Spanish and EU legislation prohibits the agricultural use of these materials extracted periodically from the bottom of the ports, in tasks that serve to ensure the internal navigation of ships, due to possible contamination.
However, the European Commission is now studying its viability on the basis of new scientific studies, including one in which the Miguel Hernández University’s Orihuela agro-food campus is actively participating.
Scientists believe that marine sediment is a material with “high added value” and a perfect alternative to current commercial substrates: mainly peat from northern Europe and coconut fibre, which is mainly imported from Sri Lanka.
According to the lead researcher on the Spanish side, CIAGRO-UMH agronomist Pilar Legua, the aim is to solve the serious problem of what to do with the marine sediments extracted from ports and at the same time make farming cheaper with a new material rich in nutrients and without harming health.
The researchers have used three cubic metres of sediment extracted from the Italian port of Livorno, near Pisa, in their trials on lemon trees on the university campus in the Desamparados district of Orihuela.
Reviewed every six months by a European Commission auditor, the study shows that this marine sediment is not very porous and therefore must be partially mixed with growing substrate, normally 75 to 50 percent sediment and the rest peat, for optimal growth of fruit trees.
Another of the possible uses of this marine sediment is the recovery of very eroded or deteriorated soils due to lack of water or natural disasters, for example, it would be ideal for recovering the hectares lost by the lava fajanas of the volcano on the Canary Island of La Palma.