Written answers

Thursday, 2 December 2021

Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine

Horticulture Sector

Photo of Martin BrowneMartin Browne (Tipperary, Sinn Fein)
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245. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the level of funding for the development of peat free alternatives for the horticulture sector. [59588/21]

Photo of Charlie McConalogueCharlie McConalogue (Donegal, Fianna Fail)
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The Department operates a programme that provides funding for agri-food research, on a competitive basis, to research performing organisations.

Applications are invited periodically through Research Calls that cover a broad range of agriculture, food and forest related research activities.

Our current call, which closed earlier this year, contains a specific topic entitled: ‘Find alternatives to peat based growing media for horticultural production which are available, affordable and sustainable and meet quality, environmental and productivity requirements'.

Proposals needed to demonstrate how peat based growing media are used in each sector (ornamental and amenity horticulture, vegetable sector, fruit sector, mushroom sector), and the unique characteristics demanded by each formulation of growing media in the Irish context.  The results and funding of this research call will be announced this December.

Separately, the Department is funding two sustainability research projects through the EU producer organisation (PO) scheme for fruit and vegetables. The first project is looking at spent mushroom substrate and how this could be potentially used as a peat replacement material within the wider horticulture sector.

This project is also focusing on the benefits of spent mushroom substrate as an organic fertiliser and soil conditioner in tillage farming. The second project is investigating the sustainable replacement of peat in mushroom casing material. €278,951 has been paid on these research projects during the 2019 and 2020 Operational Programme years.  Additionally, €553,518 was approved for research in the 2021 Operational Programme year. 

A further application for research funding in the 2022 Operational Programme year has been submitted and this request is being considered by officials in my Department.

Lastly, Teagasc has recently funded a research project to support the transition from peat based mushroom casing materials to more sustainable alternatives.  The project has a budget of €153,266.


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