Pro-Seed DBU project

Documentation of the DBU workshop

Project Broschures   [Eng PDF] [Hun PDF]


Project information

Project title: Large-scale grassland restoration: the use of establishment windows and high diversity seeding by the knowledge transfer of regional seed propagation to Hungary

Anhalt University of Applied Sciences, Bernburg, Germany
University of Debrecen, Department of Ecology, Debrecen, Hungary

Co-operation partners: Hortobágy National Park Directorate, Salvia Environmental and Nature Protection Association

Financed by the DBU - Deutsche Bundestiftung Umwelt

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Motivation of the project

Conservation of grassland biodiversity is an urgent task, because grasslands are in a serious decline. Grasslands contribute with a significant part to the biodiversity of Europe, harbouring a diverse flora and fauna. As a result of land-use changes during the last century the area and species richness of grasslands have been in constant decline in many parts of Europe during the past decades. This considerable decline is caused by several factors like abandonment, afforestation, drainage, conversion of grasslands into croplands and intensification of management. To stop and/or mitigate the large-scale degradation of grasslands and to improve their conservation status are high priority tasks for nature conservation. Sowing seed mixtures of target species is widely used in grasslands restoration projects and offers a great opportunity to restore biodiversity and ecosystem functions (

Aims of the project

Within this project, German and Hungarian partners intended to develop an innovative concept for the restoration of grasslands on former croplands in Hortobágy National Park (East-Hungary). The project focuses on the restoration of loess and alkali grasslands using a two-phased restoration approach.

Colonization windows

In the ‘Grassland restoration and marsh protection in Egyek-Pusztakócs’ LIFE Nature project low-diversity seed mixtures were sown on 760 ha between 2005 and 2008 ( The seed mixtures contained grass seeds, because the seeds of target forbs were not available on the market at that time. The project achieved the fast establishment of sown grasses and effective suppression of weeds, which highly supported the restoration of natural landscape.

However, spontaneous immigration of target species to the restored sites was often hampered by the lack of appropriate seed sources in the surroundings. Thus, an active introduction of target species is necessary in a second step. During the Pro-Seed project, we test the establishment success of target species by sowing of high-diversity seed mixtures into establishment windows (sizes of 1 m², 4 m² and 16 m²). Since the restored sites are managed by grazing, we compare the establishment rate in fenced and grazed colonization windows. We composed a high-diverstity seed mixture, containing 35 regionally collected species. Seed mixtures were sown with a seed density of 10 g/m² to the colonization windows.

Seed propagation

In Germany, there are regional seed companies producing and selling regional seeds of almost 400 wild plants for different German seed zones. Conversely, in Hungary, even regionally produced seeds of common grasses are unavailable. To produce regional seed sources of target species available for future restoration projects, we started a seed propagation project in the Hortobágy National Park. We seeded and planted altogether 12 species typical to loess grasslands.

Mathias Stolle, a German seed producer and colleagues of Anhalt University (Bernburg) transfer knowledge by conducting expert interviews and also by compiling information about the requirements of target grassland species in seed propagation. Our aim is to raise the awareness, that seed production of regional ecotypes should be exclusively done in the concerned region, thus avoiding hybridisation with foreign and non-local ecotypes.

Donor site register
A database about still existing grasslands is extremely useful, especially for the collection of seeds for seed propagation but also for on-site harvesting of regional seed mixtures. The establishment of a donor site register of the Hortobágy National Park is an effective way to identify suitable sites for collecting basic seed material for propagation. During the project, a web-based donor site register for the Hortobágy National Park is going to create similarly to the donor site register in Saxony-Anhalt (