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DEFRA consultation on the use of peat


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#1 gardenofeden

 
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Posted 21 February 2011 - 17:14 PM

Is anyone aware that there is currently a DEFRA consultation running on phasing out peat in horticulture. The closing date is 11th of March this year. I note on the list of consultees that the Carnivorous Plant Society is one of the consultees, is the CPS doing an official response and what is their view?

edit here's the link
http://www.defra.gov.../peat/index.htm

Edited by gardenofeden, 21 February 2011 - 17:14 PM.


#2 flycatchers

 
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Posted 21 February 2011 - 17:38 PM

I see they mention "The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew stopped using peat in 1989, with the exception of carnivorous plants"

#3 mobile

 
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Posted 22 February 2011 - 12:29 PM

hmmm... this is not good. Even if the CPS fought our corner, we are such a minority that it would not be financially viable for the peat extractors to continue if other horticultural uses were phased out. I am continously dismayed in the lack of research being performed in finding viable peat alternatives for CPs.

#4 dennisB

 
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Posted 23 February 2011 - 11:12 AM

Hi

Tim Bailey is putting the CPS's response together,is talking to the DEFRA person who is running the consultation and has alerted the professionals so they can get their comments in.

Even if we get some exemption for CP and possibly growers of other acid loving plants, we can expect peat to become harder to come by and (inevitably) more expensive.

Ho hum.

Dennis

#5 Nigel H-C

 
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Posted 24 February 2011 - 14:26 PM

I made my representation as a grower, rather than a nurseryman, and leant on the conservation argument that we are preserving plants which are rapidly heading for extinction.

I also asked Stewart to do likewise as he has a different perspective again, in that he's seen first hand what is left, and this is particularly timely in view of his next book on Sarracenia.

Nigel HC

#6 gardenofeden

 
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Posted 26 February 2011 - 10:26 AM

I asked this question for a number of reasons. The main one was to ensure that the CPS was aware of the consultation and to make representations on behalf of the members. I also wanted to discuss the issue, and gather other people's views.

As professional ecologist working in nature conservation, I am strongly entrenched in the "preserve the peat" faction. If you open the link to the peat consultation there are some very interesting background documents from DEFRA which outline the overwhelming arguments for not continuing to harvest peat. The most basic argument, as carnivorous plant growers, is that we should not be destroying the habitat that the plants we love grow in!

The writing has been on the wall with respect to peat for a long time. I wrote my "peat free" article for the CPS in 2004 & indicated that peat would be very difficult to obtain in the future, a statement which was questioned by a few people but look where we are now! I have not bought peat for about 17 years now, so it can be done. It is not always easy, and it is not always cheap or convenient. I very much feel for other growers who do not have easy access to alternatives. I acknowledge that a small amount of carnivorous plant growers using a small amount of peat will have an insignificant effect on peat bogs around the world, but maintaining peat harvesting on a small-scale just for carnivorous plants, ericaceous plants and some orchid growers is very unlikely to happen.

So what do I think the CPS should be responding with? Probably something like:
- we strongly support the proposals to phase out the use of peat
- would point out the specialist requirements of carnivorous plants as a group in requiring acid, low nutrient composts
- would point out that some members of the CPS have been carrying out research into alternatives, although on a small-scale, but would share information we have on alternatives such as moorland gold, Coco peat and Sphagnum derivatives & hydroponics
- acknowledge that currently peat is the only viable option for many growers, both financially and logistically
- would like to see collaborative, funded research into peat-free alternatives for minority plant groups
- would like to see a levy on peat used to subsidise research into alternatives
- would like to see a levy on peat used to subsidise peat alternatives to make them `significantly cheaper than peat products

What do others think?

