Sweet chestnut – regional development with a traditional culture from the Alps

Funding:
IGF

Duration:
2006–2012

Project coordination:
PD Dr. Oliver Bender

Since Roman times, vast areas of Southern and Western European uplands have been covered by groves and coppices of sweet chestnut trees. Having replaced the original broad-leaved forest, they used to play an important role in traditional agriculture. Chestnut cultivation was even more important in producing a substitute for cereals (bread) than for the production of timber. With a changing economic framework and the appearance of the chestnut blight caused by Cryphonectria parasitica in the 20th century, the chestnut (Castanea sativa MILL.) lost almost all of its economic and cultural significance.

Notably in the Alps, in the last 10 to 20 years, there has been a renewed interest in the preservation and re-planting of chestnuts. Today this includes marketing strategies as well as aspects of landscape conservation and cultural history ("Chestnut Festival"). As chestnut cultivation is widespread, especially in the Southern Alps, it provides an opportunity to link cultural landscape and regional geographic research in terms of sustainable development. The project aims to demonstrate how and why there are great regional variations in the success of a revaluation of endogenous rural resources.