Our plans for ongoing sustainability
We renewed our commitment to sustainability recently in a full staff meeting, with all team members present, by unveiling a six-point plan for the future (June 2023).
At the event our Managing Director, Andy Johnson outlined what we’ve already been doing and went on to identify our vision for the future.
He said: “We recognise that we operate within our local environments with responsibilities to add positive value for our staff, shareholders, local communities and many other stakeholders. We’ve identified several strands of priority environmental impacts to manage on an ongoing basis.
Six key areas
“These six key areas include efficient use of water, peat reduction, sustainable land management and biodiversity contribution, waste reduction and circular economies, energy use efficiency and carbon footprint reduction – moving towards net zero – and maintaining the highest levels of biosecurity.
“However, we also recognise that these objectives have complex interactions that may conflict. We’ve agreed to set ourselves challenging goals and report on progress using the ISO 14001 framework.”
We’ve already built a reservoir to help capture, conserve and recycle water at our King’s Acre container site, as part of our ongoing sustainability plans and annual environmental targets.
Work was completed on our reservoir, which holds 20,000 m³ of water when full, at the start of this year and it currently has two Canada geese and four goslings living on it.
Andy added: “Water is an increasingly fragile resource and by installing our new reservoir we’re securing the future. This is part of a nursery-wide water infrastructure development linking all our boreholes and water recycling collection points and move water between all production areas. It helps us increase our ability to capture more water from run-off from structures and develop more closed system areas reducing our reliance on our onsite boreholes.
Water use efficiency
“It also connects with our rapidly expanding Container Tree Production site. While securing our water sources, we’re now working with all our production divisions on projects to increase water use efficiency through improved irrigation systems and controls. This work should also free up water for the critical establishment phases for open ground tree production.”
We’ve also been heavily trialling production in peat-free compost for the past four years.
Andy continued: “We’ve already cut down on our peat use by more than 50% by reducing the percentage of peat in our standard compost and via a three-year trial growing a selection of final and liner plants in a peat-free compost.
“Our Propagation Department is already way ahead with 92% of our cuttings totally peat-free, apart from some specialised cells for phormiums. But we’ve now trialled peat-free medium for our phormiums this year and the results were very promising. So, we’ll be able to work on reducing that percentage further next year and eliminating peat at propagation by 2025.
Ahead of the curve
“In our Containers section, 62% of compost used is already peat-free, our target for this year was 60%, so we’re ahead of the curve and are now working towards bringing this down even further.
“We’ve already potted 75,000 plants into peat-free compost so far this season and are aiming for more than 85,000 in total. We have potted 180,000 liners into peat-free compost and will pot 200,000 by the end of the season. Our large container tree production has already been 100% peat-free for at least 10 years. We are on target to be producing all our plants in peat-free by 2026.
Watering and feed
“However, using non-peat-based composts requires changes to practice related to watering and feed. Watering is best applied little and often and there is an increase in nutrient leaching so more liquid fertiliser is needed in some cases. The majority of our species have grown successfully in peat-free compost, but we are continuing to develop strategies to improve the remaining varieties.”