ISCF WAVE 1 AGRI TECH - Sphagnum Farming UK - a sustainable alternative to peat in growing media

Lead Research Organisation: University of East London
Department Name: Sustainability Research Institute

Abstract

The current commercial extraction of peat for use as a growing media in horticulture is widely acknowledged as unsustainable, is destroying increasingly rare and highly-valued ecosystems, is having an adverse effect on carbon emissions, and is becoming increasingly difficult to sustain within the constraints of the planning process. A high-quality alternative to peat as a growing medium is urgently needed if the growing media industry is to have a long-term future. Commercially farmed Sphagnum moss could provide this because the highest-quality horticultural peat consists largely of semi-decomposed Sphagnum leaf and stem fragments. Fresh Sphagnum provides the same characteristics and properties as high-quality peat but cannot currently be readily obtained from the wild because Sphagnum-rich areas have become increasingly rare and those which do remain are largely now protected under environmental legislation. Sphagnum farming, on the other hand, offers the potential to provide a sustainable supply of high-quality growing medium into the foreseeable future. Such farming requires a source of starting propagules at the outset, however, to generate the initial crop. This is currently a significant obstacle for the same reasons that make wild harvesting of fresh Sphagnum undesirable and difficult. Until now it has not been possible to propagate and grow Sphagnum in large quantities, a limitation which has prevented active consideration of the possibilities offered by fresh Sphagnum. Micropropagation Services Ltd (MPS), however, have researched a unique laboratory technique for the micropropagation of Sphagnum which now offers the potential to grow this moss on a commercial scale. This novel solution involves the mass production of Sphagnum from leaf fragments using sterile tissue culture - micropropagation. Since 2008 MMU has supplied research support to MPS to develop methods of planting propagated Sphagnum in the field for habitat restoration. The scale of restoration using these methods in northern England is significant, having increased to 1,000 ha of upland peatland in 2013-2015.

The current project proposal aims to establish the underpinning processes, the cultivation requirements and the production potential involved in growing Sphagnum on a scale sufficient to form source material in quantities which would make Sphagnum farming a viable proposition using cultivation techniques which are applicable at the farm-field scale. Our project will focus on an area of peatland which has previously been used for commercial peat extraction but which has now reached the end of its commercial life because there is little peat left to extract. MMU research within the consortium project will be strongly integrated with approaches at smaller and larger scales led by the other partners. MMU will field test the growth of selected Sphagnum genotypes in experimental small field plots; we will investigate the possibility of increasing production through nutrient addition. Drained peatlands are a source of respiratory CO2. Re-wetting and cultivation of Sphagnum has the potential to sequester carbon through raising CO2 assimilation in photosynthesis and cutting CO2 losses in respiration. However, the switch from a dry to a wet peatland may stimulate methane (CH4) emissions from the bog surface and surrounding irrigation ditches. The time-course and net benefits of wetting and Sphagnum cultivation on carbon exchange require evaluation. Nutrient demand and cycling by Sphagnum farming has not been assessed but requires investigation in order to provide optimal supply for production while minimizing losses such as emissions of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide or release to water courses of dissolved inorganic nitrogen. Increased knowledge learned from MMU research will guide product development through improvement of Sphagnum production within an environmentally sustainable farming system.

Technical Summary

Commercial extraction of peat for growing media in horticulture is unsustainable, is destroying highly valued ecosystems and having an adverse effect on landscape greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions. A sustainable alternative to commercially-valuable 'white peat' is needed to preserve peatland carbon stocks and to give the growing media industry a long-term future. This project aims to establish the principles and practicalities of growing Sphagnum moss as a commercial crop for use in horticulture and the consequences of this for GHG emissions and nutrient losses. Our partners Micropropagation Services Ltd (MPS) have developed tissue culture micropropagation of Sphagnum, which offers the potential to grow this moss on a commercial scale on re-wetted peatlands. Consortium research will use glasshouse growth trials, experimental field plots on a former peat-extraction site near Manchester, and larger field-trial plots established on agriculturalised peat near Loughborough. A detailed digital terrain model (DTM) of the various field plots will be obtained by University of East London (UEL) using terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) on the prepared ground, and a series of 'peat anchors' will provide fixed reference points to measure any subsequent swelling of the peat following re-wetting and Sphagnum crop growth and saleable volume over the project. GHG (CO2, CH4, N2O) flux rates and water chemistry will be monitored by Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) to understand the effect of different treatments on carbon balance, nutrient use and global warming potential while UEL will monitor water relations of the various plots both in terms of the water table in the peat and the pore-water pressure in the Sphagnum. Increased knowledge learned from this project will guide product development and Sphagnum production within an environmentally sustainable farming system.

