the Vėžaičiai branch is near Klaipėda, in the Gargždai Region. As Professor Dabkevičius points out, the soil there is acidic, and certain agricultural plants have difficulty growing there. So local researchers have teamed up with several companies – Mortar Akmenė,  Bioenergy and Timac Agro – to create lime fertiliser enriched with humus, nutrients and phosphorus.

The Vokė branch near Vilnius partnered up with Iksada to create a technology that makes fertiliser out of decomposed lake weed or sapropel. It is frozen and sprayed to evaporate its water content and improve its structure, then mixed with peat and packaged.

Grow Lights for Greenhouses

At the LAMMC Institute of Agriculture in Dotnuva, scientists are studying and selecting plants that produce greater amounts of biomass, for example, silvergrass. These experiments are being repeated in the Vokė and Vėžaičiai branches too. Researchers have selected the Artemisia dubiaplant for its great biomass and active components, which might prove useful in the pharmaceutical industry. In this area, LAMMC has teamed up with Vytautas Magnus University. Researchers are also considering the extraction of specific components of the Artemisia, which has a very specific smell, for the purpose of protecting plants from pests.

Meanwhile, researchers at the Plant Physiology Lab of the LAMMC Institute of Horticulture are developing growth lights that could be used to sprout seeds in greenhouses for a more nutritious crop of lettuce and to protect plants from rot. According to Professor Dabkevičius, growth light technology is already in wide use.

The Entire Periodic Table of Elements

Scientists at the LAMMC Institute of Forestry are working on a timber-processing technology that would allow wood to keep well and protect it from rot. The liquid product they developed also helps create an imitation of old wood, for example, old oak. This liquid contains all kinds of mineral matter: from oxides and salts to various bacteria and even honey.

Research is also being conducted on the topic of how insect larvae can be used to produce a biohumus from sawdust that would work as a fertiliser. Sawmills and other places that process wood produce lots of timber waste. Innovative technology can help solve this problem.

“Wood contains the entire periodic table, it has a multitude of various chemical elements,” points out Professor Dabkevičius, “That’s exactly why research is being conducted in this area – we want to know how to extract various active substances from it in order to use them in the perfume industry, in medicine and even in everyday life”.

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