First attempts to promote the cultivation of mulberry trees in Slovenia date back to the 16th century, when sericulture was introduced to the Gorizia region from Friuli-Venezia. This influence has later spread throughout the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. The silkworm rearers were initially selling the cocoons to Veneto, especially at the market of St. Lawrence in Udine.

With the establishment of silkworm rearing activities in Gorizia, the silk fabric production was introduced to Slovenia and weaving of silk goods was promoted. The first state incentives came from Ferdinand III, in the mid-17th century, with the aim of achieving greater independence from expensive silk imports and to reduce cash outflows. A hundred years later, the Empress Maria Theresa of Austria and her son, Joseph II. established a state support program and took the necessary steps to promote their own production of this luxury product. Nurseries accelerated mulberry propagation and offered trees throughout the empire, while silkworm rearers were subsidized by the state. The 18th century is known as the "golden age" of Gorizian sericulture. In Gorizia, the government set up a magistracy for silk manufacturing, directly subordinated to Vienna.

Anton Chwalla, who headed the agricultural chamber of Lower Austria, is responsible for another significant revival of sericulture in the middle of the 19th century. When the School for Viticulture and Fruit Cultivation in Klosterneuburg was established, sericulture was taught both in theory and practice. Furthermore, in the middle of the 19th century, the Styrian Sericultural Association was founded, established a large mulberry nursery at a grange in Baierdorf/Graz and began to supply the Hungarian regions, Lower Styria and Carniola with lots of mulberry trees. Among other activities, the government promoted the spreading of sericultural knowledge in the schools and the planting of mulberry trees along railroad tracks.

For the subsequent decline of sericulture, there were several reasons: in particular, a silkworms’ bacterial disease, which spread throughout Europe from France, as well as late-frost diebacks and fungal and bacterial epidemics of the mulberry trees. Moreover, there was a poor connection between breeders and silk processors. The most critical historical events for the decline of silk industry were the Napoleonic wars, and later the stock market collapse. At the end of the 19th century, the state ceased subsidizing and distributing mulberries as they saw a better prospect in fruit production. The third attempt to reestablish sericulture was during the last years of the First World War. The main reasons were lack of raw materials and the need of complementary productive activities for war veterans, widows and orphans. During the Second World War, there was a great need for silk for the manufacturing of parachutes, so primary schools were forced to produce cocoons with the help of the children.

Despite all taken measures, no significant results were achieved, and the silk-producing industry ended at the beginning of the 20th century. This was also affected by the introduction of synthetic fibers. After the Second World War, in warmer regions of Slovenia and Hungary, the promotion of sericulture was included in a five-year development plan, intending to promote the textile industry sector.

The last rearers ended with the silk worm production at the beginning of 60-ies. Sericulture retained the longest in the plane between the Soča and Vipava rivers, on the so-called GoriškaRavana and Lower Vipava Valley. The silk season took place mainly in the "dead time" before the seasons of haymaking and cereal harvesting.


Joint Hungarian - Slovenian research project with NKFIH as Lead Agency

„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“


Lead research agencies: University of Maribor, Faculty of Agriculture and Life Sciences,
University of Veterinary Medicine Budapest


 Project is financed by:

Slovenian national research agency (Javna agencija za raziskovalno dejavnost Republike Slovenije) and Hungarian national research agency (Nemzetikutatásifejlesztésiésinnovációshivatal)


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 (University of Veterinary Medicine, 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 varieties of local mulberry trees, which turn out, be richer, considering nutrition and therefore more suitable for the silkworms’ health will be taken and clonally propagated as highly recommendable feed for silkworms. The results of the project may be of great benefit for re-establishing a sustainable sericulture.

Within the project, we have created a website (, which provides the historical background and enables to acquire a wider knowledge of the systematics, the distribution of white and black mulberry, and their use. By reviewing the existing genetic resources and collection establishment, we highlighted the natural, cultural and scientific value of the white mulberry. The project underlines the necessity of preserving the historical remains of sericulture, particularly mulberries in the context of genetic erosion, which represents a general tendency among cultivated plants.


The aims of the project:

1: Qualitative and quantitative analysis of bacterial infections and loads in clinically healthy and diseased silkworm. Special emphasize will be put on detection of mycoplasmas (Hungarian partner).
2: Determination of neuraminidase activity of pathogenic bacteria isolated from B. mori(Hungarian partner).
3: Development of a model system using B. mori and their specific bacteria to investigate the effects of feed on bacterial multiplication, development of clinical signs and expression of immunity related genes(Hungarian partner).
4: Collection data regarding locations of mulberry plants and creation of digital map and digital library(Slovenian partner).
5: Propagation and conservation of old local mulberry genotypes from different eco-geographic regions of Hungary and Slovenia, which coincided with the sericulture industry in the past(Slovenian partner).
6: Molecular analyses to identify genetic variation of available local Hungarian and Slovenian mulberry genotypes(Slovenian partner).
7: Qualitative and quantitative screening of important primary (sugars, proteins and amino acids) and secondary metabolites (phenolics, ascorbate, glutathione) in leaves of different local mulberry varieties in different developmental stages to test their relevance on development (nutrient digestion, growth, survival rate of young larvae, silk synthesis activity, cocoon yield and filament quality) and health status (resistance against specific pathogens, improved innate immunity) of larvae(Slovenian partner).



Reintegration of sericulture

In order to raise awareness of former sericultural tradition and to explore today's potential of silkworm rearing, we are encouraging interested small farmers in Slovenia and Hungary to try silkworm rearing on a smaller scale, with intensive support of Dr. Silvia Cappellozza (Council of Research and Experiments in Agriculture, Apiculture and Sericulture Unit of Bologna, Padua). The pilot activities are performed during the last three years. Until now we organized two workshops, several presentations at congresses as well as activities within fairies and special events.


National coordination:

Dr. Andreja Urbanek Kranjc
University of Maribor

Faculty of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Pivola 10

SI-2311 Hoce

Tel.: ++386 2 320 90 53



Research field: Plant Biology, Fruit Tree Physiology, Moriculture


Local sericulture institution:

Institut za svilogojstvo i svilarstvo

Dr. Rebeka Lucijana Berčič

Tel.:++386 41 776 711



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