The Peat Report: Seeley Attendees Sound Off
How are other Seeley Conference attendees reacting to the peat-sustainability debate sparked at Cornell University? We followed up with a few attendees. Here's what they have to say.
October 21, 2010
Danny Takao OFA President
"When my mother started this business in 1960 a 17- x 17-inch flat would weight about 35 pounds because it was mostly native soil, sand and wood products. If the greenhouse industry went back to that type of soil with that kind of weight, we would be set back tremendously.
"Think about how much less could be shipped on a truck and how much more it would cost to ship one flat of bedding plants. Think of the claims of injured backs. If your employees had to lift 35 pounds all day, you wouldn't have any employees.
"Our growing technology is based on peat moss as the main ingredient, so we would have to retune all of our pH and fertilizing regimes based on what material would be available in your region of the country."
Rick Brown Riverview Flower Farm
"We rely on peat moss and to move away from it without a reliable substitute would be challenging for growers. I believe there are still assumptions that are wrong about peat moss.
"Opponents say it breaks down rapidly to add carbon to the atmosphere, yet I have containers that are many years old growing plants that are storing carbon. The freight cost and carbon to transport peat, however, are not sustainable."
Fred Hulme The Scotts Company
"I think the [Seeley Conference] debate was healthy and necessary. I think most conference attendees were surprised by this announcement of peat moss exclusion. I'm not sure how the development of the standards got so far without fully consulting growing media suppliers and growers who rely heavily on substrates containing peat. Peat moss is an integral part of today's horticultural production systems and to abruptly call for the cessation of peat moss use without considering the impact on cost, availability, transportation and horticultural performance seems to me to be premature.
"Whether or not peat moss is sustainable goes back to the definition of sustainable: what parameters are being assessed and are they science based? If the determination is limited to environmental (e.g. carbon footprint), how do other proposed alternatives stack up? Based on the huge supply potential supply of peat moss in Canada, the very low percentage of reserves that have been tapped and bog regeneration efforts that are being undertaken by peat moss companies, it does seem like peat moss is a sustainable product (after all, it is made up of partially decomposed plant material)."
Mark Elzinga, Elzinga & Hoeksema Greenhouses, also attended last summer's Seeley Conference. He wrote an essay for Greenhouse Grower's Peat Report titled "A Case For Canadian Peat Moss." Read Elzinga's essay here.