Planned Impact

This consortium project will have an impact in the UK beyond the academic environment through close integration of University researchers (UEL and MMU) with lead organisation Micropropagation Services Ltd (MPS) and commercial partners Melcourt Industries (MI). This 15-month study seeks to investigate and develop the means of growing a commercial-scale Sphagnum crop and understanding the environmental consequences of cultivation. We anticipate specific impacts from this work to be seen in the following areas:

Growing-media industry: The phasing-out of peat in UK horticulture has serious implications for the producers and users of quality growing media in the industry, particularly as UK demand for growing media is increasing. Sphagnum as a growing medium offers a potential new income stream in the form of a sustainable alternative to peat to project partner MI as well as to other UK companies currently engaged in peat extraction but increasingly faced with time-limited consents. In particular, MI are closely involved in developing the Responsible Sourcing Scheme, an industry-wide initiative supported by DEFRA to reduce the use of peat. The potential exists to develop the supply chain of growing media more widely within both the UK and continental Europe through close partner contacts with the growing-media industry - e.g. partner links to the industry through Defra, and MPS with key German growing-media suppliers (Klasmann-Deilmann GmbH).

Plant growers: Sphagnum farming offers the horticultural industry a long-term sustainable supply of growing media, providing an effective product with environmentally sustainable credentials which could qualify for an EU 'eco-label' (peat does not qualify). UEL links with, for example, Gardening Which? and RSPB also offer the potential to encourage retail take-up through schemes such as RSPB's 'Give Nature a Home'.

Farmers and Land owners: Sphagnum farming on wetland soils offers farmers and landowners a new innovative high value crop for areas of peat soil currently subject to agricultural drainage and use but which are therefore subsiding and thus increasingly at risk from flooding as well as releasing significant quantities of carbon. Sphagnum farming offers one novel means of maintaining productivity from such land even with increasing policy shifts towards re-wetting such farmed peat soils UEL links with Defra and the Soil Association can be used to develop and promote this new form of sustainable agriculture.

Construction and recycling industry: UEL's work with the construction and recycling industry offers the opportunity to develop novel, commercially attractive materials derived from mixing Sphagnum with industry waste.

Government bodies: The project will inform policy in DEFRA, for example through the Defra/HDC/horticultural industry funded programme of work to 'Progress the transition to responsibly sourced growing media use within UK horticulture' (SP1215, 2015-2019). DEFRA is also currently preparing a peatland strategy for England, seeking to establish the sustainable management of UK peatlands and peatland soils, assisted by UEL. Sphagnum farming could play an important part within this since it provides a means by which current unsustainable wetland use could be transformed into sustainable practice. The current project proposal will explore carbon fluxes associated with Sphagnum farming and thereby inform DEFRA policy on reduction of carbon emissions from peatlands for climate change mitigation. Meanwhile both carbon and climate change responses across society as a whole are being considered by the UK Committee for Climate Change, with whom UEL is actively involved. Novel ways of managing UK peat soils to reduce carbon emissions and reduce flood risk is a significant part of the UKCCC's deliberations.
 
Title SCHOOL FOR CIVIC ACTION WITH PUBLIC WORKS, Tate Modern & Tate Exchange, 
Description The PI, CoI, and project partners MicroPropagation services contributed materials showcasing the sustainable applications of cultivated Sphagnum biomass, and raised public awareness of the benefits of peatlands for climate and biodiversity. This was delivered through collaboration with the company public works and the school for civic action programme. Exhibition description below: This year we'll be focusing on how 'civic action' can allow participants to develop new skills and strategies to affect change in the city. We are inviting you to explore and share ideas for the Civic City. Together we'll transform Tate Exchange into a public classroom, bringing together activists and practitioners engaged in civic movement, and prototyping a collective education platform for civic action. This event is programmed by public works, a Tate Exchange Associate, and supported by their collaborators: Just Space, Arts Catalyst, 30 Bird, Edible Rotherhithe, Southwark Council, MA Design for Cultural Commons at London Metropolitan University, Women's Environmental Network, Commune Festival, Extinction Rebellion, Grove Adventure Playground, Sunny Jar Eco Hub, the British Bryology Society, University of East London, Kings College London, Peckham Vision, and the London School of Mosaic. For this event, timber has been donated by SCA via Huws Gray Ridgeons and Champion Timber, facilitated by TRADA's university engagement programme. 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2019 
Impact Through the School for civic action, delivered with public works. the PI, CoI, and project partners MicroPropagation services delivered an exhibition showcasing the sustainable applications of cultivated Sphagnum biomass, and raised public awareness of the benefits of peatlands for climate and biodiversity. This exhibition was visited by the public, and members of DEFRA soils also visited which raised awareness for Sphagnum farming and paludiculture at the policymaker level. https://twitter.com/DefraSoils/status/1154684016311832576 
URL https://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/tate-exchange/workshop/school-civic-action
 
