The Peat Report: Breaking Down Bog Restoration

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 carbon from the atmosphere. To a peat industry outsider, the restored peatland has the look of a peatland untouched by mankind. And, according to peat industry insiders, Bois-des-Bel is a classic example of a harvested peatland once again becoming a fully functional ecosystem.

“Sphagnum peat mosses are some of the most efficient organisms we have here on the planet to sequester carbon,” says Line Rochefort, the senior chair of the Industrial Research Chair in Peatland Management at Université Laval in Quebec. “So we feel it’s important to have a responsible management strategy. Once you finish harvesting peat, it’s important to restore so you have a functioning ecosystem that will fulfill ecological services provided by peatlands.”

The Ecosystem Is Everything

Restoring a functional ecosystem is not an overnight process, though. In fact, it can take several years. But because researchers have invested their time and peat producers have been proactive in their commitments to restore peatlands they’ve previously harvested, restoration is now common practice in Canada.

The peat industry, however, believes few people are aware of the extent to which restoration takes place. So despite the competitive nature of their businesses, producers work together with groups like the Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss Association and the Quebec Peat Moss Producers Association to reach their restoration goals.

“We’re a very small industry by the standards of a big industry,” says Clarence Breau, vice president for Sun Gro Horticulture’s east region. “The best way to have success is to stick together. We may fight like cats and dogs in the marketplace, but restoration is a common goal the industry has because we want to protect our industry.

“The only thing we may not have done enough of is to promote the work we’ve done so far with the environment and the restoration of peatlands. We do have growers visit our operations, and we show them how we harvest and produce our product. We show them the care we take putting it into the bag and having the right quality. But very seldom do we show our restoration bogs.”

Adds Valerie Berger, the corporate director of sales and marketing at Berger Peat Moss: “As we move on, more emphasis will be put on sharing and showing our bog restoration practices.”

Restoration Steps

A peatland restoration effort actually involves seven steps: 1) preparation of peat fields; 2) creation of pools; 3) gathering of plant material from a borrow area; 4) spreading of plant material; 5) spreading of mulch; 6) fertilizing with phosphate; and 7) blocking drainage.
The creation of pools is an optional step, but it’s one researchers took at Bois-des-Bel to increase the water supply for wildlife. A low phosphate fertilization can be used to facilitate the establishment of mosses and vascular plants.

But before pools are created and phosphate is applied, a peat field’s surface needs a refresher in order to redistribute water and rewet the site. Once peatlands are leveled and berms are built, plant material needs to be gathered to replenish the restoration site.

“If you just abandon the site, plants don’t recolonize by themselves,” Rochefort says. “You can go to an offsite place to collect the material or gather the material somewhere on site.”

Université Laval, for example, has been operating a sphagnum farm in New Brunswick since 2004, and any producer in need of plant material for restoration has access to it. One of the most challenging parts of gathering material, however, is transporting it. Rochefort says it’s the biggest cost of the restoration process. But spreading the plant material and straw mulch is important, too.

“You need to protect the plant material from drought and frost heaving, and we do that by using a straw mulch,” Rochefort says. “Straw mulch creates a nice microclimate.”

The last restoration step, blocking drainage, is vital so water sits on the peatland and sphagnum mosses return. After only a few years, a peatland’s vegetative surface will return and mirror the peatland that originally existed. The accumulation of peat will also ensue.

“Before peat accumulates the sphagnum carpet has to be established,” says Jacques Gagnon, Premier Tech Horticulture’s peatland restoration director. “After that, there will be a portion of the fiber that will die and accumulate the peat. Usually, you’ll see 1 millimeter accumulate per year.

We want to make sure the land returns to a functioning wetland, that the surface looks as it once did and so the surface can absorb carbon.”

Leave a Reply

More From Media...
More and more people are employing a landscape service, but that doesn’t mean they don’t still garden

September 2, 2015

Under Siege? Not Really, Just Go For A Walk

I have no trouble with people buying chocolates or wine instead of flowers to celebrate anniversaries, birthdays or peoples’ lives. We should all have choices. However, the other night I felt like I was entering the Republican caucus. I was minding my own business by the television set and became more than a little upset. A website called came on the screen. It provided serene music and wholesome images of busy women doing busy things. It turns out that such busy women enjoy a small token of appreciation, but apparently their enjoyment, according to the voice-over, does not include flowers. This website delivers meals to the house, anything from beef brisket to beef bourguignon. It is a fine website with a good idea. But why pick on us? Why not use “” or “,” “,” or a dozen other things. When did flowers get to be the whipping boy? […]

