Retailers will be looking for alternative products in the wake of the Government decision to ban all sales of peat to amateur gardeners in England by 2024.
Peatlands are the UK’s largest carbon store but only about 13% of our peatlands are in a near-natural state. This degradation has occurred due to drainage for agricultural use, overgrazing and burning, as well as extraction for use in growing media. Bagged retail growing media accounts for 70% of the peat sold in the UK and is frequently misused, for example being used as a soil improver rather than a medium in which to propagate plants. When this extraction takes place, the carbon stored inside the bog is released as carbon dioxide, contributing to climate change.
Peat extraction also degrades the state of the wider peatland landscape, damaging habitats for some of our rarest wildlife such as the swallowtail butterfly, hen harriers and short-eared owls, and negatively impacting peat’s ability to prevent flooding and filter water. A significant proportion of the UK’s water supply lands or flows through peatlands.
The Government is also launching a new £5 million fund to promote the use of peatlands for sustainable farming. It will support the uptake of paludiculture – the practice of farming on rewetted peatland – which will help further safeguard food security, produce alternatives to horticultural peat and reduce environmental impacts.
Chair of Natural England, Tony Juniper said: “Peatlands are precious ecosystems that harbor beautiful and fascinating wildlife, shape the character of iconic landscapes, purify water and help to reduce flood risk. They are also our largest natural carbon stores, locking away over 580 million tonnes. This ban on the sale of peat-based compost and work to phase out use in other areas is an essential step toward protecting these valuable natural assets and allowing for the recovery of degraded areas.”