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New database online:

Germany: Historical vegetables

Which vegetables have disappeared from our markets, gardens and plates in the past 150 years? Information on, and pictures of, some 7,000 old vegetables are now available in a single database.

This website is intended to put forgotten varieties back in focus and to provide support for private cultivation. So far there were no general figures in Germany about the disappearance of older vegetable varieties. In order to improve the scientific basis in the field, research project "Further development of the Red List of endangered domestic vegetables crops" was carried out. Here, for the first time, a systematic database for the vegetable varieties of the past two centuries was developed. Research was done on historical documents from between 1836 and 1956, focusing on vegetable varieties and types, after which the information was compiled.

In addition to transferring information into the online database, around 3,000 drawings and photos can now be retrieved. Every user can now get a picture of the wide variety of vegetables, encouraging more research.

75 percent of the varieties have disappeared
An important aspect of the up-to-date information is data on the availability of seeds of the old vegetable varieties. It shows that out of 7,000 varieties and species tested, 75 percent must be considered lost. This means that despite intensive research, no seeds were found anymore. For a further 16 percent of the original vegetable varieties, seeds still exist, but only in gene banks or with different seed initiatives within Europe, which makes these varieties and species vulnerable ("red list variety"). The remaining 9 percent of the varieties and species are still cultivated until this day.

This research supports the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals on biodiversity. Furthermore, the Red List of Endangered Crops will be developed further by the Federal Agency for Agriculture and Food (BLE). The Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture promoted the research project, the BLE supervised it as a project sponsor. Researchers from the Humboldt University of Berlin, Department of Urban Ecophysiology, were the ones who implemented the project.

The database can be found here.

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