Read More
Triathlon BA container shot

September 2, 2015

OHP Launches Triathlon BA, Offers Marengo SC In Smaller Size

Triathlon BA biofungicide/bactericide is now available to authorized OHP distributors for shipment to states where product registration has been approved. State registration information is available here. A next generation preventive biological fungicide, bactercide Triathlon BA is labeled for use in both organic and conventional production on a wide variety of fungal and bacterial diseases on ornamentals, fruits, vegetables and herbs and spices. With the active ingredient Bacillus amyloliquefaciens, Triathlon BA provides preventive control of many foliar and soil-borne diseases such as botrytis, powdery mildew, downy mildew, rusts, leaf spots, alternaria, pythium, phytophthora, rhizoctonia, fusarium and bacterial spot. Triathlon BA, an aqueous suspension formulation, prevents establishment of disease-causing fungi and bacteria on the plant tissues. Depending on the target disease, users can foliar-apply or soil drench Triathlon BA. Repeat applications may be made at three- to 28-day intervals. Under environmental conditions that are conducive to disease development, users may apply at three- to […]

Read More

September 2, 2015

Delegation Is Key To A Successful Greenhouse Operation

In a packed room at Cultivate’15, speaker Bernie Erven presented key steps growers need to take to improve their delegation skills, the benefits of delegating and the dangers of not learning how to delegate. This is a skill, he says, that everyone needs to learn. “For all of you who are part of a family business, you are choosing not to do things the easy way,” Erven laughed, as he presented a list of ways to know whether or not you’re an effective delegator. The owner of Erven HR Services, LLC, Erven has been working with and observing family businesses for many years. In his presentation, he said, he didn’t share anything that he hasn’t seen first-hand. You might not be a good delegator if you: Tend to be a perfectionist Work more hours than anyone else Lack time to explain clearly and concisely Are often interrupted Enjoy what you used to […]

Read More
Latest Stories
Bob’s Market and Greenhouses’ Ron Morris pours Stockosorb into the hopper for distribution on the conveyor line

August 13, 2015

Soil System Improves Growing And Sales

My father started our company 45 years ago growing bedding plants, mainly early season production and finished plants for our West Virginia market. It was in the early 1980s that we started growing earlier spring production and shipping materials to southern markets, and by the late 1980s, we also produced pansies for fall. We started using hydrogels when they first came on the market in the early 1990s and found that they really helped with our production by keeping plants healthier for these new markets. Over the years, we’ve grown to be a large young plant producer and have a sizable business growing finished plants in cell packs, 4 1/2-inch pots, 6-inch pots, gallon containers, hanging baskets, multiple sizes of large containers and large baskets for municipal use. Creating The Ideal Soil Mix With our old system, it took several workers to mix pre-made soil with slow-release fertilizers in cement […]

Read More

December 2, 2014

Grow-Tech Announces BioStrate, Its Newest Hydroponic Gr…

Grow-Tech LLC recently announced the release of BioStrate Felt, a biobased textile specifically engineered for the growing of hydroponic microgreens and baby salad greens.

Read More

November 18, 2014

7 New Media And Light Products For Greenhouse Productio…

New media and light products cover a broad sweep of growing conditions.

Read More
Oakland Nursery plantings in Columbus_featured

November 17, 2014

Oakland Nursery Simplifies Streetscape Plantings And Ma…

The outdoor decorative containers that Oakland Nursery plants and maintains in downtown Columbus, Ohio, enhance the look of the city’s buildings and streets and hinder vandalism.

Read More

October 27, 2014

Peat Moss May Be In Short Supply This Year

Adverse weather conditions in Canada have played havoc with the peat moss harvest.

Read More

September 24, 2014

Canadian Harvest Of Peat Moss Is Below Average For 2014

The harvest season has been challenging, according to the Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss Association (CSPMA), with lower-than-expected harvest of peat moss across most production regions in Canada, due primarily to adverse weather conditions across the country.

Read More

July 23, 2014

Liming Requirements And pH Modification For Pine Wood C…

In the last of a four-article series highlighting the production and use of pine wood chips as aggregates in greenhouse substrates, the researchers found growers do not need to adjust their production practices when 20 percent pine wood chips are used as a perlite replacement.

