Sustainable Growing Media Task Force interim report downplays importance of peat carbon footprint

The Sustainable Growing Media Task Force has issued its interim report, with chairman Dr Alan Knight outlining a shift in thinking from carbon footprinting of peat being paramount.

Sustainable Growing Media Task Force chairman Dr Alan Knight - image: HW
Sustainable Growing Media Task Force chairman Dr Alan Knight - image: HW

See a copy of the Sustainable Growing Media Task Force interim report.

Knight said there is "an emerging consensus that the precise carbon footprint of each product and raw material is less crucial than we all first thought. If reducing peat use protects carbon sinks then that should be enough whilst the cradle to consumer carbon footprint is too complex and ambiguous to add value to the debate.

He added: "The Natural Environment White Paper targets are based on the 'all peat harvesting is bad' narrative and the recently published National Planning Policy Framework also takes this precautionary approach. It is encouraging to see that Government has recognised the important role that planning policy has in protecting peatland since this has been a central pillar in the task force thinking in decoupling the issue of peatland protection from market mechanisms relating to peat use.

"We need clear, agreed, auditable standards for sustainable or responsible peat extraction to transform this ideological debate into reality. In the absence of this the precautionary principle will always favour a zero peat ideology. The momentum to create such standards must come from the industry, but for there to be any chance of buy-in from the NGO's they will need to buy into the process.

Dr Alan Knight added: "Sustainability is not enough on its own. To avoid the problems of the past with poor performing growing media, in future, sustainable growing media must by definition also be capable of growing plants to an agreed performance standard

Sustainable Growing Media Task Force

The Sustainable Growing Media Task Force was established in June 2011 following the publication of the Natural Environment White Paper, the Natural Choice, to explore how to overcome barriers to further reducing peat use in horticulture. Since then the Task Force has adjusted its remit to that of putting the horticultural sector on a long-term sustainable footing by ensuring that all choices of growing media (or substrate) used for amateur gardening and horticulture is sustainable.

The Task Force is made up of representatives from 35 organisations from across the growing media supply chain, including retailers, growing media manufacturers, growers and environmental organisations.

There are four groups of projects:

  •  Sustainable growing media – focusing on how we can define and measure the sustainability of growing media.
  •  Role of public policy – focusing on the role of public policy in developing solutions.
  •  Growing media performance, use and price – focusing on performance standards and requirements of growing media.
  •  Consumer communications – focusing on communication of messages to consumers and users of growing media.

# Green compost will not be the solution to peat replacement either in terms of complete replacement or its suitability for certain uses.

# The Task Force agreed that there was a need for a performance standard (for amateur products).

The Task Force will, by by 30 June 2012, issue a final rpeort and roadmap for future growing media use.

See Horticulture Week 13 April for industry reaction.   

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