Dry run: the wet farming experiment that could sow seeds for future crops

Cambridgeshire project trials plants that thrive in more extreme weather, including sphagnum moss and bulrush

A road deeply rutted by tractors and trucks winds its way across the Fens in Cambridgeshire, a flat, expansive landscape where trees are the exception, not the rule, and ditches rather than hedges divide the fields. This is England’s breadbasket, a huge food-producing region where the rich, dark soil nurtures potatoes, carrots, sugar beet and wheat.

In among these intensively farmed fields are a handful of bare, black strips of land which are part of a unique trial to introduce paludiculture, or wet farming, to the UK. The Water Works project is testing new crops that could suit a future UK climate, when weather events are expected to be more extreme and rain arrives in a deluge. Using plants that thrive in saturated soil, it is setting out to show the commercial benefits of re-wetting these peatlands, a process that will also lock carbon into the ground.

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