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Bilateral Hungarian-Slovenian project „Influence of feeding silkmoth (Bombyx mori L.) hybrid larvae with leaves of old local Hungarian and Slovenian mulberry (Morus alba L.) genotypes on the development and health status of larvae“

Number and distribution data of ancient mulberry trees in Slovenia as well as in Hungary is quite incomplete and mulberry's genetic structure has not been included in any researches yet. Bilateral cooperation of partners from Hungary (Szent Istvan University, Faculty of Veterinary Sciences, Budapest) and Slovenia (University of Maribor, Faculty of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Maribor) are using integrated interdisciplinary approach which is headed towards conservation and reproduction of old local genotypes of mulberry trees from different former sericultural regions of Hungary and Slovenia. Project goals are: establishment of old local mulberry genotypes collection, morphometric and genetic characterisation, biochemical determination of significant primary and secundary metabolites in leaves of old local mulberry genotypes. Hungarian project's main activities are to test their relevance on development and health status of larvae. The quantitative analysis of bacterial loads in clinically healthy and diseased insects with special emphasize on possible infection with mycoplasma will be done first.

Photo: Polona Sušnik

Photo: Tina Ugulin

Photo: Johannes Rabensteiner

Photo: Johannes Rabensteiner

Photo: Johannes Rabensteiner

Mulberries are deciduous trees in the genus Morus, which belongs to the plant family Moraceae. Mulberry is an economically important tree in India, China and several other Asian countries, where it has been historically used for leaf yield in sericulture to feed the caterpillars of the silk producing Lepidopteran insect Bombyx mori L. More than 68 species of Morus have been widely recognized, of which M. alba, M. latifolia, M. mutlicaulis are grown for leaves while M. nigra is grown for fruit and M. serrata for timber. Mulberry (Morus spp. L., Moraceae) has been domesticated over thousands of years and adapted to the wide area of tropical, subtropical, and temperate zones. At the present, mulberry is growing in various regions located between 50º N Lat. and 10º S Lat. including Asia, Europe, North and South America, and Africa at a wide altitude ranging from sea level to as high as 4000 m (Vijayan et al. 2014).

The development of sericulture in Slovenia began in the second half of the 16th century in the Gorizia region. This influence has spread throughout Europe and about a century after reaching Gorizia it was established in Austrian provinces. Sericulture had reached its peak in the mid 19th century, however since then it was in huge decline because of bacterial disease which spread through Europe from France. Until the beginning of the sixties of the 20th century the silk-producing industry was finished. The old mulberry varieties can be mainly found in the regions (Goriško, Goričko, Dolenjska, Štajerska) still bear witness to the sericulture past activity. Since the Slovenian cultural landscape, particularly in the period after World War II, did not so changed as radically as the Italian, the country retained a number of centuries-old mulberry varieties which are outstanding for the European natural heritage.

White (Morus alba) and black mulberry (M. nigra) were probably brought to Europe from middle east. The distribution records in Slovenia are incomplete and in general poorly investigated. White mulberry has throught the centuries become characteristic tree of former silk-producing regions since the leaves were widely used as silkworm's feed while black mulberry is quite rare and the data of abundance and locations of trees is far from complete. Its dark coloured fruits can be easily confused with dark genotypes of white mulberry's fruits. In the gardens it is extremely rare even the third mulberry species - red mulberry (Morus rubra) which was brought to Europe from North America.

Collecting exact data regarding locations of mulberry plants will allow us not only to create an exact digital map of plant sites, but also to use this data in following GIS analyses, f. ex. monitoring the vital status of each specimen through time scale, extraction of spectral key, used for advanced methods in remote sensing.
Identification of genetic variation of local genotypes is of great significance for revival of sericulture and sustainable management, as these genetic resources were adapted to specific environments and may bear resistance to virulent pests and diseases.

We will be trying our best to use this web site to introduce mulberries that can be found all over Slovenia, at the same time the site will be updated with fresh laboratory and field news.

Photo: Andreja Urbanek Kranjc

Photo: Andreja Urbanek Kranjc

Photo: Mateja Felicijan