Crop: Allium cepa L. (Onion)
There are different varieties from the region Laa/Thaya: ‘Gelbe Laaer’ (yellow peel), ‘Rote Laaer’ (red peel), ‘Laaer Rosa Lotte’ (pink peel), ‘Schneeweiße Unterstinkenbrunner’ (white peel) and ‘Schoderleer Steckzwiebel’ (yellow peel, pear-shaped). Only ‘Gelbe Laaer’ and ‘Rote Laaer’ are traded in higher quantities, while others are considered amateur varieties.
The special thing about all the ‘Laaer Zwiebel’ is the fact that they are not irrigated, despite there being little precipitation in the region. The onions ripen slowly and develop a very good, sweet-spicy taste with a longer shelf-life. All varieties are sown in early spring, except the ‘Schoderleer Steckzwiebel,’ for which the bulbs are planted directly. The onions are harvested in September and are available until May.
Cultivation System: conventional.
The several “types” of ‘Laaer Zwiebel’ are cultivated in the very North-East of Austria, the most arid region in Austria (300-450mm rain per year). The soil is poor in organic matter. The production of onions in this region has been documented since the second half of the 19th century.
Farmers have developed the different varieties of ‘Laaer Zwiebel’ over many years from the beginning of onion cultivation around 1850-1900. Currently, about 50 farmers produce varieties of ‘Laaer Zwiebel’.
Propagation system: Seed, cross-pollinationMultiplication procedures and consequences on landrace diversity:
Onion is a bi-annual and cross-pollinated species. For multiplication, enough distance from other varieties is recommended. The seed companies Reinsaat and Samen Maier sell the different varieties of ‘Laaer Zwiebel’, for which they contract farmers for seed multiplication.Management plan existence:
In 1990, a farmer founded the association Interessensgemeinschaft Laaer Zwiebel, which assumed the responsibility of registering, further multiplying, and promoting these varieties.
‘Laaer Zwiebel’ are sold directly and traded nationally and internationally.Others (e.g. commercial/geographical brands or special traits):
‘Laaer Zwiebel’ is one product supported by GENUSS REGION ÖSTERREICH (The ‘Austrian Region of Enjoyment’) which is a protected brand of the AMA (Austrian Market Organisation and Paying Agency for Agriculture and Rural Development) and of the Federal Ministry for Sustainability and Tourism. Its aim is to promote regional food products of Austria. A ‘Laaer Zwiebel’ festival takes place once a year in Laa/Thaya.
All varieties are supported under the 2nd pillar of the CAP by national funds, under the measure ‘SLK’ (rare agricultural crops). The yearly rate is 200 € per hectare.
Provisions set by the national, regional and local authorities, the high quality of the product, the increased perception of the landrace value and a renewed interest in agriculture give hope to on-farm conservation in the next future.
Seeds can be purchased from Reinsaat or Samen Maier and from ARCHE NOAH which has a partnership with Reinsaat. It is registered as ‘conservation variety’.
Case study provided by Arche Noah, Austria.
- Bundesministerium für Nachhaltigkeit und Tourismus: https://www.bmnt.gv.at/land/lebensmittel/trad-lebensmittel/feldfruechte/laaer_zwiebel.html
- Kulinarisches Erbe Österreich: https://www.kulinarisches-erbe.at/kulinarik-mit-tradition/pflanzen/gemuese-huelsenfruechte/laaer-zwiebel/