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?
Been off the Forum for a while getting ear bleeds from all the EEE work and working on the Defra peat consultation. Oh, and also trying to lead a normal life which seems to be escaping me.
The CPS will be responding positively to the Defra consultation, in the same vein as Stephen suggests. I haven't been peat free for as long, 4 years against 17, but the only problem I've encountered is a couple of Alata and Darlingtonia. I can't put that down to coir as other factors may have come into play. I've been re-potting quite a few plants I grow in coir and perlite and the roots look very healthy in my Sarracenia.
As mentioned in my recent Journal article a mix of organic coir and Moorland Gold would be a good start as an alternative, perhaps with some perlite - it makes a nice mix.
To preserve threaten cps in cultivation we will be asking for an exception, though this would need to be linked to a formalised registration process to get one.
Hydroponics will have a place, but only if a large scale easily adopted and cheap to run system can be developed (also must not reduce plant growing space, as we do like to pack our plants in). I've set up a large system this year (flood and flow system), with the smaller version on show at the EEE. The growing medium is expanded clay and sustainably sourced sphagnum moss. Early days, but my Darlingtonia and Disa are ahead of the rest of my plants already.
The CPS will develop an action plan, or road map as Defra put it, towards becoming peat-free in the time frames outlined in due course.
The CPS response will be published on the website shortly, and when it is I'll announce it on the Forums.
The implications of the consultation will be worrying for a good number of growers, but it's very important we do not bury our heads, take a positive attitude and for everyone to start trying alternatives on a few spare plants.