#7 mobile

 
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Posted 26 February 2011 - 13:21 PM

With the possible exception of Moorland Gold, I have not found a like for like alternative to peat. Results for me with cocopeat have not been good. My main issue with using Moorland Gold is that it is a single source supply, so I would be concerned about becoming dependant on it. I also have an issue with it not being available locally, thus transporting small qualities here is not environmentally sound. Hydroponics is in its infancy for CP growing and whilst I know Tim has been experimenting with it, as have I, it is certainly not ready to become mainstream. Even if it does prove to be viable, systems such as DWC and ebb and flow are far more expensive to set up than a simple pot of peat and far more prone to failure. I personally believe that very little research into viable alternatives has been performed by our societies and only small scale research has been performed by individuals.
  • Exactly how proactive are the CPS when it comes to research in the area of alternatives?
  • Are we too late - will there be enough time to perform proper research into alternatives before peat becomes difficult/expensive/impossible to obtain?
  • Who would perform the research, if funding was made available?


#8 gardenofeden

 
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Posted 26 February 2011 - 14:47 PM

I personally believe that very little research into viable alternatives has been performed by our societies and only small scale research has been performed by individuals.


true

Exactly how proactive are the CPS when it comes to research in the area of alternatives?

not active at all, it's been down to individuals like me and Tim who have taken it upon themselves to do something about it

  • Are we too late - will there be enough time to perform proper research into alternatives before peat becomes difficult/expensive/impossible to obtain?

it will take several seasons of trials, perhaps just enough time, although some alternatives are available already

  • Who would perform the research, if funding was made available?

a collaboration between RHS and interested parties may be the best way forward, perhaps the CPS could put some money into a joint project?

#9 Vic2

 
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Posted 27 February 2011 - 01:06 AM

Who would perform the research, if funding was made available?

Dr Alastair Culham at the University of Reading is an active researcher in CPs and is well-known to the CPS. (His group's work on Drosera beleziana on the South Coast was v. interesting). Alastair hosts the CPS AGM for free every year, and has organised presentations to the CPS.

It would be fitting for the CPS to put some of the very considerable sum sitting in its bank account into Alastair's capable hands to fund a research project on this urgent issue.

Hopefully that won't have killed the idea, just 'cos it's from me...! :confused:

Vic

Edited by Vic2, 28 February 2011 - 13:35 PM.


#10 pwilson

 
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Posted 28 February 2011 - 10:09 AM

Some interesting comments!

First off I don't really think it is the role of the CPS to fund research into peat alternatives. The sort of money we could put into this would be relatively small and while Vic's idea of funding Alistair Culham to carry out research might be creditable I'm not so sure that Alistair is any more qualified than the rest of us. There is of course the conservation fund which may consider funding into research projects but it's the responsibility of the person who wants to carry out the research to make an application, not the other way around.

The fact that Kew has been peat free apart from CPs is interesting and there may be more scope for looking at a joint project here.

As for alternatives and in particular coir, others have much more experience than I do, but as I understand it, not all coir is the same. I know Tim Bailey has been working on one particular coir supplier for several years and as far as I know, he's found their product reliable. As I understand it salt can be a problem with coir. The coconut shells are processed by soaking in water until they start to break down. Some producers use salt water lagoons to do this while others use fresh water. Salt water production is not a problem of course as long as the salt is washed out with plenty of water before use. Obviously though, it's better to source your coir from a supply that has no salt in it in the first place.

THe fact is, that as has already been pointed out, the writing is on the wall for peat use. Even if it isn't outlawed immediately it will be become more difficult to source and inevitable more expensive. The DEFRA plan is quite long term and will involve banning extraction only from the UK, so will not effect imports of Irish peat for instance. The CPS may be able to fund some limited research but ultimately we are only a collection of individuals and it is up to the individual to think about this. Now is the start of the repotting season so think when you order your next bale of peat about what alternatives might be available. Maybe try a few plants in some peat alternatives and see what happens. And then send in your results (good or bad) to Tim to publish in the journal!

I do think that collectively, we tend to suffer peat use because it's considered the only natural medium for most CPs. Just remember that most Sarracenia do not grow in peat and the same applies to most Nepenthes. Unless we challenge these accepted wisdoms nothing willl change.

