During the past decades, the peatlands have been destroyed due the growing demand of peat. Peat is a major constituent of most horticultural growing media and is harvested from peatlands. The harvesting destroys the ecosystem which houses many endangered plants and animals. Peatlands are also important in the global carbon cycle as they store atmospheric carbon for thousands of years. The peat harvesting releases carbon dioxide and causes loss of vegetation. Nowadays, only about 5% of peatlands area is left intact.
In order to avoid the climate changes caused by the peat harvesting, the peat-exhausted moorland areas should be re-wetted and newly planted with peat mosses. The experiments showed that the peat moss can be farmed on those areas. The harvested biomass may provide a sustainable alternative to peat as a material for horticultural growing media but the major problem of this is the low availability of peat moss as a seed.
The project "Breeding and mass cultivation of peat moss for the industrial production of a renewable substratum for horticulture" explores the methods, which allow obtaining large amounts of peat moss seed in photobioreactor. For this purpose, the project partners the University of Freiburg and University of Greifswald will selected the most productive peat mosses and improved via breeding in order to obtain fast-growing biomass.
In cooperation with the University of Freiburg, the selected strains are to be cultivated in the photobioreactor contamination free. An important aspect of the moss cultivation is the determination of culture parameters and processing strategy which leads to maximum growth of the peat moss. The next step will be to upscale and industrialize the production process.