by Peggy Jones
As described in an earlier post, we are looking to expand American Peat Technology’s capacity by developing a second peat resource and building a second plant. The conversations around resource extraction have become very polarized and contentious, and APT finds itself in the middle of that same conversation. The questions being asked are legitimate. The concerns are real. A series of blog posts will probably not change the tenor of the conversation, but it opens up the door to those who would like to discuss these topics in a nuanced and reasonable way.
The case that APT makes for resource extraction is substantially different than most other peat harvesters. We do not harvest peat for horticultural, top soil or turf grass use. We manufacture products that have a more substantial environmental benefit because of the value that we add to the peat.
Our bread-and-butter product, granular bioAPT, is made almost entirely from reed-sedge peat and looks like freeze dried coffee. It is used to carry beneficial microorganisms to agricultural fields. Most of the granular bioAPT that we sell is used to carry nitrogen-fixing bacteria to legume crops. Nitrogen-fixers take nitrogen from the air and convert it into a form that the growing plant can use. Those nitrogen-fixing bacteria can be found in soil naturally, but they are usually not found in great enough numbers to sufficiently affect, say, a mono crop of lentils. That is where the peat-based carrier comes in. The bacteria are inoculated into the carrier, and then the grower applies the carrier next to the germinating seed. If the bacteria counts next to the seed are high enough, then the lentil crop doesn’t require supplemental nitrogen. The growing plant gets all the nitrogen it needs naturally, through a symbiotic process that evolved long before humans or farmers came into the picture.
What does that mean for the environment? It means that there isn’t a need to apply additional nitrogen that can often lead to excesses that leach into the ground water and escape to the atmosphere. It means that the nitrogen is “locked up” in organic form within the plant cellular structure; that nitrogen can potentially be in place during the following growing season for the next crop. It also means that the agricultural industry uses less nitrogen fertilizer, which is synthesized by burning natural gas.
Sequentially, that then means that there are fewer mobile nitrates in the soil to contaminate drinking water. It also supports growers who use legumes in their rotations. Legumes are generally protein-rich crops that can replace animal-based protein in diets.
Of course the use of peat-based carriers to supply nitrogen-fixing bacteria to legume crops is only one part of the puzzle to create a more sustainable future. But as legume crops play increasingly larger roles in the world’s diet, supporting the natural processes of nitrogen fixation is a proactive step toward minimizing our impacts due to crop production.
As APT moves toward expanding into a second location and developing a second resource, our door is always open for comments, questions and concerns. You can find our contact information on our website. Ask for me, Peggy Jones, and I’d be happy to follow up with you.