The growing media industry continues to face many challenges in acquiring, processing, transporting and delivering certain products in the volumes needed by many producers. However, there is a unified commitment by the culture centre producers to continue to meet these challenges. The growing media industry has also seen volatile geopolitical issues around the world affecting many raw material supplies, increased regulatory pressures on peat extraction and use, unpredictable weather conditions affecting harvests , transportation and labor shortages, as well as a growing amount of misinformation regarding sustainability. of certain products and product availability.
The extraction and use of peat in horticulture remains essential (AC), as does the emphasis on the restoration of peatlands after extraction (D). Photos: Brian Jackson
Engineered wood products as substrate components continue to grow in importance and use around the world.
Global demand for growing media is expected to increase by more than 400% by 2050. Graphic: C. Blok, B. Eveleens and A. van Winkel. 2021. Culture media for food and quality of life in the period 2020-2050. Acta Hortic. 1305:341-355.
More peat, please
The past year has proven to be difficult for many producers who have not been able to acquire the peat products or product volumes they need. Many have turned to alternative peat materials when and where possible to fill the void of dwindling peat supplies. Regarding the availability of peat, recent reports from the Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss Association indicate that the 2022 summer extraction season in Canada has not achieved expected returns, which means that further peat supply shortages will continue into 2023 at almost all peat suppliers.
It is important for all peat consumers to know that this does not mean “we are running out of peat in Canada”, but rather that due to a wet summer and other logistical challenges, the peat could not be extracted at the desired volumes. . They also can’t just open more bogs to extract more peat very easily. This process takes seven to eight years to complete, so there is no “quick fix”. Producers still have a strong focus on restoring peatlands on older peatlands as part of their efforts to return these natural areas to functioning ecosystems and carbon sinks.
coir and wood products
As more non-peat materials are needed to supplement and stretch annual peat supplies, the focus on coir as a major component of above-ground substrates has also increased globally. Reliable coir suppliers are working feverishly to meet this demand. The development of the Mexican coir market also continues to evolve and hopefully will be able to supply more volumes in the future to the North American market.
Wood products continue to increase in demand and adoption by peat growers and other mix makers who need to stretch their annual peat supplies. Additionally, many growers request wood products to reduce costs, as it is the most (or only) available material to purchase, or to improve some aspect of sustainability within their farm operation. Confidence has grown among many growers in recent years regarding the use of wood products and the management changes needed for successful growth.
European grow media producers now have approximately 25 wood fiber facilities operational and new facilities are now in Australia and New Zealand. In the United States, there are fewer options, but more are on the horizon in the near future. These new wood suppliers will offer more products and options to producers who want or need to make the switch.
The general statement that “coir or wood fiber is more durable than peat” may not be proven or factual. Much work is underway to better understand all aspects of product sustainability. All raw materials have some degree of negative impact on the environment. Peat absolutely does. The same is true for wood fiber refining, coir processing/transportation, rock wool processing, etc. Once we know more about the true impacts, we can make more informed decisions about which product(s) can truly be more sustainable for growers based on their location, growth. operation, etc. All product producers are aware of this and are working on intensive sustainability, life cycle and circularity improvement efforts.
As has been repeatedly reported over the past few years, global demand for aboveground substrates is expected to increase by more than 400% by 2050 (Figure 3). This demand is fueled by the increase in agricultural production, the transition of new crops from soil to above-ground production (i.e. berries), the rise of the mushroom industry and the increase in home gardening. The crucial importance of the development of new alternative products has never been greater.
With so much growth and movement in the controlled environment production of more edible crops, culture media is critical to the future of food production, food safety, and national security. Even Congress is now aware of the challenges and importance of peat and growing media, highlighted recently by a congressional briefing on September 30, 2022 to inform members of the House Agriculture Committee of the issues , challenges and the need for culture media.
Growing media producers are aware of the challenges that product shortages and rising costs pose to growers and are doing everything possible to find short and long term solutions. For growers, communication is key, as is the value of strong relationships and committed partnerships with their product suppliers. Oh yes, and everyone should continue to place orders as soon as possible!
Current and future state of the growing media industry