Jiffy’s Advice For Managing Through The Peat Shortage

With the weather-induced peat shortage having a tremendous impact for the 2012 growing season, most growers are paying more attention to peat and other growing substrates than ever before. At Jiffy, we have many decades of producing peat products, from Jiffy Pellets to peat pots to Preforma. Now, we have blended substrates with Jiffy Mix powered by TREF. Some background might be helpful as growers continue to evaluate their different growing options.

As growers know, all peat moss is not the same. Even peat from the same bog may have different characteristics based on harvest method and handling, as well as fraction size. Typically, longer fibers, along with other mix components, will minimize soil compaction. When blended in the correct percentages, those fiber lengths will provide a unique and balanced mix based on crop timing and container size.

When we look globally at each market, the European growers tend to use longer-fibered peat. As a result, they use less of other amendments, such as perlite, while U.S. growers have historically used a finer grade of peat and then added vermiculite, perlite and bark.

As some growers begin to face challenges in securing their peat supply for production, it will be important to drill down to fraction sizes to make sure any new peat sourced handles on the benches in a familiar way.

According to John Bonin, Jiffy’s manager of business development, he suggests doing side-by-side trial comparisons ahead of peak production. “This will ensure that as production peaks, growers will be able to quickly adapt to make changes to their fertility or water management programs,” he says.

The Role Of Quality

Quality control will be in play this season as never before. Jiffy has adopted a set of quality control standards set out by RHP, which is similar to an ISO 9000 certification. Every step of the process is reviewed each year, from harvest to packaging, including transportation. Even though RHP has not certified any U.S.-mixed products, the Jiffy team applies the same rigorous standards to all of its U.S. facilities – not only for peat but for coir and all other amendments. This guarantees U.S. growers RHP standard mixes, although they’re not specified as such.

With the peat shortage this upcoming season, we anticipate some growers will be looking at other amendments such as bark, coir and other substrates to incorporate into their mixes. As a major supplier of coir from the Jiffy RHP-certified facility in Sri Lanka, we are familiar with the unique properties of coir and how to blend it with peat and other mix components to be used as a growing media. For those who will be looking at coir for the upcoming growing season, Bonin offers these tips:

Tips For Using Coir

1. Coir, as a standalone growing substrate or blended with peat, will absorb more water at a faster rate versus peat-only-based mixes. Coir also increases the air capacity within peat blends.

Growers need to be aware of how much coir is in a new mix and must re-evaluate their water management practices when using coir. For example, when propagating unrooted cuttings, a grower may want to evaluate their water management practices to slightly adjust the amount of water they are applying once callusing occurs. After transplant, growers will also need to, based on experience, review how much water they are applying based on crop age and time of season.

After transplant, a grower may extend the time between waterings. This may carry through all phases of the crop cycle. Remember that growers are often adding coir to a mix to improve water holding capacity.

2. Quality control of coir is also critical. Historically growers have seen issues with coir that is not washed and/or buffered, as well as issues with weeds. Again, at Jiffy we apply the RHP guidelines to our coir to avoid these issues. The RHP certification guarantees a buffered quality product each and every time on all Jiffy coir products.

3. Coir products that are not RHP certified can lead to unbalanced potassium, sodium, calcium and magnesium ratios. The physical stability of coir is also important. Stable coir does not shrink under normal use. A main reason Jiffy follows RHP guidelines in Sri Lanka is to ensure a stable supply of coir products, minimizing production issues as a stand alone growing substrate or its incorporation into mixes. 

Tips For Using Bark

On bark substrates, much of what we’ve written here about coir also applies. When working with a new substrate or component, keeping an eye on your nutrition levels throughout the crop will ensure a grower does not experience any production issues related to moisture management and fertility levels.

Coming back to the peat shortage, from a supply perspective in 2012 , Bonin says that Jiffy does not anticipate any shortage for our propagation materials such as pellets, peat pots, Preforma and the Jiffy Plug. Regarding our new line of mix substrates, Jiffy’s international presence in regards to peat harvesting has secured supply to handle all booked orders as well the ability to work with new customers assisting them in incorporating new components into their mix programs, such as coir, based on individual grower and crop requirements.

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