Published Wednesday, 19th June 2013 in Study at SRUC news
You don’t have to go far in Scotland to see what look like ridges on some hill sides.
They are often 1 to 3 m wide and can be seen running parallel to the slope, but have you ever asked yourself what they are?
These are ridges or lazy beds, a remnant of an old style of production on land that would now be classified as too poor to cultivate and from which agricultural policy has removed any incentive to grow anything other than grass on. In the past however, early farmers had found that by turning soil into ridges, soil depth could be increased and drainage improved allowing cropping to take place.
Now, as part of their dissertations, Sergio Warnick and TJ Marsden, two MSc students presently studying with SRUC, have set themselves the task of trying to return a series of ridges into production for the first time since 1964. Their work is at Kenary, a croft on the East of North Uist and home to the Blackland Project.
The two students headed out to Grimsay along with Dr Oliver Knox (SRUC) and Dr Barbra Harvey (Edinburgh University) and were given advice on digging ridges by Ronald John MacLean. Not content with simply reinvigorating the ridges of the field the two are also looking into the potential for the use of seaweed (particularly Ascophyllum nodosum) and asking questions like how much should we put on, is it better fresh or rotted, what’s in it and will we get any potatoes, oat or cabbage from our trial?
To facilitate this part of their work they joined in a meeting on seaweed use with Mary Norton, Angus MacDonald, Neil MacPherson, Maria Scholten and Matt Topshield (Machair Life) who shared their experiences from kelp (Laminaria spp) use on the Machair. A week later, ridges dug, seaweed incorporated, crops planted and geese defences erected, most of the party returned home.
They will be back. Over the summer they will keep an eye on the trial and continue to explore the possibilities of cropping on the blacklands with seaweed and ridges.
Caption: Harvesting Ascophyllum nodosum from Scotvein bay (Grimsay).
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