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Is sargassum seaweed a good fertilizer?

December 21, 2023

In the ever-evolving world of agriculture, finding sustainable and effective ways to increase crop yields is crucial for farmers looking to optimize their financial return and minimize their environmental impact. One intriguing player on the yield enhancer scene is sargassum seaweed. A question that’s recently been on everyone’s mind is, “Is sargassum seaweed extract a good fertilizer?” The answer to this question is nuanced and is certainly not an easy yes or no.

Let’s discuss why.

Sargassum seaweed is effective, but not a standalone solution

To address the question, “Is sargassum seaweed a good fertilizer?” head-on, we must first clarify that sargassum seaweed is not a standalone product – BUT, it can significantly contribute to crop vigor and yield enhancement when used in conjunction with traditional fertilizers. Understanding how it complements existing farming practices is key to realizing its potential.

Interestingly, the nutritious elements found in sargassum seaweed extracts are fueled by agricultural runoff into the ocean. Sargassum seaweed’s ability to absorb these nutrients explains its rapid growth (you’ve heard of the sargassum rafts) and its ability to boost yield for crops. By extracting and concentrating up these helpful nutrients, we are essentially returning them to their source, creating a sustainable loop.

Let’s take a closer look at how sargassum supports higher crop yields.

4 ways sargassum seaweed naturally supports crop yield enhancement

The great thing about using sargassum in agriculture practices is that it’s an environmentally-friendly alternative to other crop “boosters.” Sargassum seaweed helps to:

1. Reduce nitrogen dependency

Farmers often apply more than 90 kilograms of nitrogen per hectare to promote plant vigor and crop yield. Sargassum seaweed can reduce the need for up to 30% of this nitrogen requirement, significantly reducing the cost and environmental impact of nitrogen-based fertilizers.

2. Boost nutrient uptake

One of the secrets behind sargassum seaweed’s effectiveness is the extract and concentration process. This extract aids in nutrient uptake by plants, enhancing the availability of essential elements ready to be absorbed from the soil.

3. Boost nutrient uptake

Sargassum seaweed contains compounds that support how plants metabolize nutrients. This boosts the efficiency of nutrient utilization, leading to more vigorous plants.

4. Aid in plant digestion of micronutrients

Think of sargassum seaweed extract as the “high potency multivitamin and metabolism enhancer for your crops.” Just as you might take vitamins and metabolism boosters to fuel your own body more efficiently, plants benefit from the micronutrients, including magnesium, found in seaweed extracts, and the enhanced availability to absorb those elements. The following micronutrients, among others, make sargassum seaweed a valuable addition to fertilization practices, as they contribute to overall crop yield:

  • Zinc: Zinc is essential for various enzymatic processes in plants and plays a crucial role in photosynthesis and nutrient uptake.
  • Potassium: Potassium is vital for maintaining the plant’s water balance, improving disease resistance, and enhancing the quality of fruits and vegetables.
  • Iron: Iron is necessary for the formation of chlorophyll, which is essential for photosynthesis and overall plant vitality.
  • Magnesium: Magnesium is involved in the process of photosynthesis and helps plants convert sunlight into energy. It also acts as a phosphorous carrier in the plant and is essential for phosphate metabolism.
  • Silicone: Silicone is crucial for the mechanical strength of the plant, which provides structural support to its leaves and steams. Silicone also helps in protecting plants from insect attacks, disease and environmental stress by improving the plants defense response.
  • Calcium: Although not always classified as a micronutrient, calcium is essential for cell wall structure and membrane integrity in plants.

What companies are creating yield boosting products using sargassum?

While a few companies are exploring the potential use of sargassum in agriculture at small scale, Sarga Agriscience has it down to a proprietary science and has the scale available for millions of hectares. As one of Carbonwave’s brands, Sarga Ag has developed a unique way to collect and process the seaweed that enables crops to adapt to changing temperatures, salt levels, and a range of other stresses in the same way sargassum seaweed does while living in the ocean. How did we develop this product? We found a way to perform a gentle, cold, non-chemical extraction process that maintains and concentrates up all the seaweed’s goodness and in order to boost crop yield with a 3-12X ROI for the farmer. These numbers have been proven out by a large barley grower, Heineken, in their own tests.

Heineken’s barley experiment using Sarga Ag

As Heineken continues to seek new ways to increase yield and support sustainable barley farming, they approached the Sarga Agriscience team about the potential of sargassum seaweed extract for their crops. Through this partnership, we tested the use of Sarga Ag on their barley yield, and the results were strong. The company reported a remarkable 12.5% increase in barley yield and a 13X ROI on the investment. For just $15 in treatment costs they got an additional $200 increase in barley per hectare and they integrated the product right into their foliar spray liquids. Although such results require further validation, they offer a glimpse of the extract’s potential to support farms globally with a natural crop boosting solution that also helps reduce ocean pollution and climate gases like methane which is created if the sargassum rots on the beach instead of being used productively. Learn more about Heineken’s efforts to farm in a sustainable manner.

Sargassum seaweed: A sustainable and affordable solution for the future

With an abundance of sargassum seaweed available, Carbonwave’s Sarga Agriscience has the ability to produce a high-quality extract that’s suitable for use in farming not just on high value fruits and vegetables but even previously economically challenging crop categories like row or broadacre crops. This traditionally boutique product is becoming accessible for high-volume crops, offering an organic and natural option at competitive prices and high farmer returns.

So, while sargassum seaweed is not a magic bullet for fertilization, it is a powerful ally for farmers looking to enhance their crop yields sustainably. When used in conjunction with traditional fertilizers, its potential to reduce nitrogen dependency, boost nutrient uptake, and improve plant vigor makes it a valuable asset in modern agriculture. As we navigate the challenges of feeding a growing global population while preserving our planet and navigating climate change challenges, sargassum seaweed may just be one secret weapon our farms need.

Curious to learn more about the work Carbonwave is doing with sargassum? Get in touch.

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