Move towards responsibly sourced growing media use within UK horticulture


Move towards responsibly sourced growing media use within UK horticulture

A major project funded by Defra, the Horticultural Development Company (HDC) and Industry is set to ease the move towards responsibly sourced growing media.


The project, ‘Transition to responsibly sourced growing media use within UK horticulture’, is worth a £1 million over the next five years and has emerged from the previous work of the Defra Sustainable Growing Media Task Force.


Set to commence in January 2015, the project will focus on easing the transition from a dependence on peat to the acceptance and uptake of a broad range of proprietary, responsibly sourced growing media by the horticultural industry. 


Led by ADAS, Institute of Food Research (IFR), alongside Industry experts, growing media companies and horticultural production businesses, the project will advocate a move away from iterative trials towards an innovative predictive model which will target desirable blends at least financial cost.  To validate the model, large-scale on-site grower demonstration and R&D trials will be utilised for data gathering.


The experimental work and the application of the model will be used to promote the benefits to the industry of developing cost-effective and optimal performing raw material combinations. 


Head of Research and Development at HDC, Jon Knight said, “The commencement of this project is urgently needed by the horticulture industry which increasingly requires tried and tested, responsible growing media choices as well as access to information on the most effective and refined blends.  This project will enable a robust set of trials, coupled with a structured flow of knowledge between the research community and Industry, which will increase the confidence of commercial growers towards using progressive, innovative refined and of course responsibly sourced growing media.”


The first meeting of the Industry project steering groups is planned for early February 2015.


About the Sustainable Growing Media Taskforce:

  • The Sustainable Growing Media Taskforce was established in response to an ambition set out in the Natural Environmental White Paper to reduce peat use to zero in the horticulture industry by 2030 with voluntary phase out milestones for different sectors.  The Taskforce’s remit was to focus on ways in which barriers to the horticulture sector using sustainable growing media/substrate could be overcome, rather than solely considering how to reduce peat use.  The Taskforce submitted its final report and roadmap to Defra Ministers in July 2012.


  • The Government’s response to the report was published in January 2013 and it set out commitments for action that Government will take to support the delivery of the roadmap and a commitment to carry out a policy review in 2015.  The programme for action includes a £1m 5 year R&D funding programme with the HDC to address technical barriers to the use of peat alternatives