Seaweed could save abandoned farmland
Seaweed benefits your diet and now abandoned farmlands, too. The Herald Scotland reported of new research by ecologists at Rural College (SRUC) and Edinburgh University that says seaweed could play a vital role in returning acres of abandoned farmland to production.
The ecologists have been studying remote farming communities, such as the "black land" crofts on the east coast for North Uist, which comprise 16 percent of land in the UK. More than 375,000 people and five million sheep call these communities home, but 95 percent of its food is imported. Historically, this wasn't always the case. Between the 14th and 18th centuries, over half a million people lived there and the area was 90 percent self-sufficient in providing food for them.
By collecting scientific data as well as historical information through community memories, documents and photographs, the researchers were able to find the parallel ridges on hillsides are remnants of old agricultural systems that could be used to increase productivity on the currently unused land, with seaweed being the key ingredient in the process.
"Most of this agricultural land has lain abandoned for more than 60 years and local knowledge of how to manage it is rapidly disappearing," explained lead author Dr. Barbra Harvie of SRUC. "By interviewing crofters, we are gleaning vital knowledge before it is lost forever."
Harvie explained that there are minimal ecological impacts in cultivating this land, especially when compared to the carbon footprint associated with importing food from the mainland. The key is keeping this reintroduced farming sustainable. They first propose creating farming tools that are more appropriate for the type of land, and the second is using seaweed as a sustainable addition to the system. They are currently furthering their research on seaweed's benefits for the soil.
Outside of farming, though, seaweed has many dietary benefits, gaining a reputation as a "superfood" and trendiness in cuisine. In 2012, Research Councils UK called Seagreens replacing salt in manufactured foods a Big Idea for the Future. In Scotland, though, this isn't news at all. Seaweed has been gathered there for centuries, and now it could save its unused farmland.
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