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So what you're saying Phil, in the case of the UK, is that you are happy to conveniently drop from the 'peat equation' loss of natural habitat, erosion of biodiversity, and loss of vital ecosystem services that serve society as a whole?

All in the name of propping up the peat industry and keeping peat flowing into compost bags - gardeners in the UK use 2/3 of peat used in the UK.

And you're not worried because there's simply lots of peat on a global scale? Hmm, interesting approach.

John

I'm not 'propping up the peat industry and keeping peat flowing into compost bags' in anyone's name.

I'm offering up the view, for your consideration [and others] that the use of peat in horticulture and its impact on the environment and on world peat reserves, has no adverse effect.

If I took one tonne of peat and used it in growing media, how long would it take for the plants I grew to develop and remove the same amount of carbon dioxide that had been released through harvesting of that peat?

Peat is regarded as a slowly renewable natural resource so it is safe to assume that the 3.4m km2 of near natural peatland, as well as the remaining areas that have undergone harvesting and are in the process of regeneration under a manageable plan, will sufficiently replace the tiny proportion used in horticulture.

Furthermore, out of the 0.0005% [and remember, this is what is used globally and not in the UK] harvested for horticulture, there is the potential for the growing of millions of plants, trees and shrubs which will replace or increase habitats for wildlife as well as removing excessive carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

I'd call this a win-win for the environment and horticulture.

If the miniscule amount of peat used is from our equaly miniscule wetlands, we surely stand to lose 100% of our miniscule natural resource.
Don't try to dazzle us with figures, the damage is there and we can see it.Claiming that my car has such a little impact on a global scale that it doesn't matter means I am letting myself off the hook.Same with your arguement.

Hi Frank

"If the miniscule amount of peat used is from our equaly miniscule wetlands, we surely stand to lose 100% of our miniscule natural resource."

You need to explain this a bit better because you've lost me!

"Don't try to dazzle us with figures, the damage is there and we can see it."

They are not my figures...they come from the International Peat Society.

And what damage have you seen exactly?

I have actually visited an active peat extraction site. I wanted to see with my own eyes what goes on. It's a bit like open cast mining in that the site gets completely trashed and the water table can be majorly compromised so that adjacent land suffers as a result.

Nature does of course come back but in a completely different habitat type that will take a few thousand years to restore if ever.

You can take a look at a peat extraction site on the edge of Manchester:
http://bit.ly/hhKT7s
I think this may be the one I visited, it's hard to tell from the air.

Were it not for lobbying to reduce peat extraction in England there would be nothing left by now. Sadly much prime habitat has been lost and much will of it never return.

The amount of peat in the rest of the world has no bearing on this sorry state of affairs other than perhaps as a warning to other countries to watch what happened here and take it as a warning.

Here's another site, this one in Yorkshire:
http://bit.ly/gBTZJj

Richard, thanks for your comment. It's an infusion of common sense into what could easily become a rather endless discussion. I don't know if Phil is aware of how much potential harm he has done by cooking up a headline (seemingly to fit with his own ideas on peat) that will travel the internet in seconds, but will take much longer to unpick and refute based on what the science is telling us.

I'm afraid, Phil, that you've fallen for the usual myth that vandalised UK peat bogs do somehow miraculously 'regenerate' after they have, as Richard says, been completely trashed.

Perhaps you could have a read through the just-published Greening UK Gardens report, which sets out very clearly why we need to end peat use in the UK and why a levy/tax on peat is a powerful tool to achieve that (click top right on the page at the following link to download the report):

http://www.rspb.org.uk/supporting/campaigns/campaignwithus/current/peat.aspx

Incidentally, Aberdeen University are asking people to respond to the government's peat consultation by 'tweeting' their views which they will be collating. Details at:

http://twitter.com/#!/reluuplands

This is such a complicated argument with statistics thrown around on all sides. What isn't clear to me is how much peat is extracted each year as a percentage of the peatlands in, or in reasonable vicinity, to the UK.

