Dalefoot Composts researching environmental benefits of comfrey

Cumbrian based Dalefoot Composts is using 21st century science to work out the environmental benefits of the traditional ingredients in its ‘old recipe’ gardening products to ascertain how well their peat-free composts store carbon. In addition to that research they are working to identify the most eco-friendly way to restore a damaged peat bog.

Teaming up with the University of Cumbria, the company is investigating how much carbon is being stored by comfrey, a key ingredient in its peat-free range. Researchers are using ground penetrating radar to carry out the work on the comfrey crop (pictured left), which is grown at Dalefoot Farm, and then mixed with bracken and sheep’s wool to create the company’s unique composts.

Comfrey is renowned as a dynamic accumulator plant, tapping into beneficial nutrients deep underground. Knowing how much carbon it stores will enable Dalefoot Composts to share the carbon saving this carbon capture crop can yield.

Dalefoot’s sister company, Barker and Bland Limited – a leading peatland restoration contractor – is also working with the University of Cumbria to pinpoint the best methods to restore peat bogs. UK peatlands are our largest terrestrial store of carbon and when healthy store up to 20 times more carbon than trees. Many have been devastated by peat harvesting, including for horticulture and now release carbon instead of stroring it.

The Government has been investing millions in repairing these precious landscapes, to halt the emission of carbon through erosion – but little thought has been put into how eco-friendly each restoration technique is or how it contributes to achieving a functioning, sequestering peatland.

(Above – Restoring peatland)

Professor Jane Barker, MD of Barker & Bland and Dalefoot Composts, said: “People are now beginning to question where their gardening materials, plants and composts come from, which is great news, and with the imminent Government ban, peat-free compost is finally becoming the norm. At Dalefoot, we have always pioneered climate-friendly horticulture by making peat-free composts, whilst at the same time, restoring peatlands – a 360 degree approach to eco-conscious gardening.

“But we’ve noticed that on some restoration projects, led by other organisations, imported materials such as coir, lime and fertiliser are being used, and helicopters are then used to fly thousands of tons of these ‘alien’ materials to these remote sites as convention. We are confident our methods of using specialist equipment lighter than a human footprint and a ‘whole bog’ approach to restoration are much more environmentally effective. With this new research, we will be able to scientifically-prove the carbon footprint of our projects, something that has never been done in the UK before.”

The peatland research project is being led by Dr Simon Carr of the University of Cumbria and Professor Barker with funding from Innovate UK, the country’s national innovation agency. In another exciting project, research will also be undertaken into using wool in peatland restoration.

Dalefoot sources bracken from Wales as well as Cumbria thereby helping a diversity of farming communities and local landscapes. The unique mix of fully-traceable, natural, fertilising ingredients provides slow-release nutrient for plants, reducing the need to feed and water.

The company has a range of products including composts for potting, bulbs, seeds, vegetables and tomatoes and is Soil Association-approved for organic growing. Its Wool compost for Potting benefits from endorsement by the world-renowned Eden Propject.

For further information on the work of Dalefoot and their peat-restoration projects please visit: www.dalefootcomposts.co.uk

Images: All images are © Dalefoot Composts