Good for growing crops and fruit

[Barbados] The pursuit of a greener path to economic development is attractive to Barbados, especially given its limitations in size and dependence on natural resources and fossil fuels.

A green economy approach gives consideration to the level of its available natural resources and ensures that they are used in a sustainable manner, and contribute to the maintenance and rehabilitation of important ecosystems and ecosystem services. One such resource abundantly available to Barbados is sargassum seaweed.

Marine algal species of seaweed are now in abundant supply on our shores, leading to many questions as to the potential for utilisation in agriculture and other areas of economic activity. Internationally, seaweed is regarded as an underutilised bio resource. Locally, anecdotal evidence suggests that the application of seaweed enhances the growth of fruit and vegetable crops in a variety of ways.

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The term seaweed is not a taxonomic term and is used primarily to describe large, benthic marine algae. Seaweeds are broadly classified in three main groups based on their pigmentation: Phaeophyta (brown algae), Rhodophyta (red algae), and Chlorophyta (green algae).

Brown seaweeds are the second most abundant and comprise the majority of seaweeds that reach our shores. Seaweeds, especially brown seaweeds such as sargassum species, have been used in farming systems in coastal areas of the world since the 12th century. Both the seaweed compost and meal serve as a slow release fertiliser and a soil conditioner, improving aeration and aggregate stability.

Generally, unprocessed seaweeds have similar nitrogen, lower phosphorus, and higher potassium salt and micronutrient concentrations than animal manures. The weight of wet seaweed was a major deterrent to its widespread use because of the inconvenience of transporting it for long distances away from the shoreline and so extensive research has been done on the development of seaweed extracts.

There are many examples of seaweed being used fresh as well as collected, dried and added into the soil, or of being composted before application. Here in Barbados, we can use seaweed both as mulch and in the form of extracts due to our small size and proximity to coastal areas and therefore maximise the benefits of this abundance.

Farmers should make full use of the seaweed resource presently available for mulch, as compost and as extracts. Field trials could be conducted on the effects of seaweed and seaweed extracts on resistance to citrus greening in citrus plants in Barbados, the effect of seaweed extracts on the Asian citrus psyllid, the vector of citrus greening, the use of seaweed and seaweed extract as inputs for livestock production trials to investigate pest and disease response to the application of seaweed extracts on a variety of crops currently growing in Barbados.

Also, the use of seaweed extracts as a nutrient supply for hydroponic systems, the use of seaweed extracts in tissue culture, the use of seaweed meal as an additive to peat moss and other nursery potting mixes, and its impact on transplant shock and water retention, the use of a seaweed, luffa, agar combination to manufacture bio-degradable nursery pots, investigation into the cultivation of sargassum species for human consumption, and investigation into the use of seaweed as biomass for fuel.

 

View original article at: Putting sea debris to a new use

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