Alarming statistics from the RSPB, such as "Today only 1% of England's pristine lowland peat bog remains intact" doesn't tell us how much remains or how long ago the 99% disappeared. While "Peat extraction to produce compost has contributed to the destruction of 94% of lowland raised bog habitat...We currently use some three billion litres of peat every year in our gardens" doesn't give us joined-up facts. How much has extracting compost contributed to the destruction? How much is 3 billion litres of peat in relation to what's there, and does it all come from English peat bogs anyway?

The RSPB campaign says that "Garden trials commissioned by the consumer group Which? in March 2010 showed that peat-free composts outperformed the best peat-based counterparts". True, but what they don't point out is that this is only a very recent development, and that the 4 top performing container composts were made by only two companies. The other two peat-free composts, from other companies, came third and fourth last out of 14. In recent years, peat-free compost has been appalling to use and much of it still is. If gardening is to be encouraged (and that itself is good for the environment), then gardeners don't need to be handicapped at the first fence.

Recycling garden waste finally seems to be taking off on an industrial scale, which makes great sense (I certainly haven't heard any downside yet) and if it's effective and cheap to produce, then the need for peat will surely fall anyway, so imposing sanctions on peat use shouldn't be necessary.

But the alternative of importing foreign substances, like coir, makes no sense to me at all. From a global warming point of view, the use of bunker fuel in ships is one of the greatest producers of greenhouse gas, or so I understand. So, coir (for example) should be kept in its own part of the world for use there. I suspect that using peat from nearby sources produces less carbon.

The use of peat surely needs to be looked at as part of a big picture.

In the meantime, rather than penalising gardeners, perhaps, to follow Peter Seabrook's argument, Ireland could stop pouring it into power stations.

Philip speaks very clearly and sensibly in favour of a reasoned/analytic response to a clearly partial and ill considered peat use campaign.
Emotion is no substitute for analysis.
We have to understand that human intervention created much of our peatlands and that whilst extraction of peat for domestic use has contributed to the retraction of peat bogs in the UK we must understand that agriculture/drainage has done far more to damage this resource esp through the demand for food during 2 World War's and,up to the 1980's government incentives to 'break in'heathland and moor.
Worldwide peat is a renewable/sustainable resource but this is not the case on a local level.
Gardeners are close to nature and an easy hit for the RSPB to gain publicity.
Where is the broadest biodiversity in the UK?Gardens.Where could biodiversity be broadened further(and easily)?Gardens.What is a building block for that biodiversity?Peat.
We must manage our resources and as,Worldwide,peat is growing faster than current use it appears clear that our use is sustainable if we manage correctly.
What is not clear is how sustainable alternatives are and how much the R&D etc has degraded the environment!Money is the denominator of global degradation.
As far as the RSPB well they should look at their own environmental impact whilst they criticise peat use.
(Criticising resource management should be their aim).
As examples of the RSPB having a negative impact look to the grazing of coastal heathland and relate it the research done by Johnstone in Antrim where it is stated that creating Chough habitat impacts on other species and damages coastal heathland.McNanch goes further and relates the Chough decline and recovery to the decline and recovery of Rabbits(Myxamatosis).Thus questioning cattle grazing as the favoured management tool.Could HLS funding be anything to do with this?
Coastal(natural-not man made- self sustaining heathland in this case)heathland is a far rarer habitat than peat bogs but an agenda has decided the RSPB stance!
The way we manage a global resource is a long way from a UK embargo and should be unrelated.
At a cost of up to £3million per 10 years per 1000hc for the upkeep of peat bogs the global degradation that generates the maintenance costs may outweigh any benefit of suspending the environments.Yes,be clear,the cost of suspension rather than leaving nature to be successional is high and likely to be unsustainable thus,in removing an economic use for these areas,we may condemn them to disappear!
Moderation in all things methinks!!!

There is nothing 'ill considered' about any drive to end the use of peat in horticulture.

There are compelling environmental factors for an end to peat use: try reading 'Consultation on reducing the horticultural use of peat in England' and you will find the government understand this very clearly.

