Peat is a critical resource in the horticulture industry. Its popularity as a substrate rings true for many greenhouse growers, which is why demand is high. However, the extraction of peat is highly weather-dependent, leading the industry to hope that Mother Nature falls in their favor.
In September, the Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss Association (CSPMA) released a harvest report explaining that poor weather conditions led to significantly lower harvest results this season. New Brunswick saw the worst historic weather conditions and harvested 40% of its expected quantity. Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba saw 48%, 68%, and 79%, respectively, of their expected harvests in cubic feet.
The harvest on Québec’s South Shore (72%) and North Shore (50%) were also below expectations due to summer storms. Similar weather patterns affected the Ontario (78%) harvest.
“It’s fair to say that the last two years have been challenging for the industry,” CSPMA President Asha Hingorani says. “The majority of the industry has a significant carryover of peat from the previous season. The industry is confident that it will meet the needs of the market.”
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Scott Thornton, Vice President of Sales of Premier Tech, says communication is key.
“It’s all about communication,” he says. “Make sure to ask the right questions and stay connected with us and your distributor partners. From our side, it’s about being transparent, sharing the facts, and looking for solutions to help clients through these unfortunate shortfalls.”
Thornton advises growers to order as soon as they can. By staying in touch with their supplier, growers can keep the peat producers in the loop on how much peat they need and how soon. This ensures that the suppliers will meet their needs.
“Innovation is what we’re always working on, not just in the plant operation, but also in the bogs and the harvesting operations and products,” he says. “We’re always looking for ways to improve.”
Since the window to harvest peat is short, Premier Tech is focusing on innovation in peat harvesting to make it as efficient as possible. Research and Development are ongoing, Thornton says. The industry has seen price increases during and post COVID-19. As for 2023, he says the prices for peat did not change much although costs continue to rise. Going forward, if fuel and labor costs keep rising, these will have an impact on shipping costs and prices to deliver products into 2024.
Global Substrate Trends
Søren Møller Nielsen, Sales Director Americas for Pindstrup, says they harvest peat in Latvia, and wood fiber is processed in Latvia and Northern Ireland. Across the Atlantic, they had a strong harvest in the spring and an average peat harvest in the summer, leading Pindstrup to meet its projection for the upcoming 2024 season.
“The North American market is starting to look more at alternative substrate availability from Europe,” Nielsen says. “Early on in June and July is when we heard of the potential for a lower than ideal harvest in Canada.”
In June and July, new customers began contacting Pindstrup and placing orders, Nielsen says. Like any growing media supplier, Pindstrup is looking to potentially expand its portfolio and offer more choices to growers.
Pindstrup has offered wood fiber in North America for the last nine years because wood fiber extends the supply of peat. Wood fiber is available year-round and is not subject to weather conditions.
In general, growers are happy with peat, Nielsen says, but the COVID-19 pandemic jumpstarted an interest in alternative substrates. There were shortages and delays, and growers are looking for consistent availability.
“When they’re committing to an ongoing purchase order for the upcoming season, they want to feel comfortable and secure that they will have what has been promised to them.”
Producers recommend that growers order peat six to eight months in advance to secure their supply.