Research visit to a peat-free growing media producer

On 25th November, Organic-PLUS partners Coventry University and the RHS visited Melcourt Industries, a major UK manufacturer of peat-free growing media. Melcourt has been producing growing media blends for both commercial and domestic users for over 20 years, with bark and wood fibre from UK forestry being the primary constituents. A number of their products are approved for use in organic systems and are in high demand.

Together with representatives from our associated partner Garden Organic, we were able to see the processing and packing of Melcourt’s peat-free growing media at their site near Tetbury. We met with Technical Director Catherine Dawson and Technical Manager Victoria Wright who showed us round the facility and took the time to explain their business, the wider issues about peat replacements and the introduction of the Responsible Sourcing and Manufacturing of Growing Media Calculator. This is a tool developed by the  Growing Media Association and Horticulture Trades Association in the UK and it will be used form spring 2022 to score the responsible sourcing credentials of all bulky ingredients in growing media, providing point of sale information to UK gardeners.

Technical Director of Melcourt, Catherine Dawson leading a tour of the site

Although the extraction of peat for use in growing media is highly contentious (due to habitat loss/degradation, CO2 emissions and increasing flood risk), it is still a primary ingredient in many mixes used by organic growers across Europe. In the UK, there is now a government deadline to end sales of peat to domestic gardeners by 2024 and momentum is building for a complete ban. Organic-PLUS would like to see the organic movement to phase out the use of peat in organic horticulture from its standards across Europe before they are overtaken by national legislations.

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