Description Water Table - Pore Water Pressure dynamics, as well as the position of the soil water-table, are important in Sphagnum Farming
Sphagnum Growth is demonstrably successful using MicroPropagated seedstock
Terrestrial Laser Scanning can provide accurate and comprehensive survey data to complement traditional monitoring methods when calculating development of crop volume.
Exploitation Route We are intending to publish the novel results from this work more formally through publication in Mires and Peat - which is rapidly becoming the journal of choice for peatland researchers around the world.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education,Energy,Environment,Healthcare,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology

 
Description The results of the project have fed directly into development of Government policy as set out in the England Peat Action Plan, and continues to inform the deliberations of the Defra Lowland Agricultural Peat Task Force, as well as into the Paludiculture Sub-Group of the LAPTF.
First Year Of Impact 2021
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic,Policy & public services

 
Description Influence on England Peat Action Plan
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Citation in other policy documents
URL https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/england-peat-action-plan
 
Description Mr Richard Lindsay and Mr Jack Clough now core members of the paludiculture sub group advising DEFRA in relation to paludiculture and the potential it can play in the development of the Lowland Agricultural Peat Task Force
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Membership of a guideline committee
 
Description Mr Richard Lindsay is now a Core member of the Lowland Agricultural Peat Task Force
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Membership of a guideline committee
URL https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-chair-to-lead-task-force-on-sustainable-farming-of-peatlands
 
Description DEFRA match funding to cover capital works at the Peoples Postcode Lottery WaterWorks site.
Amount £238,582 (GBP)
Organisation Department For Environment, Food And Rural Affairs (DEFRA) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2021 
End 04/2022
 
Description Water Works project
Amount £1,000,000 (GBP)
Organisation People's Postcode Lottery 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2019 
End 01/2021
 
Title Use of terrestrial laser scanning for measurement of Sphagnum bog moss crop growth 
Description Use of terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) to measure the volume-change of a farmed Sphagnum crop over time and thus determine the relative performance of differing farming treatments. 
Type Of Material Biological samples 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact No notable impacts yet because the final analysis of crop yield has yet to be undertaken. 
 
Title Digital Terrain Model of Trial plots 
Description The research team in collaboration with Nottingham Trent University have generated the baseline scans, and follow up scans of the experimental plots using a Terrestrial Laser Scanner. This in combination with fixed ground markers and measured data will be used to calculate the biomass accumulation and peat soil surface changes over time. This time series currently covers the Autumn/ Winter period, and will be expanded to cover a full year including the most interesting summer period beyond this funding time frame. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact This dataset along with other data generated through the project is highly novel. Therefore it will be incorporated into a number of papers discussing the UK's first Sphagnum Farming sites, which will be published as soon as possible. 
 
Title Pore water pressure dynamics during establishment of trial plots 
Description the Research team has gathered Pore water pressure at both sites during their establishment phase over the course of this project. Due to site construction time-frames this time series currently covers the Autumn/winter period, and will be expanded to cover a full year including the most interesting summer period beyond this funding time frame. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact This dataset along with other data generated through the project is highly novel. Therefore it will be incorporated into a number of papers discussing the UK's first Sphagnum Farming sites, which will be published as soon as possible. 
 
Title Sphagnum Growth data during establishment of trials 
Description The research team has developed a variety of methods for moniotirng the growth of Sphganum moss begetation during the trial establishment phase over the course of this project. Due to the site construction time-frame, this time series currently covers the Autumn/winter period, and will be expanded to cover a full year including the most interesting summer period beyond this funding time frame. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact This dataset along with other data generated through the project is highly novel. Therefore it will be incorporated into a number of papers discussing the UK's first Sphagnum Farming sites, which will be published as soon as possible. 
 
Title Water Table dynamics during establishment of trial plots 
Description UEL has collected water table data for the 2 research sites during their establishment phase over the course of this project. This has been achieved through conventional water level recorders, and the trial of innovative 'rust rods' which allow for more extensive coverage at a cheaper cost. due to site construction this time series currently covers the Autumn/winter period, and will be expanded to cover a full year including the most interesting summer period beyond this funding time frame. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact This dataset along with other data generated through the project is highly novel. Therefore it will be incorporated into a number of papers discussing the UK's first Sphagnum Farming sites, which will be published as soon as possible. 
 
