Paludiculture

Paludiculture is the practice of farming on wet land, such as rewetted bogs and fens. Wet soil cannot be used to grow potatoes, wheat, and has limited capacity to support cattle. Paludiculture crops provide an opportunity for a productive use of wet lands as an alternative.

How is paludiculture different to traditional farming?

Most traditional arable crops grown in Europe, such as wheat, grow well in dry soil. These crops do not grow in the wet soils found in natural Mires. To grow these crops in former peat bogs and fens, people have artificially drained the land. This started on a small scale in the middle ages, and was accelerated by use of wind pumps developed in the 15th century.

undefined

Dutch Windpumps on the Kinderdijk, used for draining peat soils to allow crops that need dry soil to be grown. 

Paludiculture uses crops that can be grown on wet soil, usually by finding uses for plants that grow naturally on wetland. This allows productive agriculture to take place without draining the land.

Why do you want to promote Paludiculture?

This drainage of land has caused major damage to our environment. We now know that the dried out bogs and fens release substantial amounts of greenhouse gases, contributing to climate change. This method of farming may also be time limited. As the peat degrades, it sinks until it reaches the water level again, at which point the land has to be drained further. Eventually, the peat degrades to nothing and farmers can literally run out of soil. 

In order to reduce Green House Gas emissions to protect our planet, we will need to rewet a substantial amount of peatland in Europe. More land needs to be rewetted than can be afforded with the funding available for conservation. Therefore we need to find a way for landowners to be able to earn an income from rewetted land, and for local communities to have employment and the economic benefit from it.

There also needs to be a replacement for some of the products currently taken from drained peatland. This includes the growing media made from cut peat, and the energy produced by burning peat. Unless we find ways to reduce the demand for peat by demonstrating alternative products are feasible, the cutting of bogs will continue.

Paludiculture offers us a way to solve these problems. It creates value out of plants that naturally grow wet soils, such as typha, mosses, and grasses. By farming plants that grow in wet conditions, the land can remain productive whilst also acting as a carbon sink and water store. Products from wetland, such as sphagnum moss and compostss, can offer an alternative to some existing peat products. By approaching wetland plants as products that can be sold, we can also offer an economically viable way of disposing of wetland conservation waste material. 

undefined

Well we've collected all this grass. Now what?

What are you doing within CANAPE?

Currently those that are best placed to take advantage of paludiculture do not always have access to information they need to make the switch. They may also lack the confidence that the markets for the products exist. Existing agricultural policy and subsidies do not always support rewetting of land. This limits farmer’s ability to move away from current agricultural practices.

CANAPE aims to demonstrate that there is a market for these products, and that it is possible to produce and sell the products at a reasonable profit. These products will be both "farmed" products, which are comparable to current crops, and those that can be produced from the waste from conservation projects. These will help reduce the cost of conservation, allowing organisations to do more with less. 

Under CANAPE, we will explore the use of the following products; 

By the end of our work we aim to have developed; 

  • A clear understanding of the production method for each product
  • A clear understanding of the costs and potential sale price for each product
  • We will have identified the market for the products. This will give potential producers confidence to invest in paludiculture
  • We will produce a Carbon Pocket Guide, giving the information needed for farmers to demonstrate the Carbon Savings they are achieving. This could also help them access to agri-environment schemes. 
  • We will inform policy makers of the potential of paludiculture as an alternative way to use land, encouraging them to support the practice.

 A field of harvested reed, currently cut for conservation basis. In the future we want this to be an economic activity as well as a conservation practice. 

 undefined