A recent question on the sustainability of peat moss bogs and the effects on the environment had me researching this issue. Peat moss has been used since the mid 1900" for soil enhancement by gardeners in the United States and the around the world. Many countries are moving away from the use of peat because of the destruction of the bogs and the possible environmental impact.
The problem with peat is the sustainablility issue and the storage of CO2 and it's release into the air when mined. Peat moss like trees stores or captures CO2. It helps with water filtration and is a habitat for many species. So what is an alternative for peat? Should gardeners use more compost in place of the peat, or not use peat at all?
Peat is often used as a soil improver but other materials perform better. Since peat has little or no nutrient value. wood-waste, spent mushroom compost, composted garden or green kitchen waste, leaf mold or well-rotted farmyard manure are more effective and less expensive soil enrichers. Many feel gardeners should be composting more and not depending on peat or alternatives. That in itself is another discussion.
Another alternative and new to the market in the last several years is coir. I came to know this material while traveling through Sri Lanka in 2010. It is made from the byproduct of the husk from the coconut and was considered highly sustainable in that country. Coir is this country comes from the Philippines and Sri Lanka. It is considered by some a viable alternative to peat. It is, however, by many not a good environmental alternative because of the shipping considerations.
So, the conversation rages on with the industry saying it is OK and getting certification of sustainability and others saying we need to go to something else to maintain the bogs for a better environment. Many countries are moving away from peat around the world and encouraging more composting and using waste materials to be used as an alternative to peat.
I tried to spotlight both side to the controversy in the articles below. Some say yes, some say no and some say depends. Two sides to every story.
For more information on the controversy.........Read and decide. It is a tough question.
Extension Oregon State Coir
Garden Rant blog
Article Natural Life Magazine