Sources of quality peat
In June 2015 a group of active and successful Czech growers visited a peat bog that is the source for the leading Czech manufacturer of substrates – AGRO CS.
The first thing that captured the visitors’ attention was the sheer size of the extraction areas and the fact that they were weed-free. The areas are really large but still kept free of weeds, so the final product does not need expensive treatment such as steaming, which would significantly impair its physical qualities. In terms of quality this was a raised bog with H1 – H3 (H4) peats. The major extraction method was horizontal milling, some parts were also extracted vertically.
Change of extraction technology
Compared to the past, peat extraction is not a random process, it follows clear rules. The use of powerful modern technology is a great change. The companies we visited use solely high-power wheeled tractors of leading global brands. These machines provide the necessary traction and a source of energy for passive tillers, vacuum extractors and other necessary mechanisation. The formerly used caterpillar tractors, active cutters and mechanical gauge collectors known also from Czech peat bogs are not in use any more.
This change has positively influenced the quality of the extracted materials by eliminating intensive disintegration and releasing of great amount of dust particles in some types of substrates. The advantage of this new technology is the reduced demand for workforce; the extraction is faster and more efficient, especially under adverse weather conditions.
Similar changes took place also in the block peat sections. The outdated machinery is now replaced with crane loaders with special shovels. The only thing that remains the same in this technology is the degree of human input during the drying process. The individual peat bricks are manually turned and lined up – only human workers can properly distinguish between dry and wet matter. An interesting innovation was the technology of peat mining for energetic purposes, which involves pressing of various shapes of aggregated peat. After proper drying and several turns they are collected by special machinery.
After transport from peat stacks on the edges of the extraction areas the material is sorted on specially designed sorting machines consisting of star-shaped screens of different sizes. In a single operation the material is gently sorted into different size categories. Low content of dust particles is a priority. Sorting was previously performed just very roughly with much less size categories. Other operations include the processing of individual portions according to specific recipes for particular substrates. They are packaged and shipped to customers.
Many growers had no idea what it takes to extract quality peat to make substrates for their plants, and how many individual operations it entails. When visiting the site they learned that the best result of their growing efforts depends on an accurate definition of their actual need – they need to define which species they want to grow, in which size of pots, for how long, which irrigation or fertilization technology they will be using, etc. They also learned how important it is to know the capacities of your supplier.
Ing. Jiří Valtera AGRO CS a. s.