Growing Media Task Force meets to plan final way forward

The Sustainable Growing Media Task Force met on Tuesday (11 September), along with other industry representatives, to provide feedback to Defra and to Task Force chairman, Dr Alan Knight on his report and proposed road map of actions that were published at the end of June.

In the meeting, chaired jointly by HDC, NFU and HTA, there was "broad agreement" that the report provides a pragmatic and balanced summary of the environmental, social and economic factors in the complicated debate on the sustainability of growing media, said representatives.

The Task Force identified project streams which will help deliver the "optimum result - a competitive and prosperous UK horticultural industry that is based on a responsibly sourced and resilient supply of growing media". 

The HTA said the Task Force has broadened its original focus on the single issue of peat, to include an assessment of the environmental, social and economic credentials of the whole range of growing media materials. 

Actions will include:

  • Development of a performance standard for amateur bagged media
  • Completion of the RHS-led work on defining sustainability criteria for all growing media ingredients and integration of this into an auditable industry scheme (potentially via the Growing Media Initiative)
  • Strengthened links and co-operation with European partners to ensure a level European playing field
  • Development of a five year R&D plan to address commercial horticulture’s technical concerns
  • Promotion and transfer of information generated by nursery growing media trials
  • Raising awareness of the issues around growing media sustainability with the landscape specifier and contractor sector
  • Development of procurement guidance for public sector landscape tenders
  • Further retailer and consumer education through funded programmes and improved labelling
  • Working with Environment Agency to remove blockages that exist for using waste materials within growing media
  • Establishment of a working group to oversee progress against the roadmap

The Task Force has endorsed the chairman’s conclusion that economic sustainability needs to underpin any viable solutions. 

The Task Force will submit some minor comments on specific actions in the detailed roadmap, "but in general it endorses the proposed way forward".

The Task Force has called on Defra ministers to support when they issue their formal response by the end of the year and "to ensure that Government supports the broader approach to a sustainable future rather than a pre-occupation with peat and reduction targets". 

HTA business development director Tim Briercliffe said: "We have established clear industry agreement on a route towards sustainable growing media.  With peat now put within its proper context, alongside all growing media ingredients, we can make progress in a way that makes the industry more sustainable without damaging it in the process."

HDC charman Neil Bragg added: "This whole exercise has really galvanised the whole industry to seek and develop materials for the responsible use of substrate ingredients whilst maintaining the viability of the industry as a whole."

NFU horticultural adviser Chris Hartfield added: "The work of the Task Force has produced a comprehensive and evidence-based way forward. The work proposed under the roadmap will be ground-breaking and will enable professional growers to demonstrate and improve their sustainability credentials in the area of growing media. We look forward to getting the full support of Government for this new way forward."

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