Phil

#11 Vic2

 
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Posted 28 February 2011 - 13:45 PM

Perhaps Brian et al. at the ICPS, or Marcel and Wouter at Carnivora, can see a way for their Societies to proactively help Tim and Dennis' sterling individual efforts...?

I'm reasonably sure DEFRA in the UK will accept a submission from your learned Societies, and a successful result could be quoted as a precedent elsewhere in Europe, the USA and ROW.

This problem is looming ominously for CP's and their growers everywhere and needs action now.

To quote Stephen's original post: Deadline is 11th March 2011 (less than 2 weeks).


Pretty Please, With Sugar On? of Letchworth

Edited by Vic2, 28 February 2011 - 14:00 PM.


#12 Alexis

 
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Posted 28 February 2011 - 13:54 PM

This is assuming that viable alternatives do exist.

The concern of the average grower is that we'll sleepwalk towards a day where suddenly no growing media is available. Some members already have to travel many miles to find independent garden centres.

If the UK bans peat harvesting, surely Ireland and Germany will follow in time, probably due to the EU (I can already see a time when I'll have to import incandescent bulbs from China, but that is another issue!)

Buying land to harvest under licence might be one option.

#13 pwilson

 
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Posted 28 February 2011 - 14:40 PM

Vic,

I'd be happy to look at a Europe-wide approach with the other European CP societies. Something to discuss at the EEE?

The deadline mentioned by Stephen is the deadline for the CPS to respond to the DEFRA consultation paper. In view of the fact that we only learned about this last week we have been granted a deadline extension though Tim is on the case already and plans to draft something very soon.

The question of how the CPS should deal with the issue of peat use is another matter entirely. I want to get a discussion going on the best approach and I'm happy to put the views from this forum from CPS members and non-members alike on this.

Phil

#14 pwilson

 
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Posted 28 February 2011 - 14:47 PM

This is assuming that viable alternatives do exist.

The concern of the average grower is that we'll sleepwalk towards a day where suddenly no growing media is available. Some members already have to travel many miles to find independent garden centres.

If the UK bans peat harvesting, surely Ireland and Germany will follow in time, probably due to the EU (I can already see a time when I'll have to import incandescent bulbs from China, but that is another issue!)

Buying land to harvest under licence might be one option.


Hi Alexis,

Yeah you're absolutely right. My personal opinion is that we've ignored the peat issue for way too long falling back on the excuse that CPs are a special case. AS a society we can advise and cajole but ultimately the only people who can make the change are the individual members.

Viable alternatives certainly do exist.

Phil

#15 linuxman

 
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Posted 28 February 2011 - 18:46 PM

Just remember that most Sarracenia do not grow in peat and the same applies to most Nepenthes. Unless we challenge these accepted wisdoms nothing willl change.

Phil

Very true Phil. Do we know if any extensive analysis has been done of these soils? I'm assuming it's some sort of sandy nutrient poor loam mixture for sarracenia but I've never seen it described anywhere.

#16 Vic2

 
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Posted 28 February 2011 - 20:37 PM

In view of the fact that we only learned about this last week we have been granted a deadline extension though Tim is on the case already and plans to draft something very soon.

Phil

Tim,

Your name has cropped up again when there's stuff to be done! :D

You and Dennis are already stretched with the EEE and your own lives.

If there's anything I can do to help you with this extra workload, you only have to ask... :tu:

(I'm not interested in any publicity - graft behind the scenes will do fine for me).


Genuine-Offer of Letchworth

P.S. for Phil:
I do admire your activity and courage in speaking up and being the voice of the CPS, in this and other issues which affect your members, including difficult ones.
I know all too well it's not easy for you, when you have so little support.
We don't always see eye to eye, but may you live long and prosper! :yes: :tu:

Edited by Vic2, 28 February 2011 - 21:26 PM.


#17 Vic2

 
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Posted 28 February 2011 - 20:54 PM

Very true Phil. Do we know if any extensive analysis has been done of these soils? I'm assuming it's some sort of sandy nutrient poor loam mixture for sarracenia but I've never seen it described anywhere.