Description Continuing a strong working relationship with consortium partners 
Organisation Manchester Metropolitan University
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The UEL research team have continued to monitor the AGRI-Tech research sites utilising funds from the People's Postcode Lottery 'Water Works' project.
Collaborator Contribution MPS Ltd have continued to manage the AGRI-Tech research sites, whilst also providing in-kind funding for the UEL researchers on a number of engagement activities. MMU have continued to provide GHG monitoring and gather data from the research sites The contributions from both partners will enable further analysis to be performed beyond the scope of the original study.
Impact Publications - still in development. Research Database - ongoing.
Start Year 2018
 
Description Continuing a strong working relationship with consortium partners 
Organisation Micropropagation Services
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution The UEL research team have continued to monitor the AGRI-Tech research sites utilising funds from the People's Postcode Lottery 'Water Works' project.
Collaborator Contribution MPS Ltd have continued to manage the AGRI-Tech research sites, whilst also providing in-kind funding for the UEL researchers on a number of engagement activities. MMU have continued to provide GHG monitoring and gather data from the research sites The contributions from both partners will enable further analysis to be performed beyond the scope of the original study.
Impact Publications - still in development. Research Database - ongoing.
Start Year 2018
 
Description Defra Project SP1218 Assessment of the Economic Viability of Paludicultural Systems Under Conditions in England And Wales 
Organisation ADAS
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution the UEL research team has been asked to provide knowledge exchange to feed into a literature review work package forming part of the upcoming DEFRA Project SP1218 Assessment of the Economic Viability of Paludicultural Systems Under Conditions in England And Wales. The UEL research team have fed in information surrounding the context of Paludiculture as a new form of farming, and why it is needed as a sustainable form of land use on our wetland areas in the UK. data surrounding the potential of Paludiculture crops around the World and the UK have been produced by UEL including data from our Agri-Tech Sphagnum Farming work.
Collaborator Contribution ADAS - have acted as the project lead for this work package, and provided project administration, authored sections relating to the context of peat use and growing media in the UK as well as other information relevant to the literature review. CEH - are acting as the overall project lead, and have provided GHG emissions data, site traffic-ability information, as well as other information relevant to the literature review. MicroPropagation Services Ltd, have provided a financial contribution to the UEL Research team, to enable them to take part in this project as it involves the knowledge transfer of information generated in the AGRI-Tech project.
Impact The full completed Literature review is now published.
Start Year 2019
 
Description Defra Project SP1218 Assessment of the Economic Viability of Paludicultural Systems Under Conditions in England And Wales 
Organisation Bangor University
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution the UEL research team has been asked to provide knowledge exchange to feed into a literature review work package forming part of the upcoming DEFRA Project SP1218 Assessment of the Economic Viability of Paludicultural Systems Under Conditions in England And Wales. The UEL research team have fed in information surrounding the context of Paludiculture as a new form of farming, and why it is needed as a sustainable form of land use on our wetland areas in the UK. data surrounding the potential of Paludiculture crops around the World and the UK have been produced by UEL including data from our Agri-Tech Sphagnum Farming work.
Collaborator Contribution ADAS - have acted as the project lead for this work package, and provided project administration, authored sections relating to the context of peat use and growing media in the UK as well as other information relevant to the literature review. CEH - are acting as the overall project lead, and have provided GHG emissions data, site traffic-ability information, as well as other information relevant to the literature review. MicroPropagation Services Ltd, have provided a financial contribution to the UEL Research team, to enable them to take part in this project as it involves the knowledge transfer of information generated in the AGRI-Tech project.
Impact The full completed Literature review is now published.
Start Year 2019
 
Description Defra Project SP1218 Assessment of the Economic Viability of Paludicultural Systems Under Conditions in England And Wales 
Organisation Micropropagation Services
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution the UEL research team has been asked to provide knowledge exchange to feed into a literature review work package forming part of the upcoming DEFRA Project SP1218 Assessment of the Economic Viability of Paludicultural Systems Under Conditions in England And Wales. The UEL research team have fed in information surrounding the context of Paludiculture as a new form of farming, and why it is needed as a sustainable form of land use on our wetland areas in the UK. data surrounding the potential of Paludiculture crops around the World and the UK have been produced by UEL including data from our Agri-Tech Sphagnum Farming work.
Collaborator Contribution ADAS - have acted as the project lead for this work package, and provided project administration, authored sections relating to the context of peat use and growing media in the UK as well as other information relevant to the literature review. CEH - are acting as the overall project lead, and have provided GHG emissions data, site traffic-ability information, as well as other information relevant to the literature review. MicroPropagation Services Ltd, have provided a financial contribution to the UEL Research team, to enable them to take part in this project as it involves the knowledge transfer of information generated in the AGRI-Tech project.
Impact The full completed Literature review is now published.
Start Year 2019
 
