Soil-friendly practices in horticulture including alternatives to peat

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Open Call Reference: HORIZON-MISS-2023-SOIL-01-05

Peat is commonly used as a growing medium in horticulture, as it has an excellent water retention capacity, is highly fertile due to reduced leaching of nutrients and improves soil buffering capacity. It is used both in nurseries and greenhouses and it is also commonly mixed with soil as a nutrient improver. The extraction of peat is highly contentious as it leads to habitat loss, soil degradation, CO2 emissions and flood risk. Therefore, sustainable alternatives to natural peat are required. Improved use of alternatives to peat and greater attention to impacts of horticulture on local soil would contribute to EU climate action, the Organic Action Plan and the Biodiversity Strategy for 2030.

-Develop alternative products to be used as sustainable substitute for peat to use as substrate in organic and conventional horticulture (e.g. for potted plants and herbs)
-Demonstrate the feasibility of alternatives to production and use of peat in horticulture, in accordance with relevant EU regulatory frameworks related to their placing on the market, and generate data to support improved social and environmental performance
-Analyse vulnerabilities, barriers, dependencies, and need for critical infrastructure that may hinder the upscaling of production and marketing of alternative soil-friendly practices
-Monitor the pre-market processes (i.e., design, production, testing, etc.) to demonstrate upscaling feasibility and economic profit

-The overall carbon and environmental footprint of the horticultural sector is reduced and value chains are more sustainable, in particular with regard to soil health
-Alternatives for peat are available and their sustainability is demonstrated in conventional and organic horticulture
-Novel products (alternative potting materials) show improved environmental, health and safety performance including through improved testing and validation methods throughout the entire life cycle
-Improved management, including reduced removal of peat, of natural and agricultural peatland ecosystems, mitigating the CO2 release into the atmosphere in the long term

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