Asha Hingorani, President of the Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss Association, is determined to educate the industry on peat moss, including the supply, demand, environmental challenges, and sustainability. Even though peat is widely used throughout the horticulture industry, there are some misconceptions about its supply and environmentally friendly practices.
Greenhouse Grower caught up with Hingorani to gather the facts on peat. Keep reading for statistics on peat’s history, supply, demand, sustainability, and more.
Peat’s Context and Role
- 400 to 450 million cubic feet of peat are extracted yearly in Canada. Approximately 85% of the extracted peat in Canada is shipped to the U.S., providing 90% of its imports.
- A small footprint of 27,000 hectares (0.02%) out of the 114 million hectares of Canadian peatlands have been extracted.
- Peat is a growing media component supporting wide usage in greenhouses (ornamental, herbs, and food production), mushroom cultivation, cannabis, reforestation, and home gardening. Its total economic impact is $18 billion per year.
- Peat is a growing media component with unique and unrivaled characteristics:
- Water retention — 12 to 20 times its own weight
- Nutrient retention — Ease of availability for roots
- Aeration — Natural porosity needed for healthy root development and root penetration
- Chemical properties — Low electrical conductivity (EC) and pH levels needed for plant health and growth
- Stability of the fiber — As compared to other fibers like compost, coco coir, wood fiber, etc.
- Low phytosanitary risks — such as bacteria or fungus related diseases
- There are concerns about peatlands’ future and the role they play acting as greenhouse gas sinks, significantly influenced by the European and Indonesian contexts as well as the impact on peatlands from many other activities like mining, agriculture, etc.
- There is a different context in North America, given the extremely limited impact of horticultural peat extraction. The Canadian horticultural peat industry has been ahead of the curve on responsible management of peatlands, adopting “responsible peatland management” principles early on. Thirty years ago, the Canadian peat industry initiated research programs on peatland restoration, leading to the development of Canada’s world-renowned expertise in peatland restoration.
- For 10 years, the industry’s activities have been certified under the stringent and independent Veriflora — Responsibly Managed Peatlands program, demonstrating the industry’s commitment to good management principles in all aspects of sustainable development including, ecosystem protection, social engagement, and product quality.
- Over the last decade, supply of Canadian horticultural peat has increased by approximately 2% to 3% per year to reach the current 400 to 450 million cubic feet of peat per year
- Yearly extraction is conditioned by weather and some years of the recent past, including in 2022, have seen some shortages.
- Over the same period, peat extraction capacity has been impacted/limited by ever-increasing rules and regulations emitted by provincial and federal governments alike. These rules and regulations include impact assessments, long term reclamation plans, local communities’ consultation, etc., reducing access to the resource and increasing the average delay to secure access to additional bogs to seven years.
- Over time, the offer from the producers has evolved from an approximate balance (50/50) between raw/straight peat and soilless mixes (peat blended with other growing media components and additives). Now, soilless mixes significantly dominate, and raw/straight peat is lessened to 10% to 20%, reducing availability to mushroom growers and ornamental growers making their own soilless mixes.
- To face the increased demand, producers have been successfully experiencing with and ultimately adding various alternatives to their soilless mixes, including bark [a long-time partner of peat], coconut coir, wood fiber, etc.
Demand for Peat
- Over the last decade, demand for peat-based growing media has grown at a much faster rate than the supply and particularly during the recent pandemic, when demand skyrocketed.
- Such demand increase can be associated to professional growers as well as casual gardeners with a particular emphasis on cannabis growers.
Future of Peat
- In keeping with its adopted principle of “Wise Use” of peat, anticipation is that the proportion of other constituents blended with peat will continue to grow over the years to ensure fulfilling the ever-increasing demand for peat-based growing media.
- Most of other constituents/alternatives used are components of value but with variable quality, performance, availability, risks, cost, and environmental footprint. As literature suggests, some can be more acceptable for various uses but, when blended with peat, they all benefit from the unique properties of peat mentioned above with peat acting as “the enabler”.
- The peat industry is committed to working closely and intensively with users and the science community to devise the growing media of the future that will ensure the needs of such users, including quality and yield.
- With regard to its ability to increase its offer, the Canadian industry permanently works with Canadian governments to ensure access to the peat resource is increased and growth is consistent to ensure it is able to meet the needs for horticultural peat for generations to come.
- In 2011, the industry ensured it was walking the talk by implementing the Veriflora — Responsibly Managed Peatlands Program from SCS global, an independent and ever more stringent certification program that demonstrates the industry’s commitment to sustainable development, including ecosystem protection, peatland restoration, social engagement, and product quality.
- More than 80% of CSPMA members are Veriflora certified
- In 2016, the industry implemented the National Peatland Restoration Initiative (NPRI). Under this initiative, producers committed to restore 100% of its “legacy” over the next 15 years. It is currently on track to reach its goal.
Want more insights from Hingorani on the peat supply forecast, demand trends, and misconceptions? Read this article posted on GreenhouseGrower.com in March.
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