A ban on peat harvesting will have a very serious impact on the mushroom industry, Monaghan Senator Robbie Gallagher told the Seanad on Monday in a debate on the issues for growers importing horticultural grade peat.

“The Minister needs to introduce measures to ensure the resumption of harvesting of horticultural peat for the mushroom industry to avoid a shortage this year, as well as measure to support and incentivise the use of spent mushroom compost,” Gallagher stated.

“If peat is not available here in Ireland, the mushroom industry will actually be forced to import peat from the Baltic states or northern Europe at a huge cost, both in financial terms to the industry itself but also in relation to the higher carbon footprint of transporting that peat into the country.

“The industry is heavily reliant on high grade horticultural peat and there is currently no viable alternative to horticultural peat,” he said.

Senator Gallagher said that of Ireland's 1.5m hectares of peatlands, only 10-15ha is actually used for harvesting horticultural grade peat.

Not a ban

Minister of State in the Department of Agriculture Senator Pippa Hackett responded to the Co Monaghan senator’s concerns, making the distinction between an outright ban on peat harvesting and increased planning requirements.

“It is important to point out at the out-set that there is not a ban on harvesting peat, it is rather the requirement for compliance with the regulatory framework for the extraction which requires both planning and integrated pollution control [IPC] licensing depending on the circumstance," she said.

The Minister also brought attention to ongoing research evaluating possible alternatives to peat as a medium for growing mushrooms.