Description Defra Project SP1218 Assessment of the Economic Viability of Paludicultural Systems Under Conditions in England And Wales 
Organisation UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution the UEL research team has been asked to provide knowledge exchange to feed into a literature review work package forming part of the upcoming DEFRA Project SP1218 Assessment of the Economic Viability of Paludicultural Systems Under Conditions in England And Wales. The UEL research team have fed in information surrounding the context of Paludiculture as a new form of farming, and why it is needed as a sustainable form of land use on our wetland areas in the UK. data surrounding the potential of Paludiculture crops around the World and the UK have been produced by UEL including data from our Agri-Tech Sphagnum Farming work.
Collaborator Contribution ADAS - have acted as the project lead for this work package, and provided project administration, authored sections relating to the context of peat use and growing media in the UK as well as other information relevant to the literature review. CEH - are acting as the overall project lead, and have provided GHG emissions data, site traffic-ability information, as well as other information relevant to the literature review. MicroPropagation Services Ltd, have provided a financial contribution to the UEL Research team, to enable them to take part in this project as it involves the knowledge transfer of information generated in the AGRI-Tech project.
Impact The full completed Literature review is now published.
Start Year 2019
 
Description Developing a working relationship with researchers outside the project consortium 
Organisation Nottingham Trent University
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We have developed a very good working relationship with Dr Ben Clutterbuck at Nottingham Trent University, whom has been contracted by UEL to undertake Terrestrial Laser Scanning (TLS) to produce a Digital terrain model of the Sphagnum Farming trial plots. We have worked together to develop a monitoring strategy at the trial locations and installed fixed markers to enable effective scanning by Dr Clutterbuck, joining him for fieldwork to learn more about the process of gathering and analyzing the data.
Collaborator Contribution Dr Ben Clutterbuck at Nottingham Trent University has provided us with his TLS expertise on this project, which has provided excellent quality data. as well as providing UEL researchers with knowledge exchange about TLS and the monitoring possibilities it presents.
Impact The outputs of this collaboration have been: Multidisciplinary: a combination of UEL's ecological monitoring expertise and NTU's surveying expertise Novel Data: on-site dynamics at the test plots, including ground level, future growth, and baseline information. Knowledge exchange between the collaborators.
Start Year 2018
 
Description GCR funding bid consortium - collaboration 
Organisation Aberystwyth University
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We will be providing long term environmental monitoring, paludiculture research, analysis and engagement.
Collaborator Contribution Partners are now developing demonstrator sites, sitting on advisory panels, assist in scientific monitoring & analysis and assist with engagement activities.
Impact Successful multi-disciplinary bid, project now started, involving ecology, soil biochemistry, hydrology, atmospheric science, engineering, agriculture.
Start Year 2020
 
Description GCR funding bid consortium - collaboration 
Organisation Aston University
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We will be providing long term environmental monitoring, paludiculture research, analysis and engagement.
Collaborator Contribution Partners are now developing demonstrator sites, sitting on advisory panels, assist in scientific monitoring & analysis and assist with engagement activities.
Impact Successful multi-disciplinary bid, project now started, involving ecology, soil biochemistry, hydrology, atmospheric science, engineering, agriculture.
Start Year 2020
 
Description GCR funding bid consortium - collaboration 
Organisation Bangor University
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We will be providing long term environmental monitoring, paludiculture research, analysis and engagement.
Collaborator Contribution Partners are now developing demonstrator sites, sitting on advisory panels, assist in scientific monitoring & analysis and assist with engagement activities.
Impact Successful multi-disciplinary bid, project now started, involving ecology, soil biochemistry, hydrology, atmospheric science, engineering, agriculture.
Start Year 2020
 
Description GCR funding bid consortium - collaboration 
Organisation Durham University
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We will be providing long term environmental monitoring, paludiculture research, analysis and engagement.
Collaborator Contribution Partners are now developing demonstrator sites, sitting on advisory panels, assist in scientific monitoring & analysis and assist with engagement activities.
Impact Successful multi-disciplinary bid, project now started, involving ecology, soil biochemistry, hydrology, atmospheric science, engineering, agriculture.
Start Year 2020
 
Description GCR funding bid consortium - collaboration 
Organisation Manchester University
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We will be providing long term environmental monitoring, paludiculture research, analysis and engagement.
Collaborator Contribution Partners are now developing demonstrator sites, sitting on advisory panels, assist in scientific monitoring & analysis and assist with engagement activities.
Impact Successful multi-disciplinary bid, project now started, involving ecology, soil biochemistry, hydrology, atmospheric science, engineering, agriculture.
Start Year 2020
 
Description GCR funding bid consortium - collaboration 
Organisation Newcastle University
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We will be providing long term environmental monitoring, paludiculture research, analysis and engagement.
Collaborator Contribution Partners are now developing demonstrator sites, sitting on advisory panels, assist in scientific monitoring & analysis and assist with engagement activities.
Impact Successful multi-disciplinary bid, project now started, involving ecology, soil biochemistry, hydrology, atmospheric science, engineering, agriculture.
Start Year 2020
 