As do the RSPB, and hence their 'Green UK Gardens' report, with its proposal for a levy on peat compost. It's an excellent idea - discourage peat use by hiking the price and redirect the revenue to assist in what seems to be the endless amount of 'research and development' that the pro-peat lobby endlessly harp on about.

Top quality peat-free composts exist and have done for years. How else has organic and peat-free herb grower Jekka McVicar won a clutch of RHS Gold medals for her exhibits? If she can do it, and run a successful business, so can everyone else - except those who feel they are so 'special' they can't rise to the challenge.

Suggesting that peat is a 'building block' for encouraging biodiversity is risible. This suggestion that we trash a unique natural habitat (lowland peat bogs - either our own or those out of sight and mind overseas) that's home to many species simply to keep out gardens pretty and blooming beggars belief. It's this kind of myopic thinking that threatens peatlands more than anything.

It's really time to ditch the misguided idea that peat is 'renewable' (either locally or globally). It grows at around 1mm a year, yet an annual harvest removes around 200mm. Do the sums - for it to be truly renewable you can't take any more from that area for another 200 years (and gardeners want the same if not more the following year). And then there's the wee problem that the thin top layer of the bog which actually does the 'growing' was stripped off and dumped long before the harvesting machinery moved in.

Peat bog restoration isn't, despite what we're led to believe, easy. It is often very expensive and degraded bogs rarely spring back to being what they once were.

The suggestion that just because horticulture hasn't done all the damage to lowland bogs then it should continue to do damage sounds just plain loopy.

Wow, a scarily complex discussion that is mixing half truths, total fabrications, sound science and lateral thinking into one big messy pot.

Steve, much of what you say is true but the conclusions you draw are off the mark in some cases.

Yes, human intervention did create some peatlands but not the kind of bogs that get exploited for horticultural use, those are older and the most important from the diversity viewpoint.

Yes, drainage for agriculture did destroy a large amount of lowland peatland - but does that justify destroying the remainder for horticulture, I don't think so

Peat is a renewable resource in the same way that oil is and the time scale is a real problem. The extraction of peat is far more damaging than oil drilling (spills excluded), it's more like the tar sand process. Renewable does not equate to sustainable.

To say that the horticultural use of peat is the building block for diversity beggars belief. Gardens do indeed have a massive role in both diversity and wildlife management but that is attainable without the need to destroy other precious habitats. Good wildlife gardening can be very low impact and certainly doesn't require the use of peat.

Yes, it's true, some peat alternatives may not be sustainable...but others are, that's why more R&D is needed. Just as it's hard to justify hauling Coir half way around the world the same can be said about Canadian peat.

The RSPB's management policies do need to be questioned as do the costs and appropriateness of sustaining degraded habitats like heathland. Grants do appear to be the motivating force in some situations although I couldn't quite follow your thread on the coastal heath issue, but you may well have a point.

But, the fact that the RSPB might be misguided and bird biased in some areas of their activity doesn't automatically invalidate their stance on the peat debate.

Your last para I don't really follow, you appear to suggest that all peat bogs require maintenance. That is not the case, some are managed, often as a result of peripheral activities but the 'best' bogs are currently self sustaining. Climate change may endanger even the best bogs but that shouldn't be considered a justification to trash them for horticulture....you may be right that natural succession should be permitted to take place but in that case the carbon locked up in the peat might be allowed to remain locked up.
Consider that the rain forests may equally be threatened by climate change but that doesn't justify felling the lot for palm oil production.

