Taking Typha to scale on the Somerset Levels and Moors
Establishing the commercial viability of paludiculture on land across the Somerset Levels and Moors, to ensure farmers can continue to grow useful commercial crops whilst also raising the water table to preserve our peat.
The project is seeking to expand our learning about how novel crops (with a focus on Typha - Bullrush) can help ensure that farmers can continue to grow useful, commercial crops, at the same time as raising the water table to preserve our peat, reduce eCO2 emissions, and improve water quality by stripping legacy phosphate from SSSI & Ramsar designated sites.
Take typha to scale in Somerset by establishing the commercial viability of paludiculture on three sites across the Somerset Levels and Moors
1. Micro trial (150m2) on different rhizome establishment methodologies – RSPB Greylake
2. Trial site (1 ha) to develop establishment methodologies for designated sites & assess ecological, carbon, and nutrient impacts – RSPB Greylake
3. Large scale commercial site on lowland arable peat to develop low-cost establishment, harvesting, and nutrient management methodologies (10 ha) – privately owned site
Create prototype low impact planting & harvesting equipment
Study the ecological impact of typha cropping
Measure legacy phosphate reduction to assess suitability for inclusion in nutrient reduction markets & for use on designated sites
Monitor carbon flux to assess suitability for inclusion in the IUCN peatland carbon code
Knowledge transfer and stakeholder engagement with a wide variety of organisations, farmers, and landowners on the Somerset Levels and Moors
Site 1 preparation - Complete
Site 2 preparation – Complete
Site 3 preparation, Phase 1 - (bunding and water control) - Complete
Mechanised harvest trial with existing equipment to benchmark and inform prototype – Complete
Site1 Rhyzome establishment – Complete
Site 3 - Autumn sowing trial at scale from seed – Complete
Upcoming tasks over next 6 months:
Evaluation of site 3 establishment & water control works, to inform Phase 2 of site works
Site 2 establishment
Site 3 – Spring establishment trial
Possible drone seeding trial
RSPB Greylake and nearby private land on Somerset Levels.
With over 24,000 ha of lowland agricultural peat, Somerset is at the forefront of learning how best to preserve this valuable natural resource. Previous generations have worked hard to drain this low-lying, marshy landscape in order to grow valuable food for the surrounding communities, and that legacy runs deeply through our communities. However, as our understanding of peat grows, we are beginning to realise that excessive draining leads to peat oxidation and sinking land levels, the need for even more drainage, and the emission of vast amounts of CO2e at a time when we can ill afford that to continue.
The Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group SouthWest (FWAG SW)
FWAG SW is a registered charity representing the region’s farmers and landowners in the delivery of wildlife conservation, and will provide project management, administration, and key stakeholder engagement in the landscape
Project Lead - Will Barnard
The RSPB is the UK's largest nature conservation charity, inspiring everyone to give nature a home and secure a healthy environment for wildlife. They will deliver sites 1 & 2, undertake ecological survey work and develop our understanding of the ecological impacts of growing Typha as a commercial crop.
J & K Barnard Farms Ltd -
A local farmers with experience of arable crop production, wetland site construction and management. Responsible for delivery of site 3.
Plymouth University -
Plymouth Universities experienced water quality research team will carry out emissions and nutrient monitoring & analysis across the life of the project, to provide data on the potential positive (or negative) impacts of growing Typha commercially. It is hoped that they will validate the viability of utilising Typha to strip Phosphate from degraded water courses thus improving the water quality in some of our most valuable, protected habitats.
LogLogic, experienced developer and manufacture of wetland harvesting and management equipment will work to provide custom harvesting equipment that allows the crop to be economically harvested at scale (all harvesting is currently undertaken by hand).
KWR Water -
KWR Water will provide specialist advice on Typha establishment based on experience from multiple sites across the Netherlands.
Ponda is a materials science company that makes planet-positive textiles, providing a potential global market for typha seed heads. They will support to the development of mechanised harvesting techniques and crop standards to ensure that crops are fit for purpose by the end user.
Velcourt Ltd -
Velcourt Ltd – arable research & development, exploring the economics of production at scale and providing support, knowledge and experience around crop establishment and long term care.
IUCN – UK peatland code and oversight of the carbon monitoring program. Exploration of the inclusion of Paludiculture crops into future iterations of PCC.
CEH will provide additional oversight of CO2e monitoring.