Description GCR funding bid consortium - collaboration 
Organisation Polybell Farms Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution We will be providing long term environmental monitoring, paludiculture research, analysis and engagement.
Collaborator Contribution Partners are now developing demonstrator sites, sitting on advisory panels, assist in scientific monitoring & analysis and assist with engagement activities.
Impact Successful multi-disciplinary bid, project now started, involving ecology, soil biochemistry, hydrology, atmospheric science, engineering, agriculture.
Start Year 2020
 
Description GCR funding bid consortium - collaboration 
Organisation UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We will be providing long term environmental monitoring, paludiculture research, analysis and engagement.
Collaborator Contribution Partners are now developing demonstrator sites, sitting on advisory panels, assist in scientific monitoring & analysis and assist with engagement activities.
Impact Successful multi-disciplinary bid, project now started, involving ecology, soil biochemistry, hydrology, atmospheric science, engineering, agriculture.
Start Year 2020
 
Description Member of Defra Lowland Agricultural Peat Task Force (LAPTF) 
Organisation Department For Environment, Food And Rural Affairs (DEFRA)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Contributing scientific expertise on peatland ecology and paludiculture practice to development of policy recommendations to Government Minister.
Collaborator Contribution Contributing expertise on a range of topics to development of policy recommendations to Government Minister.
Impact The Task Force is still deliberating. Multi-disciplinary, involving agriculture, ecology, hydrology, atmospheric science, soil science.
Start Year 2021
 
Description Peoples Postcode Lottery funded 'WaterWorks' project - developing Sphagnum Farming and Paludiculture Research sites in the Cambridgeshire Fens 
Organisation Cambridgeshire ACRE
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution The UEL Research team is responsible for designing the Paludiculture trial plots, transferring Knowledge about Sphagnum Farming from the previous Agri-Tech project to develop a new Sphagnum Farm at this location. The UEL team will also be responsible for collecting monitoring data, analysis and publication of plant growth and hydrological data. the UEL team have also helped develop 2 additional Horizon 2020 bids (submitted Jan 2021) that will expand further on paludiculture work at the WaterWorks site, and facilitate knowledge exchange with additional areas across Europe (further detail will be added upon the outcome of these Horizon bids post award)
Collaborator Contribution The Great Fen project on behalf of The Wildlife Trusts BCN are the lead partner and are responsible for supplying the land, organising groundwork's, providing the lead on project management and administration, developing education and engagement activities as well as day to day management activity. CEH are responsible for providing the carbon flux monitoring of project Cambridgeshire Acre are responsible for the Fens Biosphere aspect of the project
Impact This Collaborative Partnership was awarded £1million in award funding from the Peoples Postcode Lottery, specifically the Dream Fund funding stream, to cover a two year research project, which will result in a Paludiculture demonstration farm in the Cambridgeshire Fens. This project is multidisciplinary involving physical science researchers from UEL and CEH, as well as social science aspects from Cambridgeshire ACRE. The project has been well received, as a result of the project involvement in addition to Mr Lindsay and Mr Clough, Ms Kate Carver of the Wildlife Trust BCN is on the paludiculture sub group for the Defra Lowland Agricultural Peat Task Force. In 2020, The Wildlife Trust included UEL and UKCEH on an additional funding bid to Defra, which was successful, thus providing an additional year of funding. In late 2021 the Wildlife Trust successfully reached the final stage of bidding to the National Lottery Heritage Fund to extend the project still further - a final decision is awaited.
Start Year 2019
 
Description Peoples Postcode Lottery funded 'WaterWorks' project - developing Sphagnum Farming and Paludiculture Research sites in the Cambridgeshire Fens 
Organisation UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution The UEL Research team is responsible for designing the Paludiculture trial plots, transferring Knowledge about Sphagnum Farming from the previous Agri-Tech project to develop a new Sphagnum Farm at this location. The UEL team will also be responsible for collecting monitoring data, analysis and publication of plant growth and hydrological data. the UEL team have also helped develop 2 additional Horizon 2020 bids (submitted Jan 2021) that will expand further on paludiculture work at the WaterWorks site, and facilitate knowledge exchange with additional areas across Europe (further detail will be added upon the outcome of these Horizon bids post award)
Collaborator Contribution The Great Fen project on behalf of The Wildlife Trusts BCN are the lead partner and are responsible for supplying the land, organising groundwork's, providing the lead on project management and administration, developing education and engagement activities as well as day to day management activity. CEH are responsible for providing the carbon flux monitoring of project Cambridgeshire Acre are responsible for the Fens Biosphere aspect of the project
Impact This Collaborative Partnership was awarded £1million in award funding from the Peoples Postcode Lottery, specifically the Dream Fund funding stream, to cover a two year research project, which will result in a Paludiculture demonstration farm in the Cambridgeshire Fens. This project is multidisciplinary involving physical science researchers from UEL and CEH, as well as social science aspects from Cambridgeshire ACRE. The project has been well received, as a result of the project involvement in addition to Mr Lindsay and Mr Clough, Ms Kate Carver of the Wildlife Trust BCN is on the paludiculture sub group for the Defra Lowland Agricultural Peat Task Force. In 2020, The Wildlife Trust included UEL and UKCEH on an additional funding bid to Defra, which was successful, thus providing an additional year of funding. In late 2021 the Wildlife Trust successfully reached the final stage of bidding to the National Lottery Heritage Fund to extend the project still further - a final decision is awaited.
Start Year 2019
 
