The Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine with special responsibility for Horticulture, Senator Pippa Hackett, has welcomed the announcement of €1.69 million in funding, for research into peat alternatives for horticulture, from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s Competitive Research Call 2021.
The Minister noted: “This is a significant step in assisting the horticulture sector to transition from peat as a growing media to sustainable alternatives.”
Peat has become an essential component in the production of plants and mushrooms in professional horticulture, due to its favorable physical, chemical, and biological characteristics. However, there is a pressing need to evaluate and develop alternatives that have a favorable environmental profile while also maintaining crop yield and quality.
The Teagasc-led research project ‘Beyond Peat’ focuses on utilizing organic bio-resources and novel technologies to develop specifically designed and sustainable peat replacements for professional horticultural crop production. ‘Beyond Peat’ will assess current available alternative growth and casing materials across five key sub-sectors of horticulture while also developing advanced growth media utilizing new technologies to transform organic wastes into materials with favorable physical characteristics for plant and mushroom performance. Other institutions across the island of Ireland collaborating on the project include Technological University of the Shannon, University of Limerick, University College Dublin, Agri-Food & Biosciences Institute, and University College Cork.
The Minister added: “The funding of €1.69 million being provided to this project demonstrates my Department’s continued commitment to finding alternatives to peat as a growing media and will build on the research already funded by this Department. I would also encourage the horticulture sector to utilize the €9 million in funding for the Scheme of Investment Aid for the Commercial Horticulture Sector in their transition to peat alternatives. Financial support is available under this Scheme to assist growers and businesses through grant aid for capital investments in specialized plants and equipment including renewable energy, as well as technology adoption specific to commercial horticulture production, such as those for utilizing alternative growing media.”