© Jakob Vegh

© Jakob Vegh

The Plant Biotechnology Unit of BOKU, which celebrates its 35th anniversary this year, opens its doors on 18 May.

Plants are unique organisms. They can produce sugar from sunlight, carbon dioxide and water alone. This ability to produce their own food has enabled plants to successfully colonise, adapt and diversify in almost every niche on earth - biologists estimate the total number of plant species at around 250,000.

On 18 May, the 6th International Fascination of Plants Day - which is an initiative of plant scientists - already takes place in 56 countries and is supported worldwide by a network of national coordinators who voluntarily promote and spread the activity in their countries. Since the beginning, Margit Laimer from the Plant Biotechnology Unit (PBU) at BOKU has been the coordinator for Austria.

A variety of plant-based activities for all interested people, from toddlers to grandparents, have already been put online by scientific institutions, universities, botanical gardens and museums, as well as by farmers and companies who open their doors so that visitors can enjoy the interactive events.

In addition, the PBU-BOKU (Margit Laimer working group) is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year and will provide insights into its most exciting research topics on 18 May from 10:00 - 14:00 at the Muthgasse 18 location (House I, 6th floor). It all started in 1987 with the attempt to breed virus-free and later virus-resistant woody crops. This has led to the establishment of an in vitro gene bank for climate-adapted woody crops of our latitudes (apples, pears, apricots, peaches, wine, cornelian cherry, berry fruits), but also of the tropics (such as oil plants like jatropha or coffee).

"Preserving and protecting the genetic diversity of our woody crops as a preventive measure against potential losses of biodiversity caused by factors such as climate change or new plant diseases is of utmost importance," Laimer emphasises. "Also against the background of the increasing food demand of a growing world population, the preservation of the global crop plant population is enormously important."

Health-relevant constituents from plants are another research focus of the PBU. For example, numerous methods that could be used today in personalised medicine have emerged from the study of allergens from fruit and berries. In addition, plant biotechnological methods for the molecular characterisation and utilisation of biodiversity are being developed and further improved, be it of crop plants, but also of phytoplasmas and other quarantine pests.

Technically, much of the work is based on the implementation of Haberlandt's pioneering idea of the totipotency of the plant cell, which is also celebrating its 120th anniversary this year, and will be presented accordingly. Totipotency means that every cell of a plant can develop into a completely new plant. Visitors can view the PBU's current research objects, such as the 32,000-year-old Silene from the Siberian permafrost or the 1000-year-old Dirndl from the Traisental, as tissue cultures in vitro.



All information about initiative "Fascination of Plants Day" is available at www.plantday18may.org


Ao.Univ.Prof. Dr. Margit Laimer
Plant Biotechnology Unit (PBU)
University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences Vienna
Muthgasse 18. house I, 6th floor
1190 Vienna
Tel. 01-47654-79010