Goosedown Out, Bulrush In: Plant Reshapes Quilted Jackets

The humble bangle doesn’t look like the next big thing in fashion. Growing in swamps and bogs, her sausage-shaped brown buds and fluffy seeds are commonplace across the UK. Yet a project near Salford in northwest England aims to turn the plant into an eco-friendly alternative to goose down and the synthetic fibers that line jackets, boosting the climate and bog productivity. rewet.

BioPuff, a new plant-based material made by startup Saltyco from reed – better known as bulrush – has a structure similar to feathers, providing warm, lightweight and water-resistant insulation, according to the firm.

To increase bulrush availability, the Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside has teamed up with a local farmer and landowner on a five-hectare (12-acre) site at one of the Kingdom’s first marshlands UK (rewetted peat farming) trials, with a £400,000 grant from the UK government.

If scalable, the material could double clothing at a fraction of the environmental footprint of traditional padding. It has already won accolades in the fashion industry, winning the H&M Foundation Global Change Award last year. It’s been used in a small collection so far, by Italian label YOOX, and the startup is in talks with other fashion houses.

About 20 bulrush heads are needed to make enough material for a jacket, and the first rushes are expected to be harvested from the UK site in 2026.

“Rush has an incredible high volume structure,” said Saltyco co-founder Finlay Duncan. “Its seed heads can grow about 300 times. It has these umbrella-like structures that mimic the natural structure of goose down in terms of a nice, fluffy feel.

For peat farmers in the northwest lowlands, it is hoped the trial could provide an alternative source of income while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The chosen site in Greater Manchester was drained for agriculture over 50 years ago, which will be reversed next year to plant the bulrushes. This could save 2,800 tonnes of CO2 equivalent by 2050 and boost biodiversity, according to the Wildlife Trust.

“I’ve been farming this land for 35 years and I’ve seen a steady decline in yields and an increasing difficulty in finding a market for traditional crops,” said Steve Denneny, who will grow the bulrush on land owned by the Peel Group. “I think wetter farming could be the future for a lot of lowland peat farming, and it’s great to be a part of it early on.”

Malaria has received funding of around £5m for trials and experimentation, which also includes the cultivation of sphagnum moss for peat-free compost. In some parts of the country, such as Norfolk, wetland agriculture on bogs dates back to ancient times, with the eastern wetlands being used to produce reeds for thatching.

For the project in Salford, the Wildlife Trust is collecting baseline data at the site, which will be rewet this autumn to raise the water table. A monitoring site will also be set up to monitor the status quo scenario.

“If we can make this trial a success and scale it up, there is so much lowland peat in the UK that needs rewetting, both environmentally and economically,” said Mike Longden of the Wildlife Trust. .

“Farming on lowland peat can be very difficult. It is not the most profitable agriculture. Ideas like the bulrush project could therefore mean a lucrative “win-win,” Longden said.

By Patrick Greenfield

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