Almost €1.7 million is to be spent by the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine (DAFM) on a project researching alternatives to peat.

It is among 24 studies selected to share in €20 million of grant funding, following a competitive research call by DAFM.

The projects will be carried out by around 120 researchers and students, across 19 organisations, including Teagasc, universities and institutes of technology.


Due to its chemical, biological and physical characteristics, peat has become an essential part of the production of mushrooms and plants in professional horticulture.

However, DAFM said: “There is a pressing need to evaluate and develop alternatives, which have a favourable environmental profile, while also maintaining crop yield and quality.”

Minister of State, with special responsibility for horticulture, Pippa Hackett has welcomed the €1.69 million that will be spent on researching peat alternatives.

“This is a significant step in assisting the horticulture sector to transition from peat as a growing media to sustainable alternatives,” she said.

Growing Media Ireland (GMI), the representative group for most growing media producers in Ireland, claims that 17,000 jobs across Ireland’s horticulture sector are at risk, with massive reserves of horticultural peat being imported “with higher cost both financially and environmentally”.

The group said in September, a 4,000t shipment of horticultural peat arrived in Ireland.


Teagasc will lead the ‘Beyond Peat’ research project focusing on organic bio-resources and novel technologies to develop specifically designed and sustainable peat replacements for professional horticultural crop production.

It will assess currently available alternative growth and casing materials across five areas of horticulture.

The research will develop advanced growth media using new technologies to transform organic wastes into materials with favourable physical characteristics for plant and mushroom performance.

Technological University of the Shannon (TUS), University of Limerick (UL), University College Dublin (UCD), Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) and University College Cork (UCC) will collaborate on the project.

Minister Hackett has also encouraged the horticulture sector to use the €9 million in funding for the Scheme of Investment Aid for the Commercial Horticulture Sector in their transition to peat alternatives.

The scheme provides funding to growers for capital investment in specialised plant and equipment and technology.