October 26, 2010

ANLA Grassroots Effort On Biomass Fuels Succeeds

A springtime grassroots initiative sparked by the American Nursery & Landscape Association (ANLA) has succeeded in influencing a government ruling on biomass fuel. The federal Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) had been intended to create new alternatives for fuel by encouraging agriculture and forest owners to cultivate biomass crops. However, the program had the unintended consequence of creating a new, more lucrative market for bark via federal subsidies that would have depleted the nursery and landscape industry’s access to the products, which are used in nursery growing, landscaping and retail. Retailers and nursery owners were already seeing the price of bark mulch rise in anticipation of subsidies. The BCAP program states the subsidies would not be eligible for “higher market” products, but never clarified what that would entail. According to ANLA, hundreds of comment letters were generated from concerned growers, landscape professionals and retailers through ANLA’s Lighthouse network during the […]

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October 21, 2010

The Peat Report: Seeley Attendees Sound Off

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 […]

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October 21, 2010

The Peat Report: Fafard’s Hugh Poole On The Peat Industry

Hugh Poole, director of technical services for Fafard, recently connected with Greenhouse Grower about all things peat moss for the November 2010 Peat Report. GG: Do you believe peat moss is a sustainable resource? HP: The peat moss used in the horticultural industry is sustainable in North America. It is a slowly renewable resource that regenerates itself in nature faster than it is presently being harvested. GG: What does responsible peat harvesting mean? Do you believe your company harvests peat responsibly? HP: Responsible peat harvesting means a sincere respect for this valuable resource, the land and the people. The Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss Association (CSPMA) and Canadian provincial authorities have developed a set of common-sense guidelines that the major peat-harvesting companies have pledged to follow. They include: 1) an environmental impact study regarding endangered species and drainage patterns, 2) a survey and audit of the bog to determine harvest potential and limitations, including setting […]

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October 21, 2010

Slideshow: Tour A Restored Peatland

Greenhouse Grower visited the Bois-des-Bel peatland during its visit to Quebec in September. Check out photos of the site and how restored peatlands compare to abandoned ones.

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October 21, 2010

The Peat Report: Suppliers Speak Up

Beyond peat’s basic functions, its role at your greenhouse operation and the fact that it’s sourced from Canada and parts of the United States, how much do you know about the main ingredient in North America’s growing mixes? Are you aware of the criticisms the peat industry has drawn over the last two decades–or, as many peat producers would characterize them, the misconceptions their critics have? According to these companies, the misconceptions are numerous, from the number of acres of Canadian peatlands harvested to the speed at which peat regenerates. But now, the peat industry is beginning to speak up and share its story with those involved in greenhouse floriculture. Peatland restoration, for example, is one industry component that shines a light on the efforts of peat producers. But even some producers admit they haven’t done a good enough job promoting their restoration work. The criticisms, after all, seem to […]

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October 21, 2010

The Peat Report: Breaking Down Bog Restoration

The Bois-des-Bel peatland in Quebec, Canada, serves as a 27-acre outdoor laboratory where researchers have spent the last decade fine-tuning restoration techniques. Behind door number one of that outdoor laboratory is a narrow strip of land–a control experiment–that shows exactly what happens when peatlands are abandoned after years of harvesting. Twenty years since Bois-des-Bel harvesting was completed and another 11 years since it became a project site, little vegetation is present on that abandoned control strip. Among the vegetation present are a few invasive plants. Add in the fact that peat is not reaccumulating because the strip is not wet enough, and this Bois-des-Bel control area offers a glimpse at what our world would be like if peatlands were not being restored. Behind door number two at Bois-des-Bel is a completely different world–a peatland full of vegetation and one that’s redeveloped the sphagnum peat mosses that are necessary to sequester […]

