Goosedown out, bulrush in: the plant refashioning puffer jackets | Global development

The humble bulrush doesn’t seem like the subsequent huge factor in trend. Rising in marshes and peatland, its brown sausage-shaped heads and fluffy seeds are a standard sight throughout the UK. But a mission close to Salford in north-west England is aiming to assist remodel the plant into an environmentally pleasant different to the goosedown and artificial fibres that line jackets, boosting the local weather and the productiveness of rewetted peatland within the course of.

BioPuff, a brand new plant-based materials manufactured by the startup Saltyco utilizing reedmace – higher often called bulrush – has the same construction to feathers, offering heat, light-weight and waterproof insulation, in accordance with the agency.

To spice up the provision of bulrushes, the Wildlife Belief for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside has joined forces with an area farmer and a landowner on a five-hectare (12-acre) website in one of many UK’s first paludiculture (farming on rewetted peat) trials, with a £400,000 grant from the UK authorities.

Bulrushes grow in marshes and peatland across the UK
Bulrushes develop in marshes and peatland throughout the UK. {Photograph}: Krys Bailey/Alamy

If scalable, the fabric may line clothes at a fraction of the environmental footprint of conventional stuffing. It has already gained plaudits within the trend trade, successful the H&M basis International Change Award final yr. It has been utilized in one small assortment up to now, by the Italian label YOOX, and the startup is in talks with extra trend homes.

About 20 bulrush heads are wanted to make sufficient materials for one jacket, and the primary rushes are anticipated to be harvested from the UK website in 2026.

“The bulrush has a tremendous high-volume construction,” says Finlay Duncan, a co-founder of Saltyco. “Its seed heads can increase about 300 occasions in measurement. It has these umbrella-like buildings that mimic the pure construction of goosedown by way of offering that good lofty, fluffy feeling.”

For farmers on lowland peat within the north-west, it’s hoped the trial may present another supply of earnings whereas additionally lowering greenhouse gasoline emissions. The chosen website in Better Manchester was drained for agriculture greater than 50 years in the past, one thing that shall be reversed subsequent yr to plant the bulrushes. This might save 2,800 tonnes of CO2 equal by 2050 and enhance biodiversity, in accordance with the Wildlife Belief.

“I’ve been farming this land for 35 years and have seen steadily declining yields and growing issue discovering a marketplace for conventional crops,” says Steve Denneny, who shall be rising the bulrush crop on land owned by the Peel Group. “I feel wetter farming could possibly be the long run for lots of lowland agricultural peat, and it’s nice to be a part of it proper at the beginning.”

Paludiculture has been given round £5m of funding for trials and experimentation, which additionally embody farming sphagnum moss for peat-free compost. In some elements of the nation, comparable to Norfolk, wetland farming on peatlands dates again to historical occasions, with the jap wetlands used to supply reeds for thatch.

Farmers cut reeds for thatching on Cley Marshes north Norfolk, where wetland farming dates back to ancient times.
Farmers lower reeds for thatching on Cley Marshes in north Norfolk, the place wetland farming dates again to historical occasions. {Photograph}: Ernie Janes/Alamy

For the mission in Salford, the Wildlife Belief is amassing baseline information on the website, which shall be rewetted this autumn to lift the water desk. A management website may even be set as much as monitor the business-as-usual state of affairs.

“If we are able to make this trial profitable and upscale it, there may be a lot lowland peat within the UK that’s crying out to be rewetted, each environmentally and economically,” says Mike Longden of the Wildlife Belief.

“Farming on lowland peat may be actually tough. It’s not essentially the most worthwhile farming.” Concepts just like the bulrush mission, due to this fact, may imply a profitable “win-win”, says Longden.

Discover extra age of extinction protection right here, and comply with biodiversity reporters Phoebe Weston and Patrick Greenfield on Twitter for all the most recent information and options

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