The mainstay of growth
The raw material par excellence destined to the production of horticulture substrates consists of oligotrophic sphagnum peat moss (Sphagnum spp). Sphagnum is a plant that belongs to the Briophyte family with no roots and which thrives in swampy areas directly immersed in water. Peat moss is formed by the decomposition of Sphagnum tissues in conditions of anaerobiosis (absence of oxygen) generated by submersion, due to atmospheric precipitations or caused by the surface level of the phreatic stratum. Sphagnum peat moss’s preferential place of growth is in northern European countries with high rainfall levels.. The formation process confers the material with characteristics that are particularly appreciated for container gardening: acid pH, high porosity, structural stability and water absorption capacity (up to 6-8 times in volume).
Peat moss can be extracted by two different methods, which influence the agronomic characteristics of the final product. After drying the areas where extraction takes place, generally done with drainage ditches, bricks or blocks are cut with a depth of 15-20 cm. Bricks are normally sized 15x15x30 cm (STEBA type), or 20x40x40 cm (KOBELKO type). After cutting, they are air-dried. As an alternative, they can be extracted by mechanical devices which cause them to crumble and allow them to be harvested later pneumatically for the most part these days. In this case, the peat is referred to as milled. Extracted in blocks, the botanic structure of the Sphagnum remains unaltered, which instead is compromised by the mechanical stress of milling. For this reason, peat in blocks (SODEN type) is the most valuable. Peat is generally classified according to granulometry and the degree of decomposition (VON POST scale).
Peats are also classified according to their degree of decomposition and are therefore divided into blond and brown / black peats.
The method used for the measurement of decomposition is the Von Post scale, created in 1926 by a Swedish naturalist who, using parameters such as the integrity of the sphagnum fiber, the color and the the exudate (obtained by squeezing a sample with hands), identifies 10 different degrees of decomposition, from H1 to H10.
- H1-H3 young peat, slightly decomposed
- H4-H6 moderately decomposed peat
- H7-H10 highly decomposed peat
The most decomposed peat are extracted from the deepest layers of the peat bogs, and have a much darker color than the standard ones, and for this reason they are called brown and black peats. They are more decomposed , and this makes them more stable: they do not undergo further decomposition during the growth process of the crops
There’s a difference and you can see it
Heterogeneity does exist in the world of sphagnum peat mosses. The reasons do not lie solely with the extraction method, but it does exert a strong influence. Sphagnum mosses are classified into groups according to leaf morphology. It therefore follows that the botanical composition of the peat, a direct consequence of the geographic range of extraction, largely determines its properties. Peats composed of sphagnum mosses of the Cymbifolia group have different properties from those originating from sphagnum mosses from the Acutifolia group.
Without going into too much detail, it becomes clear that many different materials can be ascribed to the generic term “peat” with greatly differing efficacy and economic values. It is therefore important to have an in-depth knowledge of the extraction sites so as to be able to draw on the best deposits which supply materials with the desired performances.
No detail left to chance
Our peats are the product of a specific production process which goes beyond that which is customary for this product category. Attention to quality begins in the field where the parcels of land used for extraction are well managed, removing all fossil wood and efficiently weeding them, so as to contain the spread of unwanted herbaceous plants. During the drying period, which precedes the granulometric selection, both peat in blocks and the milled type require specific adjustments that preserve them from the phenomenon of self-heating, which causes a significant loss of quality. To prevent this phenomenon of microbiological nature from occurring, the humidity of the peat and its aeration conditions must be carefully monitored. The peaty materials we offer in our lines destined for professional horticulture are wrapped with plastic film to protect them from the elements. Particular attention is paid to how the mounds of blocks are prepared so they are never too large and so they are sufficiently aerated.
During the drying phase which precedes harvesting, the temperature of the mounds is periodically measured with thermal probes. This allows any incipient form of auto-fermentation to be identified and immediately stopped.
Our peats are granulometrically selected using the most advanced technology available today, in order to produce pure fractions with the lowest percentages of off-specification particulates. For this purpose, ballistic separators (rotary screens) are used which, in addition to offering efficient selection, respect the structure of the peaty material. Final packaging is done with high compression using sturdy materials, paying particular attention to metrological aspects and their subsequent monitoring, to ensure top applicative performance levels.