The reeds that for centuries have been used in the Murcian fields to build forgings in the houses and give consistency to the roofs of the houses, build fences in the garden to separate farms, make brooms and even musical instruments, among a myriad of utilities, they pose a real problem if they are not used, as has been the case since the 1960s. New materials have displaced this old companion to the point of making her disappear as a key tool for the farmer. The last stronghold in which it was used was precisely in field work, specifically in large plantations in Águilas and Mazarrón, where they have served as guardians of the tomato plants until the end of the 1980s.
Until the traditional outdoor crops were replaced by plantations under mesh with greenhouse structures, as explained by the expert in agroecology, rural development and agrotourism Mariano Pelegrín Muelas in the thesis that he has dedicated to the possible use of these plants to make compost with the than enriching agricultural soils.
Pelegrín, who is head of the Fluvial Engineering section of the Segura Hydrographic Confederation, shows how this element, which was used “to hold slopes in rivers and in the construction of beacons to prevent the movement of the dunes”, began to hinder the flow of the same rivers and plug bridges and other hydraulic works. We only have to remember the shocking images of tons of reeds removed by heavy machinery from the bridges that cross the Segura river at the height of the city of Murcia during the DANA in September 2019.
The extensive manual on ‘Invasive Exotic Species of the Segura River Basin’ published in 2019 by the Life Ripisilvanatura project abounds in how “the elimination of these traditional uses and human pressure on riparian ecosystems have allowed their expansion”, which now it’s a real problem. It consumes more water than native vegetation, which also depletes nutrients while leaving no light due to the barrier to the sun’s rays that it creates in the aerial part with its accumulation. In this way, it ends biodiversity, while increasing the danger of fires, since it is highly flammable when it dries. And these are just some of the ills produced by a plant that for centuries has been a basic good for life in the countryside.
Now it requires a management that annually supposes «a huge amount of public resources for its start-up-control by means of inefficient mechanical pruning, since the rhizome is not extracted and it regenerates itself naturally and at the same time no use is carried out. of biomass and, in many locations, this biomass is dumped back into the river ”, denounces Pelegrín, who proposes to use the reeds by mixing them with sludge to produce compost for agricultural use.
While a new use is found for it, or it ends, as many experts propose, the reeds, with all their invasive load, continue to remind us with their presence next to the riverbeds and wetlands of those old uses that were given to them since they arrived. centuries ago from the Middle East. Hopefully a new use will be found that limits the wild presence of our old ‘garden bamboo’.