Alina Strickmann

Böcking: LROP is not the end

Statement on new bill for Lower Saxony’s Regional Planning Programme (LROP)

The bill to amend Lower Saxony’s Regional Planning Programme (LROP) which was passed by Lower Saxony’s Cabinet at the beginning of this week earmarks approx. 3,500 hectares of priority sites for peat production. This will not affect existing extraction licences.

Klasmann-Deilmann believes this is an improvement on the original plans, which contained no provisions at all for peat extraction. The change is the outcome of effective cooperation between the substrate industry and the German Association for Nature Conservation NABU, in which both parties had repeatedly sought direct negotiations with Lower Saxony’s State Government. “It is good that the substrate industry and NGOs were willing to reach a compromise and have now agreed on a common objective,” said Managing Director Moritz Böcking, who represented Klasmann-Deilmann GmbH in the talks. “We have delivered proof that even unlikely political bedfellows can achieve surprisingly successful results and create win-win situations for the future for everyone involved.”

Nevertheless, the LROP amendment shows that the end of peat production in Germany is in sight. The additional priority areas will do no more than slow down the decrease in production to a minimal extent. “So we have to look to the future,” continues Böcking. And for the foreseeable future, commercial horticulture in Germany and throughout the world is still dependent on peat-based growing media. The Federal German government has meanwhile also accepted this fact and issued a statement on the subject at the beginning of the year.

“The new LROP does not mean the end of the German substrate industry,” says Böcking. What counts now are measures to promote the use of alternative resources in substrate production. Raw materials such as wood fibres and green compost have already been used in increasingly large quantities for years and Klasmann-Deilmann plans to raise the share of alternative resources in its substrate production to 15% by the year 2020. “We have already made good progress in that respect,” says Böcking. “At the same time, however, we can obtain only limited quantities of these alternatives, as the energy industry is also increasingly using the same raw materials that we require. What we need here is political support to protect the interests of the substrate industry and horticultural sector.”

Despite this situation, it is vital to encourage the development of other alternatives. “As most of the players in our sector are small or medium-sized enterprises, we cannot shoulder this burden alone. We need government support programmes that will help to ensure that the substrate industry can continue to provide absolutely reliable growing media in future,” says Böcking. The consequence will otherwise be disadvantages for modern horticulture in Germany, which, amongst other things, plays a key role for the food industry. On a visit to Klasmann-Deilmann in March, Lower Saxony’s Minister for Economic Affairs Olaf Lies commented, “It’s important that, where on the one hand we place limits on an industry in terms of raw-material extraction, we should on the other hand also make alternative options available.”

“We welcome these positive signals from the government,” says Böcking. In the interests of safeguarding the future of the substrate industry and horticulture sector, Klasmann-Deilmann will continue to seek talks with political circles and NGOs to identify practicable options and agree on binding solutions as soon as possible. Lower Saxony’s “Peat Substitute Forum”, which will be hosted by Klasmann-Deilmann in June, plays a central part in these efforts and will provide politicians, scientists, NGOs and representatives of the substrate industry an opportunity to discuss the future of substrate production and the development of alternative resources.