Navigating through substrate shortages

Will the recent innovations and shift in substrate composition, use, and management be a thing of the past or the beginning of the “new normal” for producing crops in soilless growing systems? Evidence suggests the latter option is more likely to be the case.

Some of the efforts by growers to find alternative substrate sources or to extend/stretch existing peat supplies are summarized below. (Note many other viable approaches and products not mentioned here also exist.)

Growing media in the media
While soilless growing media has always been an important topic, the challenges and market shifts of the past three years have exposed greater interest, concern, and overall public awareness of these materials. Most of the heightened concern was in response to product shortages (particularly peat, perlite, and vermiculite) due to demand and transportation gridlock. There’s also been a growing spotlight on the future availability, use, and sustainability of peat, the most relied-upon substrate component.

Just recently, in Europe, for example, on November 18, 2022, a coalition of 14 European organizations entered into a “Peat Pact” by signing the Environmental Impact of Potting Soil and Substrates Covenant, which commits to the reduction of peat use, the accelerated use of renewable raw substrate materials, reuse of substrates and enablement of responsible peat extraction.


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