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 aside parts of the bog to protect drainage patterns or rare plants, 3) monitoring  water quality from runoff, 4) adherence to the agreed-upon harvest guidelines, 5) maximizing employment opportunities for regions with severe unemployment or under employment, 6) collection of royalties from peat harvests, and 7) monies set aside for the restoration to either peatlands or wetlands at the termination of the harvesting life of the bog.

An active member of the CSPMA, Fafard harvests peat in a responsible manner, which I have observed first-hand as well as participated in many discussions concerning these practices.

GG: How important is bog restoration to your company?

HP: Fafard is committed to sustainable peat harvesting and bog restoration. We have been restoring several of our older bogs for more than a decade. These activities begin long before a bog has reached the end of its harvest life; it is not unusual to see one part of the bog being restored while another section is being prepared for harvest. Fafard strongly supports these activities as a responsible citizen, employer and supplier to the horticultural industry.

As Fafard’s technical services director, I have participated in meetings sponsored by international, university and industry organizations and have toured bogs that have on-going research and restoration activities. There is a strong program at Laval University supported by the peat industry and governmental agencies. The Canadian and provincial governments have set standards and incentives to encourage bog restoration. The employees of the major peat-harvesting companies and their communities actively embrace these efforts.

GG: Do you think there is a misconception by peat moss critics that peat moss is not harvested responsibly and few bogs are being restored?

HP: I think many peat moss critics are misinformed about peat moss, harvesting and restoration activities. Much of the criticisms have come from European experiences and the use of peat as a fuel or energy source, which is not applicable to North America. Most of my experiences have been in New Brunswick, where Fafard has been harvesting peat since the 1940s and where we closed our first and oldest bog a few years ago. Because bogs can be harvested for 25 to 40 years, to date very few bogs have needed restoration. Our Shippagan, New Brunswick, bog is being restored in an exciting consortium of university, provincial, non-profit organizations and industry. The plans and discussions around this future educational showplace have been fascinating.

Harvesting peat is similar to harvesting an agricultural crop or forest trees, only the time frames are different. In other aspects, peat harvest is similar to a mining operation except peat can be restored, whereas coal or minerals cannot. In all of Canada, only 40,000 acres have been harvested out of more than 270 million acres of peatlands. Unlike road building or development activities, peat harvesting is not an extensive, indiscriminate activity gobbling up peatlands.

GG: Do you believe peat moss critics associate European harvesting and restoration practices–or the lack thereof–with Canadian and U.S. harvesting and restoration practices?

HP: I think Europeans were slow to respond to the criticisms, mainly because of the dependence upon peat as a fuel source when alternatives are very expensive.  Peatlands in the UK and Holland were very limited and harvested for decades without guidelines. In North America, we have learned a lot from their experiences and time has been on our side. We do not have the same harvest pressure Western Europe experienced.

GG: How would you compare European practices with Canadian practices or, more specifically, the practices of your company?

HP: Fafard has a profound respect for the environment. In Canada, we harvest in a manner that suits the available resources. Fuel is an important cost component and we are constantly looking at ways to reduce those costs. Our industry is predominantly vacuum-harvested, utilizing solar energy to dry our harvest on the bog.

GG: What would you like to say to those who have been critical of the peat moss industry? Are they wrong?

HP: First, I would encourage those who choose to criticize the peat moss industry to do their homework and visit a peat bog, such as in New Brunswick, in order to understand the reality. I have worked alongside our Acadian employees and participated in many of the activities associated with peat harvest. They take tremendous pride in their work, community and environment. Their families are involved in fishing, forestry and tourism. They recognize the need to protect the environment and have the means to do so.

Second, it appears the argument equating peat moss to significant CO2 (carbon dioxide) evolution is weighted toward peat as a fuel source. In other words, it converts all of the organic carbon to CO2 via complete oxidation or combustion similar to coal, petroleum or wood. However, peat is not totally consumed in a flash when used in horticulture. As a soil component, peat plays an active role in the carbon cycle as a food source for plants and the microbial activity in the soil. This is a vital contribution to the health of the soil and the vigor of plants. True, after many cycles, the peat is ultimately converted into CO2 and water but only after continuing the cycle of life. Peat is a precious environmental resource and very important to the horticultural industry.

Leave a Reply

More From Media...
Delphinium 'Guardian Lavender' (Kieft Seed)

October 7, 2015

National Garden Bureau Names Four Crops For 2016 “Year Of The” Program

The National Garden Bureau announced four crop selections for its 2016 "Year Of The" program. New this year is the addition of a bulb crop class and a video created especially for the edibles class.

Read More

October 7, 2015

Ball FloraPlant Eliminates Neonicotinoid Use On Its Offshore Cuttings Farms

Ball FloraPlant has announced its offshore cuttings farms did not use neonicotinoid-based pest management chemicals during its spring crop production last shipping season, and will continue to be neonic free this year. Instead, the company and its greenhouse managers have relied on alternative means to supply insect-free cuttings to its global customer base.

Read More
Nemasys And Millenium Beneficial Nematodes from BASFm_Nematodes

October 7, 2015

How BASF’s UK Biological Production Facility Expansion Affects U.S. Growers

BASF has expanded its biologicals production facility in Littlehampton, UK. The new capacity increases the company’s ability to double the production of beneficial nematodes and inoculants.

Read More
Latest Stories

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

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