PEAT MOSS

HARVESTING

THE DIFFERENT STEPS IN PEAT PRODUCTION

Ensuring proper drainage

A main ditch is dug along the perimeter of the peatland to drain water. Shallow ditches are dug parallel to one another to lower the water content in the peat to about 85%. These secondary ditches drain into the main peripheral ditch.

Removing surface vegetation

Using a rotovator, the surface vegetation is removed to expose the underlying peat. The plant fragments can be collected and transported to potential restoration sites.

Levelling of the field

A screw leveller is used to even the ground surface and to give the harvest fields a convex shape in order to improve drainage of surface runoff.

Preparing the field

The surface is harrowed to loosen the peat and accelerate the drying process which depends mainly on the sun and favorable wind conditions.

Harvesting the peat

After a few days of drying weather, the water content of the surface peat layer is reduced to about 50% and it is ready to be harvested using large vacuum harvesters or other suitable equipment.

Processing

The peat is transported to a processing facility to be screened in various grades and packaged. Special growing mixes can be produced by incorporating other ingredients such as compost, coir, bark or fertilizers.

Transporting the peat

The peat is now ready to be shipped! It is transported in the form of compressed bales of various sizes to be used by professional horticultural producers, greenhouse and nursery growers and home gardeners.

CHOOSING A PEATLAND

The process of selecting a peatland to harvest peat moss is greatly improved where there are available detailed surveys on the resource. Factors to be taken into consideration for this important step are:

  • Quality of the peat: it must meet market requirements. In Canada and the United States, light brown,  slightly decomposed sphagnum peat moss is preferred by professionals such as greenhouse growers. More decomposed, dark brown peat moss is generally used in horticultural mixes aimed at amateur gardeners.
  • Peat depth: the thickness of the horticultural grade peat layer must be sufficient to warrant development. An average depth of 2 m is generally considered to be a minimum.
  • Surface area: a peatland must be large enough to warrant further development. An area of 50 hectares is usually required, although smaller sites are occasionally developed.
  • Other factors: proximity to transportation infrastructure (roads, truck access), a low density of tree cover, availability of local workers, access to electrical power also play a decisive role in peatland selection.

Voici les principaux facteurs qui entrent en ligne de compte :

  • Qualité de la tourbe : elle doit répondre aux exigences du marché. Au Canada et aux États-Unis, on préfère une tourbe de sphaigne peu décomposée pour le marché professionnel, par exemple les cultures en serre. La tourbe brune, plus décomposée, est plutôt utilisée comme intrant dans les mélanges horticoles destinés aux horticulteurs amateurs.
  • Épaisseur : la couche de tourbe de qualité horticole doit être assez épaisse pour justifier l’ouverture d’une tourbière. Une épaisseur moyenne de 2 m est généralement considérée comme minimale.
  • Superficie : une tourbière doit être assez grande pour justifier son exploitation. Une superficie minimale de 50 ha est habituellement requise, mais des tourbières plus petites sont parfois exploitées.
  • Autres facteurs : la proximité d’une infrastructure de transport (route et camionnage), une faible densité du couvert forestier, l’existence d’une main-d’œuvre locale, l’accès à des installations électriques jouent également un rôle déterminant dans le choix d’une tourbière.

ACTS AND REGULATIONS

In Canada, peatlands are partially protected by the Federal policy on wetland conservation and by the Ramsar Convention, but the actual responsibility for the management of natural resources falls under the authority of the provincial and territorial governments.

In all Canadian jurisdictions, peat harvesting projects for horticultural purposes are subject to strict regulatory frameworks. For example, in Quebec, companies wishing to operate a new peatland must apply to the ministère de l’Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques (MELCC) for approval and, if it is related to a public land, they must comply with the different procedures and requirements of the ministère de l’Énergie et des Ressources naturelles (MERN).

Similar to Quebec requirements, specific terms and conditions apply in several Canadian provinces:

It should also be added that some peatlands are excluded from development projects because they are located in designated natural conservation areas or they have their own special characteristics that justify their conservations as natural areas.

Industry policies

All members of the Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss Association (CSPMA) have adopted a Preservation and Reclamation Policy that encourages harmonious cohabitation with the communities where they operate and continuous improvement of their practices.

Furthermore, in 2011, the Canadian association published its position on Sustainability development, followed in 2014 by its first social responsibility report.

In 2016, the Canadian industry introduced a national peatland restoration initiative (NPRI) to reduce the area of sites closed to production which have not yet been restored.