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Katrina Frey
 
April 20, 2021 | Frey Winery Blog | Katrina Frey

Azolla – Amazing Aquatic Plant

The team extracts azolla from the pond.
The vineyard team collect azolla from the pond.

Late last fall after the grape harvest, Derek Dahlen, Dave Moore and Johnny Arrington, members of our vineyard crew, spent a week harvesting azolla from one of our ranch ponds. Azolla began proliferating on this pond about five years ago.  At first we were quite concerned about the rapidly spreading carpet of reddish plants – until we learned that it was very beneficial.

Azolla is a tiny aquatic fern that floats on top of still bodies of waters and occurs throughout most of the temperate to tropical regions of the world. Our native California species, Azolla filculoides, has coevolved with a nitrogen-fixing cyanobactrium called Anabeana azollae for millions of years.  Together they merge into a superorganism that holds much promise for mitigating greenhouse gases caused by human activities because of its ability to sequester enormous amounts of atmospheric CO2.  Only legumes which are widely used as organic cover crops share this capacity.

Beyond being a wonderful nitrogen fixing biofertilizer, azolla is also a protein rich food for cattle, poultry, fish and pigs.  Already commonly used in China, Vietnam and the Philippines, this miraculous plant offers a great solution to many parts of the world such as regions of Africa suffering from soil depletion.  The beauty of azolla is that it can easily be grown right on the site where it is needed.

Here at Frey Vineyards we are experimenting with mixing it into our compost piles as a high nitrogen addition to our mounds of grape pomace.  I’ve also been using it as a mulch around my perennial flowers, shrubs and fruit trees.  It’s helping with water retention and I’m noticing beautiful vibrant new green growth.  I am next going to start harvesting azolla as a nutrient rich food for the ranch chickens.

For more information on this amazing plant check out theazollafoundation.org

Pond covered in azolla.

Comments

Anna Amato's Gravatar
 
Anna Amato
@ Apr 22, 2021 at 7:45 PM
This is an amazing use of a plant especially on Earth Day. Good Job!

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