Identifying the plant health risks associated with plant waste disposal and peat-free growing media, and developing best practice guidance for waste disposal and composting across sectors

Project Lead: Matt Elliot
Host Institution: Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Forest Research, Plant Health Alliance, Earthcare Technical Ltd
Project Date: 5 January 2022 to 29 September 2022
Reference Number:
compost - Image by J Garget from Pixabay
Plant health risks associated with poor composting practice or imported carrier products as peat alternatives are not well understood. Best practice guidance to minimise the plant health risks to Scotland from these activities is needed.

This work will examine and define the extent to which current UK and Scottish regulations and voluntary schemes control the way growing medium constituents must be treated prior to their inclusion in growing media, to generate an understanding around mitigating risks of spread of plant pathogens. Workshops with stakeholders will improve understanding of current practices and perceptions of alternative ‘best practice’ options for nurseries managing waste materials and for biosecurity risks of using reduced peat and peat-free growing media. A concurrent diagnostic study will identify Phytophthora species present in waste heaps from nurseries located in Scotland and the potential for these pathogens to spread into healthy plant stock either aerially or via water run-off and soil transfer.

Findings will be combined with a comprehensive desk-based study and feed into follow-up workshops on the development and introduction of ‘best practice’ guidance on the most appropriate and safest ways to manage waste growing media and plant material, to be built into the Plant Health Management Standard.
Impact Officer: Horticulture and the Natural Environment
Institution: Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
Forest Pathologist and Programme Manager
Institution: Forest Research
Freelance Consultant, Scheme Manager for the Plant Healthy Certification Scheme
Institution: Earthcare Technical Ltd