Sphagnum peat moss is partially decomposed organic matter formed mainly of sphagnum moss and other semi-aquatic plants. Peat forms slowly in wetlands as vegetation decomposes. An anaerobic environment (an environment with little oxygen) is ideal for peat formation.
Peat is found in many growth substrates used in horticulture and agriculture production. Peat is a popular choice because it has exceptional characteristics for growing:
- Increase aeration of heavy soils.
- Increase cation exchange capacity.
- Increase soil buffering capacity.
- Provide organic matter free of any contaminants (no heavy metals or pesticide residue).
■ Even though peatlands are widespread in Canada (119 million hectares), the Canadian peat industry is conscious that peat and peatlands are a natural resource that must be managed responsibly.
|Peat moss is subject to extensive quality testing by producers;
Although the rate of renewal is too slow for peat to be officially classified as renewable, peatland ecosystems have the capacity to regenerate their ecological functions within a period of 10 years following restoration. The most recent studies show that the practices developed produce the following results:
- Return of sphagnum moss covering within five years.
- Growth rate of sphagnum on restored sites equal to or greater than that of natural peatland.
- Return of site’s carbon capture capability in 10 years.
|Restored peatland in Québec.
Hot spots in the production cycle were targeted, allowing producers to prioritize investments according to the environmental impact of each element of production.
The results are available on the following website: http://www.tourbehorticole.com/en/responsible-production/analysis.php .
Certification: To assist with the ongoing improvement efforts of individual businesses, the peat industry supported a new certification program that has been developed by an independent party, Scientific Certification Systems (www.scscertified.com ).
The criteria specific to peat producers are set out in the document that can be accessed at the following website: http://www.tourbehorticole.com/en/pdf/veriflora.pdf .
In conclusion, Canadian peatlands are managed in a way that ensures ongoing improvement for the benefit of the communities in which harvesting takes place, the users of this exceptional organic matter (the growers), and all of the various parties related to horticulture.
A presentation on the advantages of certification and the eLCA process for the horticulture industry will be held during this year’s Canadian Greenhouse Conference in Niagara Falls on Oct. 3 at 3 p.m.
(This feature was supplied by the Québec Peat Moss Producers Association.)