The search for sustainable alternatives

How to fill the gap that is left by peat?

The demand for growing media is expected to explode in the coming decades, but will there be enough to meet this high demand, particularly when the future availability and use of peat is an issue? The search for sustainable alternatives is ongoing for several years now, but regarding the timeline, it will become a challenge to fill the gap that is left by peat. Collaboration, communication and education are key in the shift towards more sustainable alternatives. 

The peat discussion is not a new one. In the UK, it is ongoing for many years and recently the government announced their plans to ban sales of peat compost to gardeners in England by 2024. Afterwards, a ban for the use of peat by the professional growers is expected to follow as well. Over the years, it has become an international issue. In Germany for example, the target is to phase out the use of peat by 2026. Actually, the whole debate once stared around peat many years ago, but the subject has changed towards a search for more sustainable alternatives to peat. So, what are the alternatives to peat and how sustainable are these alternatives?

In order to increase the awareness, need and knowledge of sustainable alternatives, a lot of events and - particularly during the pandemic - webinars are being organized. Yesterday AIPH and FCI organized one and at the same time, HortiAdvice hosted and organized another one (click here for the program) to inform their network of Danish growers.

Panel at the AIPH/FCI webinar Clockwise: Renee and Ed of Jungletalks, who facilitated the webinar. Panelists Moritz Bocking (Klassmann Deilmann), Hein Boon (RHP) and  Peter van den Dool (Van der Knaap Group). Tim Briercliffe of AIPH. Presenters Catherine Dawson (Melcourt), Cecilia Luetgebrune (Growing Media Europe), and Marko Pomerants (IPS).

The impact of raw materials
In both webinars, several presentations were given on the alternatives to peat and the combination of peat with other more sustainable materials. However, how sustainable are these alternatives,? Each raw material has an impact on the environment, for example, coir pith needs to come from far and wood fiber production requires quite some energy. Therefore, it is important to put it in context. Hein Boon of RHP, a knowledge center for substrates, was one of the presenters at at both presentations, explaining their efforts to making the impact more transparent as well as the production and the expected properties of these growing media products. (Click here to read the FloralDaily article on this topic, with Hein Boon

"Timelines not in line with the demand"
According to a recent WUR report, the demand for growing media will be 400% higher by 2050, so how to fill the gap that will be left by peat? In a previously published FloralDaily article, Catherine Dawson, Melcourt already explained that it will be a challenge in the UK and in the AIPH webinar, she again, together with the other presenters from other countries stressed this challenge. "The timelines are not in line with the demand and that's a problem", they say.

Communication and collaboration is key 
According to the participants in the webinar, communication and collaboration is important. In order to be be able to meet the demand, we need to collaborate in finding and developing sustainable growing media, they stress. On top of that, it is also important to get the messages across like the tight timescale and the fact that peat can be produced responsible. With RPP, for example, the industry took the initiate to make responsible choices and make the process as transparent as possible. 

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