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New £1million RHS research project to accelerate horticulture’s transition to peat-free

A £1million, co-funded, five-year project led by the charity will convene government, growers, and growing media manufacturers through the Growing Media Association and horticultural product supplier Fargro to research sustainable alternatives to peat in large-scale commercial settings.

Five growers will initially work alongside Dr. Raghavendra Prasad, who has joined the RHS’ 120-strong Science team at RHS Hilltop: Home of Gardening Science this month. They are Allensmore, Hills Plants, Johnsons of Whixley, The Farplants Group, and Vitacress, who collectively produce more than 46 million plants every year.

Areas of focus for the group will include peat-free plant and plug plant production, new growing media technologies to replace the estimated 1.7m m3 of peat used by the UK horticultural industry in 2021, growing protocols, best practice use of the latest products, and developing peat-free solutions for challenging plant groups such as carnivorous and ericaceous species.

Findings will also be shared ongoing with the wider industry, including specialist nurseries, as well as the UK’s 30 million home and community gardeners who, armed with a better understanding of sustainable alternatives and best practice advice, can aid the transition to peat-free.

The RHS has committed to being entirely peat-free by 2025, having banned the sale of peat-containing growing media in 2018.  

Dr. Raghavendra Prasad joins the RHS from Poland, where he recently completed his PhD at the University of Life Sciences in Poznan.

Professor Alistair Griffiths, Director of Science and Collections at the RHS, said: “It’s vital that the RHS works collaboratively with industry and government to research new, peat-free growing media technologies. We know there are already many peat alternatives out there, and even more as yet untapped, so we need to collaborate to develop and share best practice guidance to ensure that peat - which, when intact, can store carbon for thousands of years - stays in the ground.” 

Environment Minister Trudy Harrison said: “We are pleased to part-fund this ambitious project which will develop peat-free alternatives to protect nature and create green jobs. Ahead of our future phase-out of peat, this project will support the government and society to keep peat healthy and in the ground where it belongs. Healthy peatland will lock up carbon, strengthen our resilience to drought, and serve as a powerful nature-based solution to climate change.”

For more information:
Royal Horticultural Society


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