The targets and measures set out in the Climate Action Plan 2050 include reducing peat consumption in horticulture. The fact that this is possible is evidenced by numerous research projects in which positive results have been achieved with a variety of peat-reduced and peat-free substrates. Despite this, the vast majority of ornamental plant production currently still uses peat-based substrates. The reluctance of farms to change their practices is due, in particular, to concerns about both crop safety and economic viability. More intensive knowledge transfer is required in order to break down these inhibitions. For this reason, the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (Bundesministerium für Ernährung und Landwirtschaft, BMEL) is funding the nationwide model and demonstration project 'TerZ – Use of peat-reduced substrates in ornamental plant cultivation' under the project management of the Federal Office for Agriculture and Food (Bundesanstalt für Landwirtschaft und Ernährung, BLE). The four-year period is to be used to demonstrate that high-quality ornamental plants can also be produced with peat-reduced substrates, that cultivation safety can be maintained and that additional costs can be kept low. The proportion of peat in the substrates used is gradually reduced depending on the crop and farm and ultimately should be no more than 50%.
In each of the five model regions nationwide, during conversion to peat-reduced substrates, demonstration farms are intensively supported by a research institution (*) based in the respective region. In the 'South' model region, this task is undertaken by the Institute of Horticulture (IGB) of Weihenstephan-Triesdorf University of Applied Sciences (HSWT). Under the direction of Prof. Elke Meinken, the Regional Coordinator, Ronja Fritzsche, supervises four model farms distributed throughout Bavaria in the establishment of significantly peat-reduced substrates. Furthermore, substrate analyses for all model regions are carried out in the modern laboratory of Prof. Meinken’s research team.
Alongside technical cultivation support, there is also business management support, which examines the economic effects of substrate conversion. This task is the responsibility of the Business Economics department of the Institute of Horticulture (IGB) at Weihenstephan-Triesdorf University of Applied Sciences (HSWT). Under the direction of Prof. Stefan Krusche, Business Management Coordinator, Anette Stadler, is collecting extensive data on labour input, costs, and crop performance for all model farms throughout Germany in order to be able to derive well-founded statements on the economic consequences of peat reduction.
In addition to technical support for the model farms, knowledge transfer is also a major focus of the project. On the one hand, there is an intensive exchange of experience between the companies involved in the project and, on the other hand, the knowledge gained is made available to a wide circle of interested companies within the context of information events.
(*) The TerZ project consortium is made up of:
Hanover/Ahlem State Horticultural College and Research Institute (LVG) in the north, Cologne/Auweiler Horticulture Testing Centre in the west, Dresden/Pillnitz State Office for the Environment, Agriculture and Geology in the east, Heidelberg State Horticultural College and Research Institute (LVG) in the southwest and Weihenstephan-Triesdorf University of Applied Sciences (HSWT) in the south.