Deborah Hunte, president of the Farmers Association of Barbados, is sceptical about using sargassum seaweed in agriculture. (GP)
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While one of the possible uses for the influx of Sargassum seaweed is in agriculture, at least one farming leader is raising strong objections.
Deborah Hunte is the president of the non-profit organisation Farmers Association of Barbados, and she thinks it may be best to burn the seaweed rather than use it widely in agriculture. She said more research needed to be done on the properties of the seaweed before she would feel comfortable using it in the soil.
“I am very timid when it comes to that. It is something that has broken away and is free-floating, dead in the water. Why aren’t the fish eating it? What if there are marine diseases inside it? If the sea itself is rejecting this seaweed, why should we introduce it to the land?” she said, adding it would be prudent to have soil tests done to see how the seaweed affected soil over a period of time.
Hunte said farmers in St Lucy had recorded initial success using the Sargassum in their fields during a yearlong trial but things eventually turned sour – or salty, to be precise.
“Any and everything can’t grow in that seaweed and eventually the salt adversely affected the soil and the produce started to become scorched. That was as far as the trial went – it had pretty good results at first, but it ended badly,” she said.
Hunte said she planned to look into the matter further but asked that she already had serious concerns about introducing marine material to terrain environments.
“I remember there was a push to introduce fish offal into fertiliser, but remember there are people who are severely allergic to seafood and there are others who are vegans. I have a problem with crossing certain things – the sea and land should be kept separate – and I don’t want it to be a case where something from the sea gets into the produce and ends up actually causing someone to get sick,” she said, also raising concerns about salt getting into the water table.
Until she has more information on the issue, Hunte suggested the relevant authorities should burn the seaweed and then see if the ash could be useful. (CA)