Peat substitute: potting soil from heather

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Peaty potting soil is simply harmful to the environment. The peat extraction destroys important bioreservates, thus contributing to the disappearance of many plants and animals and also releases bound carbon dioxide in the peat. This greenhouse gas is released into the atmosphere in large quantities and supports the negative global temperature rise. In addition, peat contains only few nutrients and provides in larger quantities for acidification of the soil. In the long term, the use of peat-containing soil in the garden is therefore not recommended.

Researchers looking for peat substitute

Researchers at the Institute of Soil Science at Leibniz Universit├Ąt Hannover are therefore currently in the process of finding useful peat substitutes. They are supported by the German Federal Environmental Foundation (DBU) and have already developed a test grid with criteria and methods that has already proven itself in plant cultivation experiments. Ultimately, it is intended to create a comprehensive tool that can be used under a variety of conditions. Simply put, the researchers record plants that can thrive on different substrates, thrive in different climatic conditions and can replace composted peat. At the moment, the researchers are concentrating on plants that are used as landscape care material or, in any case, as crop biomass.

Heath as a prime example of a peat substitute

In the case of renaturation measures, the heath moved into the focus of the researchers. In order to accelerate the renaturation process, a surface had to be regularly rejuvenated. The resulting cutting material was checked by the researchers for its suitability as peat substitute and was convincing. In germination tests according to criteria of the Association of German Agricultural Research Institutes (VDLUFA), young plants in heath compost were able to flourish well. Now, further experiments and analyzes are to show what applications and how much potential there is in the heath. For despite all the ambitious research, the production of the new compost must also be economically interesting. Because only when the new peat substitutes produce alternative sources of income for agriculture, will the system ultimately prevail.

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