Biodiversity is the variety of species (animals, plants, fungi, microorganisms, etc.), of genes within species and of ecosystems (habitats). The greater the biodiversity in an ecosystem, the less threatening external influences are for this habitat.
The preservation of biodiversity is of great importance for various reasons: Biodiversity helps to keep soils and plants healthy and thus also plays an important role for agriculture and, subsequently, for food production. In many cases, plant pollination is only possible through the participation of different animals (insects such as bees as well as birds or bats). Furthermore, crops, for example, can be made more resistant to pests with the help of wild plants; biodiversity in the soil is also instrumental in clarifying water.
However, a high level of biodiversity can no longer be taken for granted. Approximately one-third of the world's animals and plants are currently classified as endangered on the World Conservation Organization's (IUCN) Red List. However, the actual number is probably far greater. There are many reasons for the decline in biodiversity. They include: high soil sealing, intensive agriculture with the use of pesticides and artificial fertilizers, genetic engineering, climate change and global temperature rise, light pollution, and water pollution.
The World Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) also attaches particular importance to the biodiversity of food crops and environmentally friendly agriculture. The loss of species and varieties is to be stopped and the conservation of plant genetic resources (PGR) is to be promoted. Biodiversity is to be preserved for future generations through the cultivation of numerous different varieties of different species.
Here, we assume an essential task in the preservation of biodiversity and thus of an intact environment. Through our gene bank for agricultural crops, we promote the conservation and use of plant genetic resources and thus counteract the loss of species and varieties.
Our gene bank stores around 5,400 samples of seeds and plants. With the genebank for agricultural crops, medicinal and aromatic plants, we make a significant contribution to the preservation of biodiversity.
The AGES gene bank is located at the Linz Wieningerstraße site. It is Austria's largest genebank for plant genetic resources and has been in existence since 1968. Mainly crop plants (4456 accessions/patterns of 164 species) are conserved here; among them, about 1,482 wheat patterns, 1,005 barley, 449 oats, 89 rye, 57 maize, 140 beetle beans, 510 common beans, 95 peas, 60 field beans, 78 soybeans and 169 poppy patterns (as of 23.05.2023). In addition, the Linz genebank also maintains a large collection of medicinal and aromatic plants, as well as endangered species (in cooperation with the province of Upper Austria). Here we preserve 780 medicinal and aromatic plants and 163 samples of endangered plants, from a total of 458 species.
Gene banks in Austria
In addition to the gene bank in Linz, 12 other institutions take care of the conservation of plant genetic resources in Austria. At the federal level, fruit and wine are conserved by the Höhere Bundeslehranstalt und Bundesamt für Wein- und Obstbau in Klosterneuburg, vegetables by the Höhere Bundeslehr- und Forschungsanstalt für Gartenbau Schönbrunn, and forage plants by the Lehr- und Forschungszentrum Landwirtschaft Raumberg-Gumpenstein. In addition, the University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences, as well as the Higher Agricultural and Forestry School St. Florian/Linz hold a fruit collection. At the provincial level, the Office of the Tyrolean Provincial Government, the Provincial Experiment Center Styria, the Provincial Experiment Center Haidegg, the Agricultural College Warth, and the Carinthian Chamber of Agriculture are active. The oldest gene bank has been located in Tyrol since 1922.
In the private sector, breeding companies (Saatzucht Donau, Saatzucht Edelhof, Saatzucht Gleisdorf, NÖ Saatbaugenossenschaft), NGOs and associations (Arche Noah, Hortus, etc.) are involved in the conservation of plant genetic resources.
Rare agricultural crops
Here you will find an overview of Rare Agricultural Crops (SLK) and of the measures of the Agri-environmental Program to promote the cultivation of rare agricultural crops in Austria.
With the storage of seeds and the cultivation of wild plants, our Plant Genetic Resources Department in Linz supports the conservation of wild plants in cooperation with the Nature Conservation Department of the Province of Upper Austria.
Within the framework of this cooperation, we contribute our competence and experience for the conservation of biodiversity also for wild plants. Seeds of wild plants are stored at -18 °C. Currently, seeds of about 90 accessions are secured in our long-term storage. Furthermore, young plants of individual species are raised so that they can subsequently be replanted in the original biotope. If necessary, seeds are also collected.
Further information on nature conservation in Upper Austria can be found here.
Examples of cultivation of endangered species
Spiked Speedwell (Veronica spicata)
The spiked speed well grows primarily on dry, lean sites. Since such sites are becoming increasingly rare, this species is also highly endangered. We planted the young plants at two locations. Seeds were also sown. Furthermore, more than 10,000 seeds of this species were collected for conservation and stored in our gene bank.
Marsh Abbiss (Succisella inflexa)
The marsh abbiss is a plant that occurs in anemic biotopes in Upper Austria and whose population is declining and threatened. This is especially due to its very slow juvenile development. Therefore, it is also easily displaced by other competing species.
Last updated: 10.10.2023