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Peat moss: A sustainable component of growing media

Peat bogs were formed thousands of years ago after the last receding ice age. As peat bogs continue in their evolution, mosses and other plant debris slowly accumulate in thick deposits. In Canada, peatlands cover 280 million acres (113.6 million hectares), or 13% of the land area of Canada. Of this, less than 74,000 acres (30,000 hectares), or 0.03% of the total peatland area, is harvested for growing media.

In Canada and many European countries that harvest peat moss, guidelines have been established with environmental protection and conservation groups for the harvesting and preservation of peat bogs.

Sphagnum peat moss is unique in that it simultaneously grows and dies, leaving behind what we call peat moss. Peat moss is the accumulation of dead organic material from partly decayed leaves, stems and roots of various mosses and other plants that have accumulated in a water-saturated environment in the absence of oxygen. This plant material breaks down very slowly, so peat accumulates in layers, year after year, forming a deposit which can be up to 65 feet (20 meters) thick. In places where peat is harvested, other sections of the peat bog continue to grow.

Peat is also an accumulator of carbon that is sequestered from the atmosphere. Peatlands contain roughly 30% of all the carbon found on land, worldwide. Although only 0.03% of the peatland area is harvested for horticultural purposes, it’s important to manage these sites in a responsible way, so they will be around for many generations and continue storing carbon from the atmosphere.

Read more at PRO-MIX (Ed Bloodnick)

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