Challenges and opportunities for commercial Salicornia farming
in The Netherlands
The Netherlands (province of Zeeland, South-West delta)
De Heerlijkheid van Wolphaartsdijk / Zeeuws Zilt
commercially growing Salicornia since 2006
This commercial farm of 65 hectares cultivates conventional crops like wheat, sugar beet and potatoes (among others), but due to increasing salinity levels of the lower parts of the farm (primarily caused by saline seepage of the nearby saline lake and saline groundwater) the farm also started with the cultivation of halophytes in 2006.
The main focus is on Salicornia and at present, two locations are used with a total of 3 hectares.
The soil type is heavy clay and the plants are irrigated by using sprinkler irrigation. The salinity level of the irrigation water is around 28 to 33 dS/m and for the germination stage mostly rainwater is used.
At one location water can be used from a ditch, which is less salty than the lake (Veerse Meer).
There is no fresh water available at the other location.
Germination is a critical stage, with seeds placed on top of the soil since the small seeds will not emerge if the seeds are planted belowground or through slackening of the top layer (deeper than 1 cm). At this stage the seeds should not be allowed to dry out, so continues moist conditions are needed for optimal germination.
Seeds are planted early spring and germination can take up to 3 to 6 weeks, depending on the temperature and the salinity of the irrigation water and top layer of the soil.
The farm invested in specific machinery for mechanized harvesting. For the harvest, plants are cut around 3 cm above ground to allow for regrowth.
In an average year, around three harvests of the same plants can take place, with the harvest time in the period of the end of May up to early September.
So, for this purpose only the “fresh tips” (max. 10 cm) are harvested and marketed as a vegetable.
The salty vegetables and products made of the salty vegetables are marketed under the label “Zeeuws Zilt”. The farm is also specialized in growing Salicornia for seed propagation.
In an average year a total yield of 2 to 3 kg / m2 of fresh tips can be harvested (combining the three harvests of the same crop). The main challenges are uniform and quick germination, uniform growth to ensure a uniform harvest, the time needed to remove weeds and fresh tips that are too small (< 2 cm), the shelf life (at present this is less than 2 weeks for cold storage and the actual marketing of the product. The market for fresh Salicornia in The Netherlands is considerable, but for large scale cultivation, the market demand has to be developed together with further improvements around the cultivation itself. To further expand and professionalize the cultivation of Salicornia the following point need to be addressed:
Marketing & Sales; year round avalability of the same quality
Links for more info:
www.zeeuwszilt.com, www.zeekraalwijzer.nl (both website are in Dutch only) instagram: https://www.instagram.com/zeeuwszilt/