Description Richard Lindsay- Member of DEFRA Peat Pilot Project Steering Committee 
Organisation Department For Environment, Food And Rural Affairs (DEFRA)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution The Steering Group provides oversight of the Peat Pilots as a whole, guiding the actions of the Pilots and also evaluating progress. Richard Lindsay has contributed specialist peatland ecological knowledge to the deliberations based on his experience both across the UK internationally. He has also been able to provide insights arising from the AGRI-Tech Sphagnum Farming Project for those Pilots focused on areas of peat in the lowlands where wetland agriculture ('paludiculture') as a whole may offer future potential economic activity.
Collaborator Contribution DEFRA is funding the Peat Pilot Projects and Chairs the Peat Pilots Project Steering Group. "Five of England's most iconic peatlands sites are a step closer to being revived and restored as part of Defra & Natural England's Peat Pilots. The pilots could play an important part in reducing UK carbon emissions in the future and are taking place in the areas of Northumberland, Greater Manchester, North York Moors, East Anglia and Dartmoor " The intention is that these Peat Pilots will inform development of the UK Government England Peat Strategy.
Impact Shaping of the UK Government England Peat Strategy, now released as Government Peat Action Plan.
Start Year 2019
 
Description Strengthening partnership actions with IUCN 
Organisation IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature
Department IUCN UK Peatland Programme
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Our project, being the first research investigation into wetland farming (paludiculture) in the UK, has helped to shape the nature of the lowland peat subject area within the IUCN UK Peatland Programme's 2019 Commission of Inquiry.
Collaborator Contribution The IUCN UK Peatland Programme has undertaken a further Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into a range of topics concerning peatlands and their role within the UK's natural capital and their provision of ecosystem benefits to UK society and UK plc, including specifically the potential role of wetland farming (paludiculture), particularly in the UK lowlands.
Impact The Commission of Inquiry has now published a report: "Peat-free Horticulture - demonstrating success".
Start Year 2018
 
Title Funding internships investigating medical applications of Sphagnum biomass in vitro. with the University of Greenwich. 
Description The use of Sphagnum biomass and it's associated chemicals are being investigated through an internship funded by the WaterWorks project. This builds upon the Agritech project that shows Sphagnum can be produced at scale here in the UK, and a literature review commissioned by the UEL researchers. This internship and future developments will in future, help to develop an additional high value and high quality market. This is an ongoing research programme at this stage. 
Type Therapeutic Intervention - Complementary
Current Stage Of Development Initial development
Year Development Stage Completed 2021
Development Status Under active development/distribution
Impact Initial literature review suggests that the biological properties of Sphagnum mainly fall into two related categories which are its antimicrobial activity and wound healing properties which are both related to its physical and chemical properties. future lab work will assess this. 
 
Description DEFRA site visit to research site 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact The UEL team helped to deliver a site visit for civil servants from DEFRA to the Research site in Leicestershire.
The attendees involved the Soils and Peatlands Policy Specialist, and the Head of Farming and Trade. this provided an opportunity to showcase the early stage results, and reinforce the idea that paludiculture in the UK is possible and realistic. The visit resulted in lots of questions about the project and generated enthusiasm and support for the project from DEFRA. the possibility of a ministerial visit was also mentioned. which would provide further engagement opportunities.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://twitter.com/DefraSoils/status/1054804928051507206
 
Description Keynote presentation at the Humberhead Peatlands LIFE+ Project Close Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This was the Closing Conference of the Humberhead Peatlands LIFE+ Project, at which I gave the closing keynote speech. The speakers included specialists from peatland restoration projects in other parts of Europe, and the audience consisted largely of professional practitioners who intended to take the lessons from the conference and apply them to their own programmes of action. The Chair of the conference was the Chair of Natural England, who stated his intention to discuss the content of my talk, and the opportunities that it offered, with the Environment Secretary, Rt Hon Michael Gove MP.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Presentation at the IUCN UK Peatland Programme conference 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Jack Clough RA, was asked to take part in a talk introducing paludiculture to a large audience at the IUCN UK Peatland Programme 2018 conference in Loch Lomond.

