1 September 1995

Seaweed boosts health

SIX months after first applying Cornish calcified seaweed producer Bruce Sandercock has noticed an improvement in stock health and pasture quality.

Grass at his 24ha (60-acre) Church Farm, Truro, Cornwall, was greener, bulkier and lusher.

In the seven years that he has used the seaweed as a conditioner Mr Sandercock and his wife Pauline have had no cause to worry about staggers at calving. Previously one cow would go down each year. Now the 50 South Devon sucklers need no minerals.

"I started to use the seaweed because of its price, availability and the fact that it is organic," says Mr Sandercock.

"It costs £15/t compared with lime at £22/t. You need to apply about 2t/acre of lime and double the amount of sand for the same results. With seaweed it is recommended you apply 5cwt/acre every two or three years once it has built up within the soil. To begin with I put on just under a tonne to the acre and after a while dropped back to half a tonne."

Calcified seaweed is a calcareous magnesium algae with a hard coral-like structure found 9m (30ft) to 21m (70ft) below sea level. Once it has been recovered by dredging it is graded to the consistency of coarse gravel. This is considered the best size for spreadability and persistence in the soil.

Research at Wolverhampton University shows that the seaweed generates about a 30% increase of clover in the sward as well as improving grass growth post grazing.

The theory is borne out in practice at Church Farm. "It is excellent for clover," he says. "Bare patches which sometimes appear in fields have gone and artificial fertiliser works better because the soil is in the right condition for plants to use it efficiently." &#42