Nov 2014: Notes from the Garden Shed

The Dutch – dontcher just love em!

Notwithstanding our impressive Programme Director Nicole Van den Eijnde I’ve a new Low Countries hero, Marc van Rijsselberghe. For those of you that didn’t see the article in The Observer on 19 October 2014 ‘Humble spud set to start a world food revolution’by Tracy McVeigh I thought I’d better enlighten you, writes Paul Richens.

I find this story a vindication of my disdain for GM production methods and an affirmation of working with nature.

So why my excitement?

Marc van Rijsselberghe inspired by the humble sea cabbage wondered about the possibilities of growing food crops using non-fresh water and set-up a group Salt Farm Texel with the Free University in Amsterdam and an elderly Dutch farmer (sadly not named) who has a ‘geekish’ (their word) knowledge of the thousands of different potato varieties.

His team succeeded and now several tonnes of these salt-tolerant potatoes are on their way to the estuary farmers of Pakistan.

With over 1 billion hectares of salinized soil worldwide, and rising, the potential is enormous (to say the least!) by developing saline tolerant crops saline soils can be seen as an opportunity rather than a disaster.

We need more of these people who while observing nature make a leap of understanding. Darwin had many such moments, as did Professor Tony Bradshaw of Liverpool University; a pioneer of restoration ecology – working with strains of grass that have turned our slag heaps green.

As wonderful as all these results are, it’s actually the methods used that gets my vote – observation and research of nature’s wonderful diversity rather than a GM bullet.

Anyone for local seed saving!?