Āboliņa, E.*, Luzadis, V.A. and Lazdiņa, D. 2014. Analysis of the Adoption of Willow Growing Practice in Latvia. Baltic Forestry 20(1): 78-87.

Willow growing was first introduced to Latvian farmers in the mid-1990s as an alternative source of bioenergy to complement conventional practices of farming and forestry. Willow growing, however, remains a fairly uncommon practice in Latvia. In 2012 the total area of willow plantations constituted only 261 ha. The theory of diffusion of innovations was applied to study the characteristics and decision making process of willow growers in Latvia. In-depth interviews were used to learn about their experiences, communication channels and methods of adoption. The results suggest that the willow growers in Latvia could be characterized as ‘innovators’ and/or ‘early adopters’. All of the respondents regarded willow as a great opportunity for utilization of agricultural lands, especially in the areas not well suited for food production. The results show that while some of the farmers were willing to proceed with the adoption of willow practice, they faced certain obstacles and uncertainties making their decision on adoption difficult, such as ineffective weed control measures, lack of profitability and inadequate subsidy programs for SRWC. All of the respondents suggested they would prefer to wait another three to four years before they decide on the adoption or continuation of willow practice. The results also suggest lack of established communication networks between the willow growers in Latvia. The study proposes several areas for improvement to increase the rate of adoption of short rotation woody crop (SRWC) practice in Latvia.

Key words: short rotation woody crops (SRWC), willow, farmers, innovation adoption, qualitative methods, Latvia.