Wales's Trees and Plants Offer an Alternative Income

Article excerpt

Byline: ROBIN TURNER

WELSH farmers could soon be swapping sheep and barley for snails, bees, wild boar and fields of poppies and fast-growing super trees which could make millions of pounds for the rural economy.

The Welsh Development Agency which has commissioned a report on what types of crops or animals are not being fully utilised in Wales have found evidence that crops such as thyme and St John's wort could provide a huge boost for Wales's struggling rural economy and create thousands of jobs.

Initial findings by the Central Science Laboratory found 43 plant species growing in Wales and a further 11 identified as native to Wales which could provide development and uses within the chemical, car, textile or food sectors.

Plants with potential ranged from poppies, thyme, linola seed an St John's wort to bog myrtle and trees which can grow up to 20ft a year for use in wood-burning power stations. In America, Shell Energy and the University of Florida are growing 130 acres of so-called super trees, non-invasive eucalyptus and cottonwood which are destined as fuel for an electricity-producing plant. The project reflects decades of tree research and the species grow again after each harvest.

Poppies produce a wide variety of medicines including opium, heroin, morphine and codeine all of which are in constant demand from hospitals and medical centres.

Codeine, a constituent of many cough syrups is a widely used painkiller with few side effects. Thyme, latin name Thymus Vulgaris, has been cultivated for centuries for cooking and healing purposes. It is a powerful antiseptic and is used in cases of anaemia, bronchial ailments and intestinal problems.

It is used as an antiseptic against tooth decay and destroys fungal infections like athlete's foot and skin parasites such as crabs and lice.

It is also good for colic, flatulence, sore throats, colds and as a digestive aid and hangover cure.

Bog myrtle is a distinctive shrubby, deciduous plant spread with a variety of uses. …