The talk aimed to introduce the concept, the products and some of the research work taking place in the UK to make the research area of paludiculture more visible to the largely academic audience.

This provided a useful opportunity for the Research team to mention the Sphagnum farming project, and establish it as a novel area of research, There were many questions, and requests for further information have arisen as a result of this talk.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://www.iucn-uk-peatlandprogramme.org/sites/www.iucn-uk-peatlandprogramme.org/files/file_attach/1...
 
Description Presenting at the International paludiculture conference RRR2021. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Mr Clough presented a talk showcasing the Water Works project at the Greifswald international paludiculture conference: RRR2021, as well as contributing materials to two additional talks on the Agritech sphagnum farming project presented by MicroPropagation services and MMU.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL http://www.moorwissen.de/en/veranstaltungen/rrr2021/index.php
 
Description Presenting project data at the IUCN UK Peatland Programme Conference: 'Peatlands: From Strategy to Action' 2020. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact We provided Data and analysis from the Innovate UK Sphagnum farming project for presentation at the IUCN UK PP conference 2020 by Beadamoss.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.iucn-uk-peatlandprogramme.org/events/conference-2020
 
Description Presenting results of the Agri-Tech Sphagnum Farming project 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Jack Clough (RA) presented the initial results from the Agri-Tech Sphagnum Farming at the IUCN UK Peatland Programme Conference in Belfast in October 2019.
The talk generated significant interest and questions following the talk.

a summary of the conference can be found here:

"The conference series presents an opportunity for policy makers, scientists, land managers, practitioners, businesses and communicators to connect and share their knowledge, expertise and enthusiasm for peatlands.

221 local, national and international delegates and volunteers from across sectors came together over 3 days to explore themes including:

UK peatlands in an international context
Progress made towards UK Peatland Strategy goals
Update on key peatland topics: Commission of Inquiry
Peatlands and Climate Change
Natural Capital & Innovative Investment
Evidence & priority research needs and break-throughs
Building support for Peatland Protection & Restoration
Restoration challenges, new developments & best practice. "
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.iucn-uk-peatlandprogramme.org/events/conference-series/conference-2019
 
Description Providing data to partner organisations for a conference presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The results from the Innovate UK Sphagnum Farming trials are being presented in the upcoming RRR2021 Paludiculture conference (March 8th - 11th 2021)
This is to an international audience of paludiculture and wetland researchers. A number of international NGOs and practice/policymakers will also be in attendance.
We are presenting Sphagnum growth, hydrological data, and proposing a novel method of Sphagnum production.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL http://www.moorwissen.de/en/veranstaltungen/rrr2021/index.php
 
Description Speaking at the Fens Peat Pilot Project Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact The purpose of the Defra Peat Pilots is to bring together all sectoral interests having involvement with management of peat soils in a region, assist them in identifying barriers to progress in developing and establishing sustainable management of peat soils within the region. The conference represents a major step forward in bringing all key actors together to discuss the objectives of the Pilot and identify potential ways forward.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Taking part in a BBC Radio 4 interview for Farming Today special feature for 'Peat week' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Jack Clough and Richard Lindsay gave Interviews with Emily Hughes for BBC R4 Farming Today on the AGRI-Tech Research site in Leicestershire.

The interview discussed the potential of Sphagnum Farming in the UK, and highlighted the benefits it could provide in terms of avoided carbon emissions and future economic potential for farmers currently engaged in conventional farming on peat soils.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://protect-eu.mimecast.com/s/uh-YC58ppFZ6Yg0slwwYc?domain=bbc.co.uk
 
Description Talk introducing paludiculture to members of DEFRA. Natural England, and BEIS 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Jack Clough RA, was invited to give an introductory talk about paludiculture to an audience comprising of civil servants working in DEFRA and BEIS as well as public servants from Natural England. They wanted an introduction to the concept, the products available, and an idea of any projects currently occurring in the UK - which gave an opportunity to discuss the work we are delivering through this current project. The aim of this talk was to increase awareness and build support for this emerging area at a high level.

The talk achieved this aim, and provided information that has been directly incorporated into draft government policy - The England Peat Strategy
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://twitter.com/DefraSoils/status/1045022565935329281
 
Description Tate Modern PublicWorks Sustainable Moss Exhibition 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The UEL Sustainability Research Institute collaborated with the architectural collective 'PublicWorks' and MicroPropagation Services Ltd to create a public exhibition about the potential for using mosses in the development of sustainable approaches to living. We assisted in creating a VR experience, various display materials and farmed Sphagnum, linked to our AGRI-Tech Sphagnum Farming Project. The exhibition ran for a week in the Tate Modern Switch Room and attracted a number of school parties as well as a wide range of other audiences, including the Defra Soils team.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://protect-eu.mimecast.com/s/7qRqCg5jjhAV3VgiopXb7?domain=twitter.com