Dirk Röse

Peat Repla­ce­ment Forum at Klasmann-Deilmann

Rese­arch pro­jects on spha­gnum farming

At the last mee­ting of the “Substrates” working group of Lower Saxony’s Peat Repla­ce­ment Forum, the mem­bers dis­cus­sed the pro­spects of spha­gnum far­ming. Dr Arne Hück­städt of the Ger­man Gar­den Indus­try Asso­cia­ti­on (IVG) chai­red the event, which was atten­ded by more than six­ty dele­ga­tes from the rese­arch and deve­lo­p­ment sec­tor, the peat and gro­wing media indus­try and envi­ron­men­tal organisations.

Klasmann-Deilmann GmbH hos­ted the Forum and Mana­ging Direc­tor Moritz Böcking pre­sen­ted the Group’s acti­vi­ties in the fiel­ds of sus­taina­bi­li­ty and rene­wa­ble ener­gies. “Gro­wing media are still our core busi­ness and 43 % of pro­duc­tion is mean­while desti­ned for the food indus­try,” exp­lai­ned Böcking. Refer­ring to the company’s own spha­gnum far­ming pro­ject, he added that the future of this high­ly pro­mi­sing sub­stra­te con­sti­tu­ent essen­ti­al­ly depen­ded on obtai­ning public fun­ding, “as long as rese­arch and deve­lo­p­ment have still not over­co­me cri­ti­cal obstacles.”

Rai­ner Lind­ner, a con­sul­tant for raw mate­ri­als and gro­wing media, poin­ted out the key role that peat plays in the pro­duc­tion of gro­wing media and that the deve­lo­p­ment of alter­na­ti­ve sub­stra­te con­sti­tu­ents con­se­quent­ly has to satisfy high stan­dards. He infor­med the audi­ence that his com­pa­ny was con­duc­ting various pro­jects for the use of bul­rus­hes, which were alrea­dy well estab­lis­hed as buil­ding and insu­la­ting mate­ri­als. Lind­ner added that the pro­spects for their use in the pro­duc­tion of gro­wing media were also good and that the­se opti­ons now had to be inves­ti­ga­ted in fur­ther detail and vali­da­ted. Poten­ti­al har­vest quan­ti­ties were cur­r­ent­ly esti­ma­ted at 500 m³ or 20 ton­nes per hec­ta­re as from the 3rd year of cul­ti­va­ti­on. Far­ming could be mana­ged pro­fi­ta­b­ly without sub­si­dies as from a site size of 10 hectares.

Micha­el Emmel from Lower Saxony’s Cham­ber of Agri­cul­tu­re pre­sen­ted the results of various rese­arch pro­jects to exami­ne the sui­ta­bi­li­ty of various peat mos­ses for use as a sub­stra­te con­sti­tu­ent. Peat moss had been added in dif­fe­rent pro­por­ti­ons to various gro­wing media mix­tures. The­se were then tes­ted in the cul­ti­va­ti­on of cycla­men, gault­he­ria and other plants, and sub­jec­ted to the stan­dard bio­tests. The results were encou­ra­ging: the addi­ti­on of up to 50 per cent by volu­me of peat moss con­sist­ent­ly deli­ve­r­ed good gro­wing results; slight­ly poo­rer results were recor­ded for various plants only if the share of peat moss was hig­her. Emmel poin­ted out, howe­ver, that this had still not resol­ved the ques­ti­on of pro­fi­ta­bi­li­ty of spha­gnum far­ming, espe­cial­ly with regard to the aspects of site avai­la­bi­li­ty, har­ve­s­ting tech­ni­ques and dis­in­fec­tion, all of which still had to be clarified.


Loo­king back over more than 20 years of palu­di­cul­tu­ral rese­arch, a team from Greif­wald Uni­ver­si­ty, hea­ded by Gre­ta Gau­dig, Mat­thi­as Krebs and Sabi­ne Wich­mann, empha­sis­ed the encou­ra­ging growth of peat mos­ses, which alrea­dy for­med a clo­sed sur­face after just eigh­teen mon­ths and grew at a rate of up to 8.7 bone-dry ton­nes (BDT) per hec­ta­re and year. What still had to be resol­ved, said Gau­dig, was how seed could be obtai­ned in order to avoid remo­ving seed from pro­tec­ted stock in future. Site avai­la­bi­li­ty was a fur­ther pro­blem which could be reme­di­ed if spha­gnum far­ming were to be reco­gnis­ed as a form of agri­cul­tu­re. In view of the high cos­ts requi­red to estab­lish palu­di­cul­tures, Gau­dig sta­ted that it was important to pro­vi­de addi­tio­nal incen­ti­ves for the agri­cul­tu­ral sec­tor so that the bene­fits of spha­gnum far­ming beca­me gene­ral­ly accep­ted: the pos­si­bi­li­ty of regio­nal­ly based pro­duc­tion of a high qua­li­ty and rene­wa­ble resour­ce made peat moss an attrac­ti­ve opti­on with high­ly posi­ti­ve effects on cli­ma­te pro­tec­tion, water con­ser­va­ti­on and biodiversity.

Final­ly, Jan Köb­bing pre­sen­ted the Klasmann-Deilmann Group’s spha­gnum far­ming pro­ject, which went into the imple­men­ta­ti­on pha­se nine mon­ths ago. Two thirds of the sites had mean­while been ino­cu­la­ted with the peat moss spe­ci­es Spha­gnum palust­re and Spha­gnum papil­lo­s­um and the test sites were to be exten­ded to a total of ten hec­ta­res befo­re the end of the year. Both spe­ci­es of Spha­gnum were high­ly adap­ta­ble and very sui­ta­ble as pioneer plants, alt­hough they did not deli­ver as much bio­mass as other spe­ci­es. The com­pa­ny had the­re­fo­re deci­ded to ino­cu­la­te the final third of the test sites with more pro­duc­ti­ve spe­ci­es and had alrea­dy sub­mit­ted the rele­vant app­li­ca­ti­on to the lower-tier natu­re con­ser­va­ti­on agen­cy of Ems­land Rural District for remo­val of the requi­red mate­ri­al. He sta­ted that the exis­ting test sites, which were ino­cu­la­ted last autumn, had sur­vi­ved the win­ter well and that peat mos­ses which had been plan­ted in spring were also mean­while estab­lis­hed. “The moss can alrea­dy be obser­ved to be gro­wing in situ; the wea­ther con­di­ti­ons are ide­al for the moss right now,” said Köb­bing. An irri­ga­ti­on sys­tem had been instal­led on both test sites and an auto­ma­tic con­trol sys­tem was cur­r­ent­ly being added. Some parts of the sites were wate­red using an open ditch sys­tem or using drain­pipes. Donor mate­ri­al for sub­stra­te tes­ting was cur­r­ent­ly being pre­pa­red by LVG Ahlem rese­arch centre.

After the mee­ting, the mem­bers of the Peat Repla­ce­ment Forum were given a gui­ded tour of the pre­mi­ses so that they could see various aspects of the pro­ject for themselves.