Thank you to Julian for this article – and we look forward to discussion and debate:
There’s no question it’s an expensive product, but having experienced what I consider to be real visible benefits from using it around the garden, I thought it was worth trying it on at least some of our meadows.
I’ve come to realise in our few years of working towards greater floral diversity, that conventional NPK fertilisers are real no-no’s, and that you also have to be very careful with much manure, which we don’t have access to anyway.. But given our very high annual rainfall, and regular cropping by sheep, or indeed as hay, it seems rational that one should return some nutrients to the land or risk significant depletion – particularly of trace minerals or other micro-nutrients, without which our sheep, and indeed some plants might suffer.
Seaweed meal seemed the obvious answer, since it contains a huge range of micro-nutrients as well as a very different, mainly alginate based, organic mix of complex molecules. I’d also noticed that it takes a long time to break down – so it can be viewed as more of a slow release fertiliser, which is why I took the opportunity of the recent snow covering to scatter it on those 3 fields I’ve opted, for now, to spread it on. It’s then quite easy to see how you’re actually distributing it.
It’ll be some weeks before the nutrients begin to break down and reach root level, by which time the grass should be growing more strongly. Quite unlike the quick fix of highly water soluble conventional fertilisers.
It’s impossible for me to comment on how productivity, or indeed diversity has been affected – all I can say is that in the last 2 years, numbers of orchids and wax cap mushrooms in these fields continues to increase significantly, and the hay has seemed great, if we can manage to crop it dry… In addition our subjective assessment is that the flavour of our lamb has improved over the last few years, though this may just reflect the wider range of plants now growing in the meadows.
It’s possible, I guess, that if there are improvements in plant flowering, then there might even be nutritional advantages in pollen and nectar produced from meadows treated in this way, which might benefit the pollinators visiting our meadows.
So is it worth doing? I did a quick calculation that at the suggested rate of application given on the bag, you’d need about 10 X 25 kg bags per acre !! This seems a bit beyond “micro-nutrient” application. I put on a tenth of that, so maybe my usage is more homeopathic in nature?
But as you can see, if you scatter it by hand in very high winds, you can get a widespread, diffuse distribution, and it takes about an hour to manually cover an acre in this way. So it’s a low tech simple way to distribute the product. At about £40 per bag, it’s very difficult to justify in any commercial way – unless of course long term the herbage and meat quality improves dramatically.
This is written as a teaser article – there is now quite a lot of material available on line about potential benefits of seaweed meal, although not surprisingly much of it written by seaweed producers.
For anyone interested, there’s quite a detailed insight into the subject you could read by clicking here…
I should perhaps add that the only other material we have ever applied to our meadows is ash from our wood burning stoves – scattered in a similar way, and which will have a low level of K input, but minimal N and P (which can both be potential problems with too much manure) with also some short term alkaline effect on pH, though this will be leached out quite quickly.
How many other readers have any experience of using this, or other supplements on their fields, or are they all zero input?