Gardeners to help ease Suez shipping crisis

The horticulture industry has an innovative plan to help unblock the Suez canal so vital gardening supplies can reach Britain.

Taiwan-owned MV Ever Given (Evergreen), a 400-metre mega-shipping tanker, is carrying £4m-worth of garden furniture, with another £100m of gardening goods trapped on ships behind the vessel.

The 220,000-ton, 400-metre-long Ever Given became stuck near the southern end of the canal on Tuesday. The Suez Canal Authority said it had lost the ability to steer amid high winds and a dust storm.

The Flora PIio group plan to fly to Egypt to help refloat the Evergreen boat using an innovative Nymphaeaceae system.

Using data from the world’s longest running experiment, in Hertfordshire, the researchers found that the Nymphaeaceae family of flowering plant have the ability to lift vessels 10,000 times their size, a figure which has been consistently increasing since the 1960s.

Less than a third of the the water lily plants lifted small rowing boats used in experiments, in the first 10 years of the dataset, but between 2005-2014, this had risen to more than half.

The team, led by Greek horticulturist Dr Exogiini Sofoloi, will include horticultural maritime experts Dennis Espley, Peter Seabrook, Margery Fish, Rachel de Thame, Natalie Porter and Charlie Dimmock.

Dr Sofolio said: “Reducing yield losses from canal blockages is increasingly challenging because of the evolution of herbicide resistance and we can no longer rely on water lilies alone to counter the increasing threat from ships running aground.

“If we compare garden furniture lost to canal includents in the first 10 years of the dataset lily pads ‘robbed’ on average 32% of the yield compared to 54% in the last 10 years of data.

“Our results demonstrate that water lilies now represent a greater inherent threat to canal incident production than before the advent of tug boats and integrated, sustainable solutions to shipping management are urgently needed to protect the high yield potential of modern garden furniture varieties.”

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