Update on Growing Media

BPOA Technical Committee:- Update on Growing media – Neil Bragg

GM update October 2020.

The GMA have with the HTA recently published the data on the use of peat and other materials for both the Hobby and Professional Grower markets. Overall for 2019 the data clearly shows that peat use is below the 50% mark in GM. The Hobby market figure stands around 42% and the professional overall is around 62%.

At the present time Defra are working on a peatlands strategy for England and the indications are clearly that they are still looking for peat use in Horticulture to be eliminated, this was emphasised by the comments from the minister in Defra responsible for the issue in her feedback on the data published above. It may well be that when the next consultation is published the end of use of peat for England is set as 2025.

The GMA and HTA have also recently had and published a review document presented by University of Coventry on the socio-economic impact of change to GM for horticulture in the UK. One of the clear recommendations is that Defra should be looking to even out incentives for the use of timber products across all users as at present incentives exist to burn wood products for energy, but if such materials are to be used in Horticulture to replace peat then incentives would equally help.

Responsibly sourced growing media calculator

The ‘P4’ calculator for responsibly sourced components included in growing media has been ‘road-tested’ by BM-Trada, an independent auditing group and audits of various raw materials and products are currently on-going with an objective to have the audit data available for the Bench marking committee by the end of November. This would then set the initial scores for products to be rates as responsible, but obviously this would be subject to review as new data emerges.

The Marketing committee of the RSGM (Responsible sourcing of Growing media) have with the backing of Westland Horticulture developed a product label very much based on the energy type label found on ‘white goods’. There were other options, but these were consumer tested by a third party and the overall energy type label was preferred. It is hoped that by the Spring of 2021 garden centres will have been supplied with point of sales boards which reflect the work and that consumers will be able to make an informed choice as to their GM purchase. It is hoped that similar information of the ‘Responsible scores’ for materials and products will be available to professional growers through their suppliers.

Neil Bragg October 2020.

Targets (June 2019)

As some of you will be aware I have since Feb become the Chair of the Growing Media Association, (GMA) which is under the umbrella of the HTA. 

In recent meetings with Defra they have made it quite clear that targets set in 2011 for horticultural peat use reduction and replacement in England still exist and unless there is a clear indication that the industry has moved towards the targets and at least tried to achieve the end results more draconian measures are being suggested by ministers and MP’s. One of the latter cannot see why we do not just all move production entirely into coir. Note the RHS are dropping all peat products from the end of 2019.

The biggest problem is that we (GMA and industry in general) have not communicated what we have been doing, what the barriers are and what might realistically be achieved, by say 2025.  We the industry may feel we have achieved a level of understanding of the issues, but obviously this has not really been seen or heard of by others. Despite AHDB reviews around ‘Growing Media’.

As a result- the GMA has taken up the services of ‘Newington Communications’ who already act for the HTA and also some of the GMA members.  The aim is to produce a roadmap by Sept of this year to present to ministers in Defra.  A draft of the report will be circulated for BPOA members as I think you may need this to answer some of the questions you may be asked.

Responsibly sourced growing media calculator

Note the ‘P4’ calculator for responsibly sourced components included in growing media has been ‘road-tested’ by BM-trada, an independent auditing group and subject to refinement will be launched this autumn. I have made the point that we do not want further audit schemes and as there is an existing GM section of BOPP then this should be where the P4 work sits along with P7-the evidence of performance standards being met by new material mixes.

Finally note that the existing Defra LINK project with AHDB and ADAS (CP138) on modelling and prediction of the behaviour of new and novel materials finishes at the end of 2019. The modelling work does now look very interesting and should lead to a useful tool for the industry to use.

Neil Bragg

10th June 2019

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