You get a good (if surface) look at the soil in S. alabamensis habitat in Brian's conservational video for the ICPS - click HERE. I think Brian mentions the soil in the commentary too.

It's definitely not peat! :smile:

Vic

P.S. for Mike:

As the undisputed King of Sarracenia (please forgive the pun - couldn't resist) :wink:
If you read this, do you have any pearls of wisdom to share with the brethren?

Edited by Vic2, 28 February 2011 - 20:59 PM.


#18 pwilson

 
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Posted 01 March 2011 - 09:17 AM

Very true Phil. Do we know if any extensive analysis has been done of these soils? I'm assuming it's some sort of sandy nutrient poor loam mixture for sarracenia but I've never seen it described anywhere.


I'm not aware of any extensis analysis on Sarracenia habitat soils but the one thing that is definitely true is that there is no typical Sarracenia soil. In some places it can be boggy loam, others grassy soil. Other places you will find clays and still other areas of pure sand. I suspect that most if not all these soil types are quite strongly acidic. Some habitats for instance consist of silver sand growing among pine trees, the pine needles presumably acidfying the soil, though that is an assumption (or is it a presumption!).

And in the Canadian populations the habitat is usually pure sphagnum bog, often with the sphagnum floating on what was once a glacial lake. Also to be mentioned are the marl fen sites where the soil is anything but typical. Strongly alkaline and hard with a putty-like consistency. Of course Sarracenia and other N. American CPs can also be found growing in peat but it's by no means the only substrate.

I did hear some time ago of growers in the SE USA growing their plants in large open beds consisting of silver sand and pine needles, but they are lucky enough to be able to grow their plants outside. I don't know that such a soil would be suitable for pot culture though I suppose it could be worth a try. The first problem would be stopping the sand pouring out of the bottom of the pot for a start.

Phil

#19 Vic2

 
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Posted 01 March 2011 - 10:48 AM

The first problem would be stopping the sand pouring out of the bottom of the pot for a start.
Phil

This has been discussed recently HERE - several methods used successfully.

Anything on soil types in Nepenthes habitats?
I guess it will be species-specific, which will make it tracky for some of the more exotic crosses.

I have tried Slack's very-free-draining, peat-free (or -poor) mixes for Nepenthes, using recycled reptile bark from Dotty, my children's leopard gecko. Performs best in a high-humidity terrarium, as it dries out too fast in hanging baskets.

When is the extended DEFRA deadline?
I have one or two ideas for evidenced approaches to allow limited peat use for CP's, and sources without fresh digs for peat.

Vic

#20 Vic2

 
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Posted 01 March 2011 - 12:22 PM

The sort of money we could put into this would be relatively small
Phil

With around £14,000 of members' cash in the bank for some years now,
could the CPS afford to help the RSPB and Tubney Charitable Trust save the Forsinain and Dyke peatlands in the Flow Country of Caithness and Sutherland?

Click the link above, or HERE.

To quote the RSPB:
"Peatland is one of our most precious and endangered resources, yet intensive agriculture, drainage and peat extraction continue to take their toll. Today only 1% of England's pristine lowland peat bog remains intact.
For over two decades, we have been campaigning to protect these vitally important places. They provide habitats for rare bird and insect species including snipe, curlews, large heath butterflies and dragonflies, as well as plants such as carnivorous sundews and butterworts.
"

"[The RSPB] have a chance to buy two of these plantations and remove the closely planted conifers. But we have to act quickly. Please give a gift today - before it's too late ... We have to act now, before this extraordinary landscape dries out."

£11 buys 113 square metres
£15 buys 154 square metres
£25 buys 257 square metres


I'm using my CPS subscription money to buy some.

IMHO, it's important enough to start a separate thread to spread the word.

I've also notified the CPS directly, via their Website.


Less-Talk-More-Action-Needed-Now of Letchworth

Edited by Vic2, 01 March 2011 - 14:31 PM.