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...
mycoapply-from-mycorrhizal-applications-feature

December 5, 2016

New Growing Media Advancements Giving Growers More Options

With innovative, sustainable growing media components, growers will be able to improve plant health, achieve consistency among crops, save money, and reduce inputs, while saving space on storage.

Read More
growing-media-december-2016-feature

November 27, 2016

How The Sustainability Movement Impacts Growing Media

As consumers continue to focus on sustainability, growers need cost-effective media additives and options that produce high-quality plants, all while conserving precious natural resources and reducing the grower’s carbon footprint.

Read More
berger-forest-gold-feature

November 6, 2016

Growing Media Suppliers Are Focusing On Consistency

Here’s what three companies are doing to educate growers, while delivering products tailored to their specific needs.

Read More
Latest Stories
mycoapply-from-mycorrhizal-applications-feature

December 5, 2016

New Growing Media Advancements Giving Growers More Opti…

With innovative, sustainable growing media components, growers will be able to improve plant health, achieve consistency among crops, save money, and reduce inputs, while saving space on storage.

Read More
growing-media-december-2016-feature

November 27, 2016

How The Sustainability Movement Impacts Growing Media

As consumers continue to focus on sustainability, growers need cost-effective media additives and options that produce high-quality plants, all while conserving precious natural resources and reducing the grower’s carbon footprint.

Read More
berger-forest-gold-feature

November 6, 2016

Growing Media Suppliers Are Focusing On Consistency

Here’s what three companies are doing to educate growers, while delivering products tailored to their specific needs.

Read More
Pindstrup Logo

October 6, 2016

Pindstrup Groups Open Modern Wood Fibre Plant In The Ba…

The Pindstrup Group recently opened a new wood fibre plant near Riga, Latvia, for the production of Forest Gold, a new component for growing media.

Read More
inorganic-media components

October 6, 2016

Online Learning Center Features Advice On Growing Media

This grower resource features videos and articles on how growers can most effectively promote plant health.

Read More
rhp-substrates-root-problems-web

October 5, 2016

How The Wrong Substrate Can Increase Potential For Root…

RHP, a European knowledge center for substrates and growing media, recommends using airy substrates in winter to provide more oxygen to the plant.

Read More

September 22, 2016

Peat Moss Supplies Look To Be Down In 2016

The annual harvest update from the Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss Association calls for below-average numbers in several major production areas.

Read More
LM-Bark 1 (Lambert Peat Moss)

August 3, 2016

Learn The Basics Of Growing Media From Texas A&M Un…

The Texas A&M University AgriLife Extension website offers growers a primer on growth media, from the most common types of materials to how to prepare them.

Read More
Penn State Plant Bud

August 3, 2016

Penn State University Offers Recipe For Potting Media

A mix of peat moss, vermiculite, or perlite, and compost or organic fertilizers, can provide a suitable environment with sufficient water-holding capacity, nutrient content, and aeration for plant growth and development.

Read More
Mum With and Without Ammonium Toxicity

May 5, 2016

How Nitrogen Influences The pH Of Your Growing Medium

In standard greenhouse fertilizers, nitrogen is supplied as ammonium, nitrate, or urea. Each of these three nitrogen sources, when taken up by plant roots, produces different chemical reactions with differing effects on the growing medium pH.

Read More
As the pots continue around the carousel, bark is pushed into the pots and settles around the roots, which helps to avoid compaction in the growing media

May 5, 2016

Three Factors That Can Impact The pH Of Growth Media

Water alkalinity, fertilizer, and plant species can each play a role in the pH of your growth media.

Read More

April 21, 2016

Nutrient Supply Makes A Difference In Soil Media Testin…

Research from the University of Massachusetts highlights the differences approaches to soil media testing, and when to use them.

Read More

April 21, 2016

Michigan State University Offers Tips On Greenhouse Soi…

Improper pH and higher than adequate nutrient levels are among the many reasons for regular soil testing.

Read More

February 20, 2016

Hydrogel Technology Means Growers And Their Customers C…

Water and nutrient management are critical elements for quality plant production in the greenhouse. Maintaining the right amounts of available moisture and fertilizer at all times can be pretty labor intensive, but there are tools available to help you keep these inputs at optimum levels as efficiently as possible. Recently, we visited Evonik Industries’ North Carolina production plant for to see how one of these products — Stockosorb — is made, how it works, and learn the benefits of incorporating these tools in your own operation. Learn more about Evonik Industries’ Stockosorb hydrogel product on the Stockosorb website.  

Read More
Stockosorb Crystals_with water Agriculture leaf (Evonick)

November 21, 2015

9 Sustainable Growing Media Products For Superior Green…

Manufacturers are delivering new growing media products to help growers attempt to minimize their footprint without sacrificing quality. Here are nine new products to consider for your greenhouse operation.

Read More
PittMoss is an engineered fiber, comprised of recycled newspaper and other natural materials, that has been processed to better hold air and water while delivering nutrients to the plant

November 12, 2015

The Latest Advancements In Growing Media And Soils

From increased automation to new soil amendments and water-saving technologies, media manufacturers offer sustainability-focused solutions to meet growers’ unique needs.

Read More

September 25, 2015

Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss Association Announces Early…

According to an August 31 survey of members of the Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss Association (CSPMA), whose members represent approximately 95 percent of all North American peat production, the peat harvest season has been adequate, but not strong, and could cause shortages and potentially higher transportation costs. Down To The Dirty Details The survey inquired about the status of CSPMA members’ 2015 Actual Harvest (including an estimate of what can be expected to be harvested for the remainder of the season) as a percentage of their 2015 Expected Harvest. The lack of a strong harvest overall may challenge peat availability. The Prairie Provinces (Manitoba 98 percent, Saskatchewan 88 percent and Alberta 94 percent), experienced early favorable weather conditions and a strong start to the year. This helped to minimize periodic, negative, weather-related conditions during the balance of the harvest season, and the harvest numbers are close to achieving the expected amounts. […]

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

August 13, 2015

How Bob’s Market And Greenhouses Improved Growing…

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
[gravityform id="35" title="false" description="false"]