Top of the agenda of this inaugural BPOA’s Poinsettia Growers Group Open Day, held at Bridge Farm Group’s Clay Lake site in Spalding, Lincolnshire, UK, on 24 November, was the pressure that England’s 2024 retail peat ban is putting on the UK’s ornamental horticulture industry.
Whilst a date for a ban on the use of peat in the professional horticulture industry has yet to be confirmed. Neil Bragg, chair of the UK’s Growing Media Association (GMA), warned poinsettia growers that: “With the major retailers selling peat-free bagged product and plants grown in peat-free, then almost by default you are going to have to move to peat free.”
He added: “We just have to help one another to get through this.”
Bragg did, however, question how the retail ban would work given that it currently only pertains to England. The other parts of the UK – Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland – have not yet signed an agreement, so the Office for the Internal Market is looking into this now, he explained.
He also drew attention to how peat-free growing media – including bark, coir, and wood fibre – vary from peat-based mixes.
This includes how they dry out at the surface (even though the plant’s root ball could still be wet) and their lower CEC (cation exchange capacity), which could lead to nutrient loss.
Moreover, Bragg warned that when peat-free materials are mixed together, their microbes “think it’s Christmas!” He warned: “You can’t be 100 per cent sure where you are with it [the mix] at any one time.
It is okay if it’s a fresh mix, but if it is left in the nursery for two to three months, particularly during the summer period, I cannot tell you what’s happening in that bale. Life seems to be very good for the microbes and not very good for anybody else. Be very careful about this.”
Regarding the challenging market conditions and increased energy prices, poinsettia growers were advised by NFU Energy’s Roger Stone to take stock – firstly collecting and compiling all their energy use data and costs and conducting an energy audit. Then, they can develop an energy-saving and energy-management strategy.
He added, “Make someone accountable for implementing the strategy,” he advised, adding that – with a payback period of four to eight years – now is an ideal time to invest in renewable energy such as wind and solar power.
Given that UK consumers are spending less due to the increased cost of living, what poinsettia growers are selling – and how their products are being sold to consumers – is changing, observed Bridge Farm Group’s commercial director Caroline Davies.
Amid this new marketplace, growers would be wise to have “open and honest” conversations with their supply chain members. “We have found it’s never been more receptive to looking at all aspects of it and doing it differently. But it does warrant you being open from your side,” she said.
With the need to be cost-efficient, selling poinsettias in a smaller pot size was one of the possibilities discussed. Indeed, varieties that are well-suited to smaller pot sizes were on display at the Open Day, which saw representatives from Dümmen Orange, Selecta One, and Beekenkamp show and discuss many of their (new and best-selling) poinsettia selections.
Speaking to FCI, they divulged their top five varieties for the UK market. These included:
This article first appeared in FloraCulture International in December 2022.