Slovenian and Austrian researchers to revive prehistoric plants

Maribor, 8 January - Researchers from Slovenia's Štajersko and Austria's Styria have joined forces to look for indigenous old plant sorts and animal species of the cross-border region. The research is to encourage farmers to reintroduce old indigenous sorts, which can then be used to replenish the regional cuisine and tourism.

The three-year project, dubbed PalaeoDiversiStyria, will research biodiversity in the area from the stone age, when more permanent settlements started, to the discovery of the Americas, when new plants were introduced in Europe.

It was approved EUR 1.1m in EU funding from the Interreg cross-border cooperation programme for 2014-2020, which accounts for 85% of the project's total value.

The project brings together the Institute for the Protection of Cultural Heritage of Slovenia (ZVKDS), the University of Maribor and the Hoče - Slivnica municipality on the Slovenian side, and the Graz-based Universalmuseum Joanneum, the Graz University and the Grossklein municipality on the Austrian side.

While the project partners have already cooperated in the past, they are also bound by the similarities of the cross-border area, Matija Črešnar of the ZVKDS has told the STA.

The two regions on both sides of the border once formed a single province in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and share many features in terms of landscape, geology, ground composition and climate.

The project will first attempt to identify the plants and animal species that once flourished in the area, and how they were used as food.

The next step will be to revive them in the botanical garden of the University of Maribor, after which they will be offered to local farmers, who have already expressed great interest. In the end, tourism providers will get the chance to offer "food from ancient history" to their guests.

"Revitalising the production of paleo plants will contribute to biodiversity in farming, but above all it will allow local producers to offer new tourism products that build their identity on local archaeological heritage," he said.