Research into environmentally friendly, peat-free compost is proving successful.

A joint project between the University of Lincoln and Bettaland nursery in Spalding has been looking at peat alternatives following a Government announcement that all garden centres and DIY stores have until 2020 to stop trading peat-based products.

David Stainton, principal lecturer in agriculture at the University’s Riseholme campus, said the results of recent trials on Bettaland’s peat-free products were encouraging.

Mr Stainton said: “There is a huge commercial need to create peat-free compost and the evidence we have to date shows promise, with the compost created from green waste comparing very favourably. The biggest problem is its inconsistency. Peat is an extremely stable growing medium which we understand in terms of its behaviour. For example, if it’s watered we know how it will react and the rate of growth for whatever is planted. The problem with green waste is that it comes from a variety of different sources so high quality management is needed to create a stable product.”

Commercial extraction of peat leads to the destruction of peat lands, damaging habitats and biological diversity.

Following the ban on peat for retail use, the long-term goal is to eliminate peat use by all gardeners, growers and procurers by 2030 at the latest.

Mr Stainton said that important progress has been made in reducing peat use in growing media products over recent years, but there is still a long way to go.

He said: “There are already some good products that are peat reduced, but the aim is to be able to replace all peat mixes with an alternative product that is just as reliable. The ‘waste’ material used as a feedstock to produce the green waste compost would have, prior to composting, found its way to landfill. The composting process now produces a valuable resource that can be used as a soil improver. The possibility of the material performing as a growing medium would give added-value to the product and potentially reduce the demand on the use of peat.”

Shaun Dring, manager at Bettaland nursery, said: “We wanted to make sure our peat-free compost was reliable under test conditions and we are extremely pleased to have this confirmed by the University of Lincoln.”