Ireland ‘must be allowed’ to mill peat for horticulture until viable alternative found

Research and innovation “must be applied” to find alternatives to peat for the horticultural Industry – but in the meantime Ireland must be allowed to mill peat for horticulture, independent senator Victor Boyhan has said.

In a statement this week, the Seanad Agricultural Panel member said:

“I am calling for an economic impact assessments [EIA] to be carried out to estimate the cumulative economic effects [sales, exports and employment etc] associated with the peat, horticulture, forestry, agri-food and related sectors of the economy.”

A horticulturist by profession, the independent senator called on Minister of Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue to commission Teagasc to conduct research trials into alternatives to peat for the horticultural industry, agri-food and forestry sector.

Highlighting that the Irish horticulture sector – particularly mushroom, vegetable and ornamental enterprises – relies on milled peat, senator Boyhan said:

The end of peat production in Ireland would be catastrophic for the horticultural sector, most likely making the production of mushrooms, lettuce and many ornamental crops in Ireland uneconomic.

The senator noted that the unavailability of peat from Irish sources for mushroom casing “will lead to either the closure of the mushroom industry or the importation of casing material from other EU countries at a higher environmental and financial cost, impacting on the viability of the industry”.

He also flagged the knock-on effects on both the poultry and farm forestry sectors.

On another note, senator Boyhan stressed that, under the Programme for Government, climate change policy is to expand rather than undermine the Irish horticulture sector.

“The demise of the horticulture, tillage or forestry sectors in Ireland would certainly hinder Ireland in meeting its objectives and obligations relating to air quality, climate, water quality, nature and the environment,” he said

Without an Irish supply of peat, Irish horticultural growers would be wiped out by Dutch plant and mushroom imports. It would be sheer madness and hypocritical to ban the harvesting of peat in Ireland while importing it from another EU or third country.

The senator underlined that the challenge is to find alternatives to peat based growing material for horticultural production, “which are readily available, affordable and sustainable and meet both quality and environmental requirements is a significant challenge”.

“Alternatives must be examined in relation to quality, crop yield, health and safety and carbon footprint arising from any new or production processes, weight and transport requirements.”

“I am calling on the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine to commission Teagasc to conduct research trials into alternatives to peat for the horticultural industry, agri-food and forestry sector in the meantime peat milled must be allow continue.”

“Jobs in the food and forestry sector must be protected, the horticulture industry needs to be afforded a period of ‘just transition’, sustainable alternatives to peat that will yield high-quality food production and are profitable must be explored through research an innovation,” the senator concluded.