Nice argument John but rather based on poor peat management to date and parochial damage unrelated to the potential to manage a World resource in a renewable way.
The argument re.top quality alternatives is derisory relative to Jekka.Years ago a company I worked for tried stocking product grown organically by Jekka and had to stop doing so because of various problems to do with consistency.
Your estimate of peat growth is not correct and is dependent on locality.
There is no suggestion that damage to peat bogs should continue just the fact that humans should learn to manage resources in a sustainable way.
Your suggestion in suspending these environments is a human and misguided response as we are denying nature the normal response of succession.That denial is unsustainable as it can only be achieved through the loss of species globally through material damage funding our 'salvationism'.
Please look at the facts analytically.
No right minded person can condone poor peat bog management(as per in the UK past)but neither can we ignore a renewable resource when looking toward a sustainable future.
Peat has been a building block for urban biodiversity and continues to be so.
As far as the RSPB/Government understanding I totally agree BUT that understanding is not desseminated through their reports.The opacity surrounding their presentations is huge and concentrates on 'sticks'not'carrots'.
The removal of retail VAT on alternatives and and an investment in sustainable alternatives would be a far more effective tool than a levy.
At a use of .00005%per yr in horticulture use is sustainable but we should continue to encourage alternatives.
I would add that the myopic response re "keeping gardens pretty"is an offence to the huge biodiversity benefits offered by the multiple urban green spaces that have a wider biodiversity than in equivalent rural areas.
Look to bees in towns as compared to rural areas!
The restoration of peat bogs is expensive but not as expensives as the cost of long
term suspension of that ecosystem.
Humans need ways to live with these systems and I would wish to see that but not at the expense of rationality or inclusivity.
Agendas/crusades will not win any environmental benefit.Negotiation and management may BUT only if the real problems are targeted and opacity removed.
Our government must,like the Chinese,manage population control and,with other agencies,educate all of us to live with nature.
As HRH Prince Charles said"live off of the interest".
Finally I dod not say we should continue to damage lowland bogs(implying the UK)or try to justify that based on historic uses.I was merely giving perspective to another blogger.Ill considered is the correct description of our withdrawal from peat use.The withdrawal has been poorly managed,poorly communicated and reliant on immotive rather than factual stimulus.
I want to minimise peat use in a correctly managed way that incentivises alternatives.

Steve, your point about Jekkas plants in what I take to be a retail environment is revealing about sales areas but not damming of the growing medium.

'Plants go to Garden Centres to die' and if you place a peat free plant into a peat based environment it will die that bit quicker. The maintenance of plants in peat alternatives is more demanding and they will certainly suffer if treated in the same way as 'conventionally' grown plants.

Jekkas skills are evident, they are proven by her successes. I wouldn't expect her plants to slot into a retail Plantarea without understanding and preparation. The difficulties with her plants I suspect was down to the inconsistency of the management in the retail environment rather than inconsistency of the plants.

Your example demonstrates that working with less peat may be demanding, that's all. No one said that sustainability was going to be easy, it will require ingenuity and dedication.

Like Oil, Peat is wonderful stuff and should be treated like the precious gift it is. I think we agree that Peat opens up possibilities that we can all benefit from, my concern is that it should not be squandered. Had the UK peat reserves been managed with sustainability in mind from day one things would be very different now.

Richard,
thanks for your input which is,of course,correct.
The point about peat bogs is that the 'restored'ones will require ongoing maintenance.
I never suggested destroying bogs the tenor was more looking at a huge World resource and seeing how it could be managed in a sustainable way-without destruction.
The issue of garden biodiversity I stand by as without peat much would not have been achieved as peat was a driving force in the cost of achieving biodiversity.
I did not suggest this should continue but suggested that this was a biproduct of peat use.It could,as you say,be a biproduct of alternatives,in some crops,now.
Coastal heath was merely an aside because many see conservators as infallable.
I do not advocate the trashing of bogs but a joined up consultation to best manage a withdrawal from peat use AND to look at the sustainable future uses of that resource.We must manage not react.
My words are designed to draw out the 'truth'about the issues rather than the current emotive responses that endanger the really valid reasons.
The problem of the rain forests I totally agree with but I was not justifying destroying bogs because the threat of climate change was imminent.I was merely trying to stimulate a range of thoughts beyond the main issue.
I use a peat free mix on my nursery at £7 per 80lt whereas I can purchase a peat base equivalent at £5.
A levy of £1 brings the peat to £6 whereas the removal of vat from the peat free would bring it down to £5.60.
A variance of £1 on the RSPB suggestion but a variance of .60p on the removal of VAT from alternatives.
Which is the greater incentive?
You suggest that I may be right about allowing natural succession but if the bogs are self sustaining (as you said earlier) succession would not occur.If succession occurs conservators will manage for suspension.
Could you clarify please?

