The Broads Authority manages over 1700 hectares, or over 3000 football fields, of peat fen and reedbed, over 400 hectares of which is managed commercially for reed and sedge harvesting and even more cut for conservation management. These fens support thriving bird, animal and plant populations, and maintain biodiversity within the nature reserves for people to enjoy.
However, managing open fen is expensive, with many needing to be cut with specialised machinery by staff and volunteers. Cutting the reed and fen vegetation stops them from becoming woodland, sustaining the habitat in its most dynamic state suitable for wetland wildlife.
Cutting the vegetation creates