Sustainable coir products will replace peat, agent forecasts

Coir will replace peat as the main soil-less growing medium for soft-fruit production during the next five years, the UK agent for Tuff Substrates - a major Israeli producer of coir peat - told a seminar last week. Coir comes from sustainable sources, mainly Sri Lankan and Indian coconuts.

"We foresee coir taking over from peat in due course," said Field Irrigation general manager Roger Moore. He claims that Tuff coir growbags have the added advantage of low cost. Tuff bags are £1.10 each, delivered to the farm, compared with £1.60 for the Dutch peat modules his firm also sells.

Furthermore, because coir comes in compressed slabs about 4cm thick, it is much more cost effective to transport than peat. Moore said the containers in which the slabs are delivered to farms each hold 10,000 coir bags - some 60 per cent more than peat bags.

Although there is little difference in performance between the two types of media they require different management for the best results. Wetting of the coir slabs before use increases their volume more than three-fold. Holes are drilled into the slabs for easy insertion of the irrigation dripper pegs.

KG Growers crop production adviser Paul Keutenius also predicted that coir growbags will eventually become the norm.

Initially there was a lot of uncertainty among growers about the quality of coir but this has now disappeared, although coir bags have not been in use for long enough to determine whether or not they are any better than peat bags.

"You have to take each substrate on its merits and manage them correctly. That is the key to all substrate growing," Keutenius said.

"You need to take into account the variety and type of plant as each requires specific management."

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