UK Peat Ban: Carnivorous Plants Can Be Grown Without Peat

A recent experiment supporting the UK peat ban proves carnivorous plants and flowers grow better without peat.
Reading Time: 3 minutes

A recent experiment supporting the UK peat ban proves carnivorous plants and flowers grow better without peat. Source: Unsplash

Reading Time: 3 minutes

A recent experiment supporting the UK peat ban proves carnivorous plants and flowers grow better without peat.

A recent experiment conducted by the Royal Horticultural Society for the UK peat ban has proved that not only is it unnecessary to use peat compost in growing carnivorous plants and ornamental flowers, but it is beneficial to the plants to use other sustainable alternatives. 

The UK peat ban is a proposed a ban on the use of peat in private gardens and allotments by 2024. However, there is some opposition to this proposal, with some people arguing that it will be more difficult to grow carnivorous plants and other flowers without peat.

Peat is a type of soil that is made up of partially decomposed plant material. It is often used in gardening because it is acidic and retains moisture well. However, peat is also a non-renewable resource that is damaging to the environment. Peat bogs are important ecosystems that store carbon and help to regulate the water cycle. When peat is dug up, it releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

The government’s proposal to ban peat in gardens is part of its commitment to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The government argues that the UK peat ban will help to reduce the demand for peat and protect peat bogs.

The UK Peat Ban and Carbon Sinks

Creating and restoring carbon sinks are increasingly important in a world where carbon emissions continue to be of pressing concern. The largest and most important carbon sinks are mainly forests and soil; however, others play their necessary role in sequestering carbon. 

Peatlands are one of these increasingly important carbon sinks, especially in the UK, where carbon reduction goals have been consistently neglected. These peatlands have been degraded and neglected over the past decades, and the main contributor to this degradation is the peat compost industry. 

Peatlands are desirable for compost due to the high carbon content in the soil; however, this high carbon content is precisely why it should be left in the ground. Peatlands comprise only 3% of soil worldwide; however, they contain ⅓ of the total carbon stored in the soil. In Europe, intact peatlands contain five times more carbon than forests. 

When the peat is dug up and put into bags that are then sold, this carbon is released into the atmosphere creating a considerable amount of emissions. That is why there the proposal in the UK for a UK peat ban to ban peat compost entirely, has met with some opposition. 

To bring amateur gardeners and horticulturalists onto the side of the UK peat ban, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has completed an experiment showing that carnivorous plants are easily and more effectively grown in non-peat compost material. 

How Was the Experiment Conducted?

The RHS at Sean Higgs of Floralive conducted the experiment, which has grown carnivorous plants without peat since the 1990s. The experiment proved that two carnivorous pitcher plants can be grown better and stronger without peat. 

Peat compost had been considered the only way to grow these plants previously due to these plants being found naturally in peatlands. However, this experiment has proved the opposite, supporting the proposed UK peat ban.

In the experiment, scientists grew a Sarracenia Leucophylla hybrid and a Sarracenia Purpurea. The plants were grown in identical conditions, using six different varieties of non-peat-based compost. 

These different mixes included a sustainably grown sphagnum moss, pine bark, acidified biochar, and a formulated peat-free media created by Floralive. They also grew a control plant in peat compost. 

The carnivorous plants expert and enthusiasts Roy Cheek and Mike King judged the plants’ growth and appearance. They found that the plants grown in sphagnum and other organic materials were superior to those grown in peat, specifically impressed by the array of colors in the example grown with sphagnum. 

Professor Alistair Griffiths, the RHS’ director of science, said, “It is very exciting to see the results from the judging clearly demonstrating that the plants grown in peat were inferior to those grown in alternatives and that Sarracenia can be grown to the highest standard without peat.”

“Moving away from peat in horticulture has a key role in meeting net zero through protecting and restoring peatlands, turning them from carbon sources to carbon sinks, and preventing further loss of these vital habitats. Our research comes at a critical point in the UK’s response to the climate crisis when it is more important than ever that all possible reductions in emissions are made.”

The future is keeping peatlands protected.

While the UK peat ban has not been put into practice yet, it is crucial that these natural peatlands are protected and conserved from the industry. 

This experiment shows that growing these plants in peat is unnecessary, but it is better to grow them without peat. This means no contradiction exists between the maintenance and conservation of peatlands and the growing of these interesting and rare plants. 

As we go into a future without peat-based compost, these findings will be a prime example of why we made this decision, and amateur gardeners and horticulturalists can be on board with it. 

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