CANAPE: Broads Authority and Norwich FarmShare pioneer reed compost

24 May 2019 - Published by Harry Mach
The Broads Authority and Norwich FarmShare have paired up to trial the latest project under the European-funded project, CANAPE (Creating A New Approach to Peatland Ecosystems): Peat-free compost made from Broads reed and fen vegetation.

The project has been using different techniques to create soil improvers from the by-product of conservation management of wetland nature reserves. Many people recognise the damaging effects of peat-based compost on the environment. Over the centuries much of the peat in Northern Europe has been drained and cut for fuel, compost or used to grow food. Peatlands globally contain at least 550 billion tonnes of carbon, twice as much as all the carbon stored in the world’s forests. If all that carbon was to be lost to the atmosphere, it would be nearly eighty times more than annual global CO2 emissions from our burning of fossil fuels. Well managed peatlands retain carbon and have a positive impact on carbon emissions while poorly managed peat (such as peat cut for compost) releases large quantities of carbon and has a negative impact on global warming. This is why alternatives to peat must be found if peatlands are to be better managed.

One part of the solution is alternative soil enhancers which is why CANAPE are championing a new use for unwanted reed when it is harvested from the Broads National Park. The fen vegetation has to be managed throughout the Broads and the natural by-product could prove to be an alternative to peat compost. Norwich FarmShare are spreading the ‘CANAPE compost’ over more than half of their community farm land as they support efforts to enhance soil quality responsibly.

Senior Ecologist for the Broads Authority, Andrea Kelly, said of the project,

“Norwich FarmShare have been instrumental in trying out a new alternative way of enhancing soil quality. These natural Broads soil improver products should prove to be an eco-friendly solution. By working together with organisations like FarmShare we hope to be able to raise awareness of the importance of peat wetlands for storing carbon and to encourage the use of peat free compost.”