Summary of the International Peat Congress in Kuching, Malaysia (15-19 Aug. 2016)
By Gerald Schmilewski, President of the IPS and member of our ISHS Working Group Growing Media
The 15th International Peat Congress, with 1,000 participants was excellently organized by the National Committee of the IPS in Kuching, Borneo.
Kuching has a newly built Tropical Peat Research Institute and Borneo has extensive peatlands. They are mainly used as oil palm plantations and agriculture.
Although the focus of the congress was on the pros and cons of palm oil production on peatland and its impact on the environment, economics and society, participants could also learn from the presentations given by Prof. Xianmin Meng (Chinese peat expert) and Mr. Xiancheng Zeng (President of the IPS National Committee China) about the envisaged developments in the growing media sector in China.
China is striving to set up a growing media industry that will outmatch any known industry in the sector and to have quality standards comparable to those in Europe and North America. Based on his company's yearly Sustainability Reporting, Moritz Böcking show that growing media manufacturers not only have responsibilities towards their costumers but also for the environment and that the use of other materials than peat can and should be used if feasible.
This, of course, is also driven by politics and environmental NGOs.
Gerald Schmilewski gave an update on findings resulting from the use of Sphagnum as a growing media constituent and associated opportunities and challenges when farming Sphagnum. He also exhibited a number of growing media constituents – most of them unknown to the participants.
Numerous other papers and posters were presented on the use of peatlands for fruit and vegetable production, the quality of growing media and microbiological aspects of peat.
The next International Peat Congress will be in Tallinn, Estonia, where the event preparations have already started.