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October 21, 2010

The Peat Report: A Case For Canadian Peat Moss

The theme of last summer’s Seeley Conference, floriculture’s environmental footprint, included a discussion on how sustainable peat is as a soil amendment. The discussion stemmed from part of a presentation highlighting the new Sustainable Sites Initiative created by the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and the United States Botanical Garden. The three organizations are teaming on the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) to create voluntary national guidelines and performance benchmarks for sustainable land design, construction and maintenance practices. But two recommended requirements of the initiative–using peat-free planting media and avoiding sphagnum peat as a soil conditioner–sparked a debate at the Seeley Conference. To further explain the requirements, as well as the reasons SITES drafted them, Greenhouse Grower tasked the SITES with sharing some perspective. We also asked Mark Elzinga, president of Elzinga & Hoeksema Greenhouses, to share his reaction to the requirements regarding peat and […]

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October 21, 2010

The Peat Report: Peat Producers Take A Stand

Paul Short, president of the Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss Association (CSPMA), wrote a letter Aug. 10 to Susan Rieff, executive director of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, in response to the creation of the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES). To download the full SITES report to which Short is responding, visit www.sustainablesites.org/report. Short’s letter  is as follows: Dear Susan: The work of the American Society of Landscape Architects, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at the University of Texas at Austin, and the United States Botanical Garden in the creation of the Sustainable Sites Initiative: Guidelines and Performance Benchmark 2009, and “The Case for Sustainable Landscapes” document is an important contribution to the advancement of sustainable land practices.  It is because of this importance that issues of resource use and management that are stated or implied in the documents need to be correct. The Sustainable Sites Initiative: Guidelines and Performance Benchmark […]

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October 21, 2010

The Peat Report: Addressing Peat’s Sustainability

Search far and wide, and you’ll be hard pressed to find North American greenhouse operations that do not rely on peat moss for at least some production. Peat moss has proven itself over the years to be an effective growing medium that helps regulate air and moisture around plant roots. It is of less weight than other growing mediums and readily available in Canada and parts of the United States. Plus, a range of widely used programs for fertilizer, irrigation and other production essentials have been designed over the years incorporating large percentages of peat moss. The horticultural use of peat moss, however, recently drew criticism at last summer’s Seeley Conference at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., where a representative from the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) introduced guidelines and performance benchmarks for sustainable land practices that are critical of peat. Last summer’s Seeley Conference, of course, wasn’t the first time […]

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October 21, 2010

The Peat Report: How Producers Harvest

The picture a few people have painted of the peat industry is one that depicts producers as raiders who rapidly strip the earth and abandon peatlands without concern for the ecosystem. Fortunately, that picture isn’t the accurate one here in North America. Peat producers don’t function as miners, and they aren’t exactly farmers either. But, as Sun Gro Horticulture’s Robert Lapointe says, the peat industry functions somewhere in between the two. According to the Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss Association (CSPMA), at least 70 million metric tons of peat accumulate each year in Canada. Over that same year-long span, 1.3 million metric tons are harvested across the country. That means Canadian peat is accumulating at a rate that’s more than 50 times faster than the rate at which it’s being harvested. Considering the percentage (0.02 percent) of Canadian peatlands that are being harvested for horticultural use, plus the rate at which […]

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October 21, 2010

The Peat Report: A Case Against Canadian Peat Moss

The theme of last summer’s Seeley Conference, floriculture’s environmental footprint, included a discussion on how sustainable peat is as a soil amendment. The discussion stemmed from part of a presentation highlighting the new Sustainable Sites Initiative created by the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and the United States Botanical Garden. The three organizations are teaming on the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) to create voluntary national guidelines and performance benchmarks for sustainable land design, construction and maintenance practices. But two recommended requirements of the initiative–using peat-free planting media and avoiding sphagnum peat as a soil conditioner–sparked a debate at the Seeley Conference. To further explain the requirements, as well as the reasons SITES drafted them, Greenhouse Grower tasked the SITES with sharing some perspective. We also asked Mark Elzinga, president of Elzinga & Hoeksema Greenhouses, to share his reaction to the requirements regarding peat and […]

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