Thirty years ago, you didn’t hear as much about climate change as you do now. Many articles have been written about whether or not using peat is good for the environment. Opponents will state …
Thirty years ago, you didn’t hear as much about climate change as you do now. Many articles have been written about whether or not using peat is good for the environment. Opponents will state that peat regrows at a very, very slow rate.
Peat bogs store carbon, lots of carbon, and that’s a big issue among global warming scientists, and peat bogs are home to a large array of flora and fauna that thrive in these unique environments. Because of the current environment of divisive politics and opinions, members of the peat industry educate key audiences with the facts, not fiction, and highlight their continuous restoration efforts.
The Canadian peat industry is highly regulated and harvested bogs are allowed to re-flood and then seeded with shredded peat “grafts” that grow together to regrow the bog. It takes about five years for the moss to cover the site and 10 to 15 years for the bog to go back to its natural condition. This crop rotation makes peat harvesting very sustainable. Still, the peat industry has its doubters and nay-sayers. If you just Google “peat” and “sustainable,” most of what you get from the search engine is negative information.
Social media helps to spread the negativity and fan the flames, while the peat bans in parts of Europe and the UK provide the fuel. And then there are the competitors, in 2016, Mont Hanley appeared on Shark Tank with his product called Pittmoss. Pittmoss, is created from recycled paper and a proprietary formula of organic additives and Hanley struck a deal with three sharks.
Although, Pittmoss is much more expensive than peat moss, they attract many customers because of the negative press peat moss is getting. Peat does store a lot of carbon, but unlike some European countries, we do not burn peat as a fuel source which is where the greatest carbon release comes from.
We use peat for growing where the carbon helps plant development. The real threat to peat is something I mentioned a few weeks ago, when I wrote about our current peat moss shortage, it is the weather. There is about a 30 to 40 day window during the summer when peat can be harvested and it’s very dependent on the weather.
If there has been too much rain, the equipment, which acts like a large vacuum, can’t go out into the fields because it will cause compaction of the peat, making it more difficult to harvest the bog, which is what happened last summer. Last year in New Brunswick, both Northern and Southern regions were below expected harvest volumes and varied weather patterns combined with the late start and the remnants of Hurricane Ida constrained the harvest throughout the Maritimes in Canada.
The harvest on Québec’s south shore and north shore were both below expectations. Several summer storms, particularly on the north shore, did not permit either region in achieving their targeted volumes, which ended up twenty percent below their target. In Western Canada, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, all regions met or exceeded targeted volumes as spring was relatively early and reasonably dry in all three provinces enabling a good start.
A significant, and in some cases, record-breaking heat and drought period across Western Canada extended through much of the summer and into early fall 2021. These favorable conditions supported the positive results. The problem with this is that transportation costs are too high to ship the extra peat from the west to the east, so the bottom line is if you want your peat this spring, get it early.
Most of what was harvested last summer has already been contracted to large companies like Scott’s for use in soil mixes like Miracle-Gro. This doesn’t leave a lot left for the rest of us.
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