Saline agriculture

AGRICULTURE ON SALINE LAND

Saline seepage in the Dutch coastal provinces is on the increase with the rise in the sea level and the sinking of the old polders due to climate change and subsidence. Pressure is growing on the ever more limited supplies of fresh water. For agriculture this means that the physical, financial and social limits to its need for fresh water had been reached. The Saline Agriculture project therefore identifies the prospects for salt-tolerant crops in coastal areas.

MARKET-ORIENTED EXPERIMENTATION WITH SALT-TOLERANT CROPS

This project investigates new and traditional agricultural crops (including sea kale, barley, spelt, quinoa and rocket) for their salt tolerance. Sustainable, innovative and profitable crops and cultivation methods are being researched in a practical experiment being conducted in a salty polder on the island of Texel and in a laboratory at Amsterdam Vrije Universiteit. Research institutions and a grower are collaborating closely in order to generate new knowledge with practical application. At the same time the project is seeking publicity in order to promote this cultivation method among other farmers and government authorities and to create market demand. Excursions to the Saline Experimental Garden and to the associated exhibition forming part of the project are being offered to both growers and members of the general public. Seeing and tasting the products, combined with the information in the exhibition, tangibly and attractively establish the links between brackish water, production, food and landscape. The characteristic local crops have now been launched in the urban market and links have been sought with quality restaurants: Saline Sea Kale is now on the menu at some of these establishments, and production is being scaled up (www.ziltezeekool.nl).

SALINISATION: FROM THREAT TO OPPORTUNITY

The Saline Agriculture project establishes various links, e.g. between entrepreneur and research institute, between entrepreneur & regional product & the market, between the new cultivation method and other farmers, and between characteristic products from the Wadden coastal region and the urban demand for regional specialties. The project is a textbook example of how growers, supported by research institutes, can profitably accommodate to the consequences of climate change instead of seeking to combat such change by means of all kinds of technological aids. The fact that growers revert to old strains means that few if any pesticides are required, thereby reducing the environmental impact. And the fact that fewer technological measures are needed to combat salinisation brings down costs. The project contributes towards the wider distribution of the hitherto scarce knowledge concerning saline agriculture. The Saline Experimental Garden, the exhibition and the publicity concerning the project are helping place saline agriculture on the public agenda.

  • Project partners: Gido Stichting, Leven Met Water, Texelse Milieuvriendelijke NatuurProdukten, TransForum, Universities of Amsterdam and Wageningen (PRI and Imares).

  • Project leader(s): Jelte Rozema (VU) and Mark van Rijsselberghe (TMNP).

    “When introducing innovative products of this kind, developing a network for sales is crucial.”
    Mark van Rijsselberghe,
    entrepreneur