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Salt-tolerant crop shows promise as chicken bedding

March 19, 2014--Jack Gallagher grew up on a farm, but he never cared much for the squawking chickens pecking around. The Pennsylvania farm boy gravitated toward the coastline, where he built a career studying salt marsh vegetation as a marine scientist in the University of Delaware’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment (CEOE).

Yet the professor emeritus of marine biosciences has returned to his agricultural roots, having found a potential new use for salt marsh plants: chicken bedding.

“I never thought I’d be involved with chickens,” Gallagher said. “That’s the exciting thing about research: You never know where it’s going to lead.”

With funding from Delaware Sea Grant and private supporters, Gallagher has long studied seashore mallow, a salt-tolerant, flowering plant found along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. His research may end up helping not only chickens, but also farmers facing saltwater damage to their fields from worsening coastal flooding.

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