International Farmers’ Café on Saline Agriculture
The participants came from four different countries in the North Sea Region; Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Norway. The objectives of the International Farmers’ Café were among others to inform about salinization and salt-tolerant crops, exchange knowledge on saline strategies across borders and to discuss the future of (saline) agriculture in the North Sea Region.
In addition, the objective was to give the participants the opportunity to visit the SalFar test site on saline agriculture on the island of Texel as well as to get feedback on the research of SalFar, and research on saline agriculture in general.
During the farmers’ café the SalFar partners gained insights into the participants’ interests for saline farming. The participants, for instance, expressed that they had an interest in the salt-tolerance of many different crops. This means that the concept of saline farming should not be limited to the cultivation of a few salt loving crops such as Salicornia and Lambs’ Ear, but instead include a wide spectrum of possible salt-tolerant crops, from conventional to innovative crops. Furthermore, there was an enormous interest for the salt-tolerance of pastures. Far more than any other agricultural crop the participants were interested in information about salt-tolerant grass varieties.
And speaking of grass varieties, the participants stressed that new grass varieties should not just be able to grow in saline conditions – they also need to maintain a high level of productivity and digestibility. It is for this reason that the grass species that currently grow in the North Sea Region’s natural marshes cannot be directly used for the development of saline agriculture. This means that there is a need for further research on the salt-tolerance of grass varieties.
The main results of the farmers’ café were communicated at the closing session of the Saline Futures Conference by representatives of the farmers. The two main messages that were communicated were:
- There is a need for research on (local) salinization! Farmers and water managers in the North Sea Region require more information of salinization in the changing climate.
- Salinization is not yet an acute problem, but research on the saline solution is urgent! The development of new salt-tolerant varieties is slow. Hence, we need research on saline agriculture today in order to have it ready for tomorrow.