The horticulture industry and government have welcomed data that shows further decreases in the percentage of peat used in growing media, acknowledging its importance to the sector’s ability to deliver vital plants and trees into UK ornamental horticulture.
For the first time since the data has been recorded, it shows the amount of peat contained in growing media is less than 50%.
A new report shows that between 2015 and 2019 the amount of peat contained in growing media decreased from almost 53% to 41.5% in the consumer sector, with the professional sector showing a marginal reduction (63.9% to 62.9%). Overall, this represents a total reduction from 56% to 47% respectively.
The Growing Media Monitor report provides the results of the 2020 study, funded by Growing Media Association (GMA)/Horticulture Trades Association (HTA), the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) and shows trends in the composition of UK growing media supplied 2011 to 2019.
As a sector, horticulture is committed to working with government and others on finding responsible ways to achieve the mutual goals within the 25-year Environment Plan. Peat reduction is one aspect of this and a complex area which requires action on several fronts to make further progress.
Chairman of the Growing Media Association, Neil Bragg, said: “The essential requirement for growing media within horticulture means that the industry fully understands the need to address issues around its composition and is committed to working with others to navigate the complexities of doing so.
“Monitoring is only one aspect, alongside finding ways to promote responsibly sourced products to consumers and being part of the discussions about the pros and cons of the various peat alternatives.
“Being part of the wider collaborative effort on this – manufacturers investing in innovative ways to change the formulation of growing media and retailers changing their buying policies, for example – have helped drive these encouraging developments in peat-use in the consumer sector and is what will ensure progress continues to be made.”
Across the sector, stakeholders want to work together and with Government to take a responsible approach to making further changes. To help identify what action is required, the GMA/HTA commissioned independent academic research on the subject.
Academics from the Research Centre for Business in Society at Coventry University made several recommendations for moving the industry forward in a report published last month. Their research reviewed the growing media industry, its sustainability, and analysed how the area needs to develop to become more sustainable.
Alongside suggestions for industry around better labelling and information for consumers, the continued research into availability of alternatives, including within the composting sector and phasing out peat in the retail sector, the report calls for government support.
Dr David Bek of Coventry University said: “It will be difficult for the growing media industry to continue its ongoing transition towards a peat-free future without shifts within the UK national policy framework. Wood-based growing media is currently rendered less competitive by the incentives available for using wood biomass for heat and power generation. Whilst green waste collection systems around the UK need to be harmonised to improve the quality and availability of green compost that is being produced. These are significant blockages which need to be tackled with some urgency.”