A proposal to ban peat compost in NI by 2025 has been removed from DAERA’s peatland strategy.
In June 2021, a draft version of the strategy included the proposal to phase out the “use, import and sale” of peat compost by the middle of this decade.
However, an updated version, which was published last week, does not include any specific policy objectives on peat compost.
In the absence of alternative peat products, the suggested ban would have had significant implications for the NI horticulture sector, particularly mushroom growers.
The updated document states that a review into “peat extraction and the use of peat and peat products” will be conducted by 2023 and “any recommendations” will be taken forward.
Key targets for the management of peatlands in NI are largely unchanged between the two versions of DAERA’s strategy.
“The goal of this strategy is to ensure that peatlands in NI are conserved or under restoration management to become healthy, functioning ecosystems before 2040,” the updated document reads.
As peatlands make up 12% of the total land area in NI, this is likely to have major implications for many farmers, although the exact steps that will be needed to meet these management requirements are not set out in the document.
That said, over-grazing by livestock and drainage of peatlands is criticised in the document, so policies to discourage these activities can be expected in the future.
“[By] getting the right grazing levels suitable for these areas (neither under-grazing nor over-grazing) and undertaking sensitive restoration, such as drain blocking, the condition of the peatlands can be improved,” the strategy states.