Defra urged to take note of Europe's 'pragmatic' peat-reduction policy

Horticulture Development Company chair Neil Bragg has called on Defra to take note of the "more pragmatic" approach to peat reduction being taken in Europe.

Speaking at a conference on Tuesday organised by Stockbridge Technology Centre and the International Peat Society, Bragg said EU countries were taking a "more pragmatic approach in terms of protecting their own economies".

His comments followed a briefing by European growing media association representative Gerald Schmilewski, who warned that reducing the quality and productivity of horticulture in Europe would be counter-productive to EU policy.

"There are three main negative impacts of using less favourable products - increased production risk, diminishing yields and a rise of inferior product quality," he said.

"There are no general substitutes for peat and cutting production would go against EU policy."

He continued: "It is more an emotional issue in the UK. Peat production is strictly regulated in all EU member states and it will remain an important growing-media constituent in the coming decades."

Schmilewski pointed out that the industry in Europe was looking at peat-reduced rather than peat-free to find superior quality.

The UK's Growing Media Association chairman James Hayes warned that Defra could not do anything about peat coming into the UK alongside imported material.

"It will make the problem worse because more will come from places such as the Balkans," warned Hayes. "More pristine bogs will be affected."

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