Sphagnum farming Paludiculture on degraded bogs in Germany

Introduction

A pilot project in Lower Saxony shows that producing Sphagnum biomass as an alternative to extracting fossil peat for ‘growing media’ (horticultural potting soil) may help reduce the loss of pristine bog ecosystems.

Description

To cover the growing demands from world-wide urbanisation, the cultivation of vegetables, fruits and flowers takes place in pre-prepared growing media, consisting mainly of slightly humified peat (‘white peat’) which is built up in natural bogs by Sphagnum species . Extracting this fossil resource destroys raised bogs and their associated ecosystem functions, including carbon storage and water regulation. As a result, the stocks of white peat in most countries of western and central Europe are largely depleted, and living bogs have become so rare that the few remaining examples are strictly protected. As the availability of peat becomes limited, the growing media industry is forced to source it from ever more remote areas. Thus there is an urgent need to develop sustainable alternatives for peat not only from ecological but also from economic and social point of view. The most promising alternative is Sphagnum biomass. Its use as a raw material for growing media in modern professional horticulture has been successfully tested and in some cases demonstrates even better results than the peat-based substrates developed over many years.

Project Aims

Within 10 years this project could demonstrate that Sphagnum farming in Germany is possible and promising. Methodologies have been developed for both: - land-based cultivation on degraded bogs (i.e. formerly used as pasture or meadow and after peat extraction) - water-based Sphagnum cultivation on artificial floating mats on water bodies, resulting from peat, sand and lignite extraction. As a result, a cultivation mosaic on different degraded peatland sites is conceivable. Substituting all of the white peat consumed in German horticulture (ca. 3 million m³ per year) would require Sphagnum farming on ca. 40,000 ha. Considering there is more than 120,000 ha of bog grassland in Lower Saxony alone, this target seems achievable. Up-scaling the Sphagnum farming process is the next big challenge for the project. Follow the progress on www.sphagnumfarming.com

Restoration Delivered

In spring 2011, the research team, set up by the university and peat industry, established an almost 5 ha large industry scale pilot site on agricultural bog grassland near Rastede (Lower Saxony, Northwest Germany). To do this, the team removed the upper topsoil, which was strongly degraded, and installed a water management system for irrigation and drainage. They then introduced Sphagnum diaspores with a manure spreader mounted on a former snow groomer (photo 1). After 1.5 years Sphagnum palustre, S. papillosum and S. fallax covered 95% of the area with an average lawn height of 8.3 cm (maximum 22.4 cm). The field site has already demonstrated the feasibility of large scale Sphagnum farming (see photo 2) and now enables the team to develop methodologies and machines to upscale the cultivation and harvest of Sphagnum biomass.

Site Activity

The cultivation and harvest of Sphagnum biomass (Sphagnum farming) aims to replace fossil peat in horticultural growing media with a renewable raw material. In contrast to conventional drainage based agricultural use or peat extraction, wet cultivation, known as paludiculture, maintains the peat body as a carbon store. In cooperation with various research and industrial partners, Greifswald University has spent the last decade studying Sphagnum farming, including diaspore recruitment, plant establishment, optimisation of site conditions, productivity, and regeneration after harvest.

{"zoom":10,"lat":53.2979291,"lon":8.2760671,"markers":{"0":{"lat":53.244792174,"lon":8.191088988}}}

Project Name: Sphagnum farming Paludiculture on degraded bogs in Germany

Organisation / Lead partner: University of Greifswald

Predominately: Upland

MFFP image
Peak District study reveals depths of carbon stored in threatened landscapesWith the UN Climate Conference (COP26) being held in Glasgow in under one months’ time, a new study…
WaterLANDS logo
WaterLANDS: New European Green Deal project launched to lead largescale restoration of European wetlandsAn ambitious project has been launched to tackle largescale restoration of Europe’s wetlands, with…
A detail from the map indicating areas of the highest carbon potential (in red) derived from the peat motion map covering the period 2016-21.  Potential carbon savings and their market value per annum are indicated for the different areas highlighted.
Satellite Map Identifies Peatland Areas where Restoration has the Greatest Carbon ImpactPeatland organisations and experts from across the globe have joined together to pledge their…
Peatland Pavilion concept
Peatland Pavilion will feature at UN Climate Change Conference (COP26)The Peatland Pavilion will provide a hub for highlighting the important role that peatlands play…
Bord na mona
United Nations recognizes major Irish Peatland Restoration initiativeDianna Kopansky of the United Nations Environment Programme has recognised the initiative led by…
GPI logo
Open call! Your opportunity to participate as a Contributing Author for the GPI’s upcoming Global Peatlands AssessmentThe Global Peatlands Initiative are currently looking for Contributing Authors (CAs) to participate…
Peatlands Are...
Reflections from Bog Day 2021This year's Bog Day was celebrated around the world on Sunday 25th July - bringing peatlands to the…
Power Station image
UK invests over £30m in large-scale greenhouse gas removalWe are delighted to support this project which will investigate the management of peatlands to…
IUCN UK PP Conf 21
Conference 2021 Registration OpenSign up for this year's IUCN UK Peatland Programme conference ‘Peatlands in Partnership: a road to…
Butterburn flow
Nature for Climate Peatland Grant SchemeInformation about the scheme to restore English peatlands and how to apply for funding.
IUCN UK PP Conference 2021
IUCN UK PP Conference 2021 - Save the dateSave the Dates: 13th - 16th September 2021
Minister Poots pictured with Jennifer Fulton, CEO of Ulster Wildlife
Northern Ireland Peatland Strategy ConsultationEnvironment Minister, Edwin Poots has launched a public consultation on the draft Northern Ireland…