A total of €1.69m in funding has been provided to the Teagasc-led research project 'Beyond Peat' by the Department of Agriculture.
The initiative focuses on utilising organic bio-resources and novel technologies to develop specifically designed and sustainable peat replacements for professional horticultural crop production.
Minister of State with special responsibility for horticulture Senator Pippa Hackett said: “This is a significant step in assisting the horticulture sector to transition from peat as a growing media to sustainable alternatives.”
The funding was awarded following the Department’s competitive research call 2021.
It comes in the wake of recent warnings by Growing Media Ireland (GMI) that 17,000 jobs across Ireland’s horticulture sector are at risk due to the sudden effective prohibition of all peat harvesting across Ireland.
Minister Hackett said that while peat has become an essential component in the production of plants and mushrooms in professional horticulture, there is a “pressing need to evaluate and develop alternatives which have a favourable environmental profile”.
She said such alternatives must also maintain crop yield and quality.
'Beyond Peat' will assess current available alternative growth and casing materials across five key sub-sectors of horticulture.
The research project will also develop advanced growth media utilising new technologies to transform organic wastes into materials with favourable physical characteristics for plant and mushroom performance.
Institutions across Ireland will collaborate with 'Beyond Peat', including Technological University of the Shannon, University of Limerick, University College Dublin, the Agri-Food & Biosciences Institute and University College Cork.
Senator Hackett outlined her Department’s “continued commitment to finding alternatives to peat as a growing media” and said this latest investment will build on research already funded.
“I would also encourage the horticulture sector to utilise the €9m in funding for the scheme of investment aid for the commercial horticulture sector in their transition to peat alternatives.”