This year the Boningale Group is dramatically extending trials with peat-free growing media, with a goal to have all our retail production using completely peat-free media from 2024. Peatlands are a valuable resource for wildlife, carbon capture and water management, and the reduction of peat use in horticulture is part of Boningale’s commitment to be environmentally responsible.
Reduction of peat has been one of our environmental KPIs for ISO14001 for over a decade, and we have made steady progress in the reduction of peat as a percentage of our growing media during that time.
During the same period we have been expanding our in-house production to reduce reliance on imports (and therefore reducing risks of importing pests and diseases in line with our Plant Health Management Scheme).
We have decided to dramatically accelerate our plans to reach ‘zero peat’ in our own production as soon as is reasonably possible without sacrificing quality, rather than continuing with incremental yearly reductions. This will initially be focused on our retail production as this currently uses a higher proportion of peat, and meets a stronger customer demand for peat-free products.
Across the business we will be trialling three different peat-free mixes in addition to our regular peat-free propagation mix to ensure we get the best performance.
There are several stages to this process…
Our commercial propagation unit at our head office in Albrighton has been using peat-free media for propagation successfully for over 10 years led by our Propagation and HSEQ Manager Nerys Arch. At our retail production site Worfield, we will continue to phase out the use of peat-based propagation media by the end of 2022.
The liners and final products are currently handled differently across our commercial and retail growing sites. Currently commercial potting is 70% – 40% non-peat (liners and finals respectively) and our retail potting is 30% non-peat, so our first priority is to cut peat from our retail potting as soon as we can. From May 2022 we have potted 10% of each retail line into peat-free compost and have split that trial between two mixes side by side so that we can compare results.
We often buy young plants and liners in from other specialist growers, and approximately half of these supplying our retail lines are already growing peat-free – we will be talking to the others to help them on the journey.
In 2023 we will be building on our knowledge from the trials this year, and increasing the proportion of our stock grown in completely peat-free compost, to enable our transition to peat-free retail production in 2024. This does not mean we will be able to label all those products as ‘peat-free’, as they may still include peat from the earlier production stages.
Although our commercial production is starting from a lower proportion of peat usage we still have a lot of work to do to transition to completely peat-free production. We will be trialing peat-free media with our liners from June 2022 and doing a trial across mixed genera for our final potting. With the range of expertise and growing facilities across all our sites we will share knowledge and results to ensure we can maintain product quality.
We recognise that ‘zero peat’ is a challenging goal and will be publishing regular updates on our progress.