Read More

May 14, 2014

How Pine Wood Chips In Substrates Affect Plant Growth R…

This is the second article of the four article series highlighting the production and use of pine wood chips as aggregates in greenhouse substrates.

Read More

April 3, 2014

The Processing And Properties Of Pine Wood Chips

In the first of a four article series highlighting the use of pine wood chips as alternative aggregates to perlite in greenhouse substrates, researchers from North Carolina State University discuss the processing and physical properties of pine wood chips.

Read More

April 3, 2014

Water And Media Are The Foundations Of Your Business: T…

Electrical conductivity (EC) and pH, as well as water alkalinity, have the biggest effects on nutrient availability. Learn how to keep track of them through three common methods for better monitoring in the greenhouse.

Read More
PlugEase from Acme Group

March 3, 2014

Acme Group Introduces PlugEase, A Line Of Recyclable Ag…

The Acme Group recently announced its new line of recyclable Agrifabrics and plant plug substrate, PlugEase. The products make recycling affordable for greenhouse growers, farmers and horticulturalists.

Read More
Emerald Coast Growers

February 26, 2014

Emerald Coast Growers Constructs New Soil Facility

Emerald Coast Growers has constructed a new, consolidated soil mixing facility to increase efficiency and allow for easier custom blending by crop.

Read More
Combination pH and EC meter. Photo courtesy of Hanna Instruments

February 5, 2014

Test Media pH And EC With The 2:1 Technique, Pour-Throu…

Avoid a buildup of soluble salts and create an environment most conducive to nutrient uptake with these three common media testing methods.

Read More
Fertiss Growing Medium from Oasis Grower Solutions

November 18, 2013

Three New Options For Growing Media

From special blends to mycorrhizae, here are some new options for growth media.

Read More

November 14, 2013

Growing Media: To Mix Or Not To Mix

Thinking about making your own growing mixes to lower costs? There are many things to consider before taking the plunge.

Read More
Berger Logo

November 1, 2013

Berger Acquires Beaver & Lafaille Peat Moss

Berger, a producer of growing mixes, has acquired Beaver Peat Moss & Lafaille Peat Moss, consolidating a long-standing relationship between the companies. The transaction is effective on November 1, 2013. Under the agreement, Serge Lafaille, Beaver & Lafaille Peat Moss’ president, will join Berger’s sales team in order to ensure an easy transition for his current customers. “I am proud to join Berger’s team; we have the same business and growing philosophy, as well as a relentless commitment to being close to our customers in order to offer them what they truly need,” Lafaille says. Berger and Beaver & Lafaille Peat Moss have been partners since 1986. “For Berger, this transaction is a natural evolution of the strong relationship we’ve created with Beaver & Lafaille Peat Moss throughout the past 27 years,” says Berger CEO Claudin Berger. Located in St-Modeste, Quebec, Berger provides growing media and peat moss to professional […]

Read More

August 19, 2013

Students Evaluate Bio Char In Soil

Horticulture students from Olds College in Alberta, Canada, are investigating the viability of using bio char as a soil additive for greenhouse-grown crops. The group includes Emily Stanley, Michael Templeton and Heather Hood. Olds has a very good horticulture program, and I graduated from the greenhouse program there in 1996. Because of my involvement in the program, the group approached me to be a mentor for the study. In this role, I had conference calls with the group every two weeks to discuss the status of the project and offer any insight from a professional grower’s perspective. Bio char is a product derived from a special burning process of organic matter with limited amounts of oxygen. This holds the carbon in the organic matter. When the process is finished, you have a bio char product that can be used as a soil amendment. The students conducted trials on tomatoes and […]

Read More

June 6, 2013

Pro-Mix Is Now On Social Media

Premier Tech Horticulture, which is among the North American leaders of peat moss-based growing media production and distribution, has recently announced the launch of its social media strategy, including the unveiling of its Pro-Mix Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pages for professional and amateur gardeners. Known as a customer-focused and market-driven company, Premier Tech Horticulture strongly believes that today, people are expecting constant interactive communication with brands. As a result, interacting and communicating with external audiences through both new and traditional media remain important elements. Now, with Pro-Mix, this dialogue will also take place online, via new social media platforms that are easy to access for everybody. “These Pro-Mix social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, blogs, wikis, YouTube, etc.) present us with unique opportunities to listen to our customers and stakeholders, but also to share with people our 20 years of experience, knowledge and expertise,” says Chantal Duchesneau, marketing and […]

Read More