Peatland Ecology Research Group (PERG)
Université Laval
Sphagnum culture for production of fibers 1993

Although a non-renewable product, peat is a very interesting resource for growing substrates. In the past five years, Europeans have been putting forward the idea that Sphagnum fibers could be cultivated and become a renewable resource within a Sphagnum farming system. For a different purpose, from 1993 to 1997, our team has begun to develop the basis of cultivating Sphagnum in cutover peatlands. The aim was to supply an industrial plant with specific Sphagnum fibers for the production of absorbent board.

Enriched by this past experience, and because the future of peat utilization in Europe and USA is uncertain in regards of wetland protection, the Canadian peat industry is opting to begin now a research program towards the development of a Sphagnum culture system for the production of Sphagnum fibers, a resource that we would like to be renewable in the short term to enable its commercial utilization in growing substrate.

To that end, an experimental farm (referred to as Shippagan field station) will be established in the Acadian peninsula in New Brunswick. A former block-cut peatland will be used where trenches are already present because of past cutting activities. From the knowledge that GRET has accumulated so far in Sphagnum culture, the following research avenues will be pursued (as specified in the objectives of the Industrial Research Chair in Peatland Management):
  • to develop methods which favor the rapid establishment of monospecific or mixed Sphagnum carpets that will cover extensively each culture fields, and that will have the proper physical and chemical characteristics for being transformed into growing substrates;
  • to optimize the biomass accumulation rates and the quality of the Sphagnum carpets in view of minimizing the rotation period necessary before harvesting;
  • to develop methods to produce diaspores in greenhouses or in the field with the aim to supply good quality Sphagnum diaspores for the "seeding" of fields according to the cycle of harvests;
  • to characterize the Sphagnum biomass produced in terms of growing substrate properties;
  • to assess the impact of a Sphagnum farming system in view of the Kyoto Protocol for the Canadian peat industry.

Sphagnum farming at the Shippagan experimental site , New Brunswick (Photos: C. St-Arnaud).

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