Richard,
the problems with the receipt of Jekka's plants was nothing to do with management.It was consistency on delivery.
Things are likely to have changed as this was over 10 years ago.
I agree with your last paragraph and believe that past mismanagement should not colour our view of future potential sustainable uses.
What is is not what has to be!
The question must be asked of our government"if totally comitted to reduced peat use why are we not in a position now of having affordable,malleable compost alternatives that are nationally available and why have successive governments not incentivised investment in achieving that?"

On the last point, I thought I was clear.

The most 'valuable/diverse/natural' bogs are currently self sustaining so succession is not an issue, these would mostly NOT be the remaining bogs in England. Most bogs in England have been so compromised by drainage, agriculture and Forestry as to be beyond natural salvation and would become forested. The impact of man's activities has totally shafted them, they can only survive through intervention by conservation....expensive and probably futile.

It is for such reasons that some peat extraction continues in England, the bogs are doomed anyway and are destined to become wetland habitats but they will never be the kind of bogs they once were.

I would hate to see the pristine bogs of Eastern Europe, Canada and Asia damaged in the way that ours have been. They mostly are self sustaining, lets leave them that way. Once conservationists start meddling the bogs are almost as threatened as when big business gets involved.

Regarding your statement about peat driving garden diversity - I am lost for words, well I have some but they would be inappropriate. On that issue we are poles apart.

OK so your comments on Jekkas plants were not really of value to this debate given that in 10 years peat free composts have improved a lot. (though not enough).

"they can only survive through intervention by conservation....expensive and probably futile."

Are you qualified to make this statement Richard? How do you know attempts at conservation are futile?

I do find it distressing when words such as 'trashed' and 'shafting' are used for impact and to create emotion.

When a wheat stubble field is ploughed after overwintering it destroys a fragile ecosystem too.

When we rotovate our vegetable patches in our efforts to create food we break up other fragile ecosystems.

I would like to know from you where we draw the line when it comes to 'trashing' plant and wildlife environments.

Despite the difference in timescales between harvesting/cultivation - when you compare a peat bog with fallow land - how can anti-peat campaigners preach to others about the destruction of life and bio-diversity when they are likely to be responsible for a destruction themselves.

"Regarding your statement about peat driving garden diversity - I am lost for words, well I have some but they would be inappropriate. On that issue we are poles apart."

I get this perfectly.

Through our use in horticulture there has been huge successes in producing plants efficiently and speedily.

Those plants go on to naturally create further life and animal habitats.

What US gardeners need to do - in my view - is join with the various agencies in understanding and managing peatlands.

I'd first of all like to see a detailed study on the trade-off in respect of Co2 released during harvesting against the Co2 that is removed by the plant life that is subsequently created through the use of peat.

I can defend "they can only survive through intervention by conservation....expensive and probably futile." Phil because it is there to be seen if you would care to go and look as I have. The aerial photograph I linked to shows the invasion by trees onto peat bogs near Manchester. This is a result of changed water tables and the habitat created after the extraction of the peat is entirely different to the peat bog that existed there before. To try and develop peat bog there again would be expensive and probably futile.....can you deny that?

I suppose training as an ecologist also helps a little in qualifying me to comment.

Most thinking folks will see that your comments about ploughing stubbles are totally irrelevant to this discussion and so do not merit a response.

The use of peat in garden composts is very recent, in my lifetime peat based composts were unheard of. Prior to that plants were produced, gardens were cultivated and wildlife in gardens thrived. To suggest that garden diversity stems from the use of peat is pure twaddle.

Pristine peatlands do not need management, they just need to be left alone.

"Most thinking folks will see that your comments about ploughing stubbles are totally irrelevant to this discussion and so do not merit a response."

I disagree.

I find it quite patronising to hear the argument of biodiversity being 'trashed' in a peat bog yet sensitive biodiversity is 'trashed' every during our normal working and recreational life - but I guess, how many beetles, earwigs, moths, butterflies, lizards. greenfly [you get the gist] are 'trashed' as you rotovate your vegetable plot or mow your lawn doesn't matter?

Let's have this debate so that we take all of our environmental responsibilities into account.

Remember, many people have made their living for generations from peat bogs and this must be taken into consideration too.

If we take the revenue out of their lives, who is going to pay? (and how's the money going to be generated?)for them to live and work in the environments they grew up in?

What is needed is a plan (and I'm talking worldwide here) to regenerate and conserve the land after harvesting.

Phil I have no problem with local people exploiting Peat for their own purposes as they have done for centuries. They do it in a sympathetic way and do not threaten the bogs. It is large scale commercial exploitation that is the threat.
It is analagous to native peoples harvesting Walrus or Whales, done in moderation for their own use it is both fair and unlikely to damage the ecosystem.

You can disagree all you like about the stubbles thing but that doesn't make it relevant.

Making a living from something doesn't make it right. Manufacturers of leg irons probably suffered from the end of slavery but thankfully their jobs weren't given a higher importance than human rights.

A plan is a good idea, but that plan should be how to avoid interfering with pristine habitats (which my veg garden is not and never will be).
The plan should be how to phase out the use of peat with good alternatives that gardeners can be successful with......Perhaps the use of peat will still be essential for some limited purposes, if so then lets use our own peat wisely rather than rushing off to TRASH some other countries resources.

This has been a very interesting and thought provoking chain of emails that has clearly created common ground.
I did not make myself clear on what I meant by stating that peat had been a building block for urban biodiversity!
Prior to the 1960's gardening was very much restricted to the availability of open ground hardy stock or bedding.Broadly gardens fell into Rose/Vegetable or Cottage garden types.
The introduction of peat based composts(Levington to start)revolutionised both commercial use and private gardens and opened up a huge cross section of plants that had previously been unknown/expensive or not viable as open ground produced stock.It also reduced cost.

The industry we know now was based on the change peat made to the technologies and habits associated with gardening.

We thus had a change in 'garden food/environment availability'to insects/birds etc.Not just diversity but AYR food availability which,in view of the mild Winters preceeding the last 3 was providential for species that require hibernation.We had heath/forest/alpine etc etc within urban streets.

Thus peat based composts encouraged structural variance/alternative food sources/a broader food time spectrum and,more importantly,whetted the appetite of many to consider the environment in the broader sense.
Pretty is a bonus and not to be mocked.

Yes,urban biodiversity was driven by peat but that is not to justify poor management or environmental damage.I would add that prior to that peat had been instrumental in post War public plant establishment and considered a'waste'product for horse bedding etc.
Merely a fact.
And Richard,in stating that you studied ecology,you deflect from the message by trying to obtain personal credibility however,having done so,I am as follows;
ex head gardener/ estate manager/nursery landscape owner/ex responsible for up to 80 GC's/ex worked for- founder member of WWF(now WWFN)-Operation Tiger-President BOU and Nature Conservancy Council/Plant breeder/Conservator of Cornish E.ciliaris etc etc etc.

Alternative composts commercially are on a par with the 'Which'trial but customised commercial peat and peat reduced are far superior to the trial material however some crops-hardy nursery stock for example-tolerate compost variance with few visible impacts.
This sector has responded and much is now peat free.One of my contacts grows 1.5m hardy shrubs peat free.
Consistency,vigour remain a problem with herbs etc grown in alternative mixes and this has to be resolved as does the point you raised of specific management requirements in a retail environment.Equally end users need advice on establishement.
Horticulture has taken huge steps to reduce or completely remove peat from commercial products and requires recognition of the financial impact of this and help,not punitive action,to push research(in many cases trial and error)to a stage where we can consider a painless exit from non essential use.
We also need assurances of the availability of alternatives.None are guaranteed especially in view of uses being considered beyond horticulture thus setting up a competitive market for yesterdays waste or biproduct.


One point I hoped to make - and this may have been lost or I didn't make it clear in the first place - in the original article was, I do not feel that gardeners should feel they have been responsible for any direct damage to peat bogs.

Being a consumer doesn't mean complicity to anything providing the production process has been legal in the first instance.

Until the removal of peat is made illegal then campaigners should be making their protestations to lawmakers and make their case there.

Making gardeners feel guilty and shamed for a crime they haven't committed isn't helpful.

I'd also like to make it clear that I'd like to see alternatives to peat being used in horticulture but only if any alternatives come without costs to the environment in other ways.

As you say Steve a lot of common ground.

I would just point out that Phil specifically asked what qualified me to comment on the management of restored peat bogs, so I clarified that, otherwise I would not have.

I would agree that peat played a role in the popularization of gardening in the 60's but it was one element. Others were cheap oil, containerisation of plants, artificial fertilisers, increase in leisure time and the impact of media. Peat is a wonderful material for horticulture, there's no denying that.

I think it's fanciful to credit peat with turning urban gardens in to mini nature reserves. You say urban biodiversity was driven by peat, I would like to see any proof that the kind of diversity encouraged by the use of peat has been of any benefit to diversity of a valuable and sustainable kind. Effective wildlife/diversity friendly gardens are easily achieved without resorting to the use of peat. In fact, contiguous corridors of gardens that are appropriate to the local natural environment are the most likely to sustain diversity. Little blocks of heathland, alpine rockeries and sterile lawn tend to fragment and reduce the value of gardens for wildlife.

Peat was indeed used as horse bedding before it's horticultural value was fully appreciated...that is indeed a fact.

But, that's all history. My concern is the future and my personal choice is to avoid the use of peat. What others choose to do is up to them, hopefully with the help of unbiased information from both sides of the debate.

Agreed that much more research is needed into peat alternatives, especially for the production of bedding and 'small pot' lines. It is certainly too early to expect bedding growers to move away from peat completely - the trade has become addicted to peat as has the consumer to the rock bottom prices.

I agree that the punitive action against peat based composts is not the best route to take, although I would like to see parity in price between peat based and peat free products - how that can be achieved I'm not sure.

I'm off to plough my lonely furrow somewhere else, so as far as I am concerned that's it.

Firstly apologies for not reading Phil's email and impuning you.

You are making the mistake of relating now to then.Economic containerisation/chemicals etc all followed the exploitation of peat and oil was cheap before and after.The first useful container fertilisers followed years later.
As an example Hilliers had grown a range of container specialist plants for decades before the 60's.The capability to expand that only happened when peat composts were perfected.That was neither reliant on oil/containers or fertiliser.
Yes wildlife friendly gardens ARE easily created now but not then.Peat widened ranges and brought plants to people that otherwise would not have gone to find them.
Yes the coincidence of increased leisure did impact on gardens as did greater mobility but that could not have have increased range/availability of plants without a clean/light/sterile universal medium.
My reference to heath/alpine etc was,as I suspect you realised, not meant to be taken in any context other than a part of a whole.Of course as a unit one garden has no impact but just walk through any area and you will see commonality,corridors and a mixture of suspension/succession.
As far as sterile lawns then look to the change in chemical use and cost then relate what you see now to that which you saw 10 years ago.
I see more clover/daisies etc etc than in 5 decades.
I would suggest that urban populations of a large number of bird species and certainly Bee's/Hoverflies/Lacewings and other indicators are evidential whilst also admitting that negative rural impacts make towns look healthy.Current planning legislation has impacted negatively in towns by removing nest and hibernation sites but healthy populations remain as natural alternative sites start to mature.
We would all like to see nature pristine/untouched but unfortunately,unless governments(us)can miraculously control population growth and stop our landmass shrinking through inundation there is no clear message being sent out that the will to do that actually exists.
Can peat be protected if the larger issues, that will ultimately destroy it, are not tackled?
Therein lies the issue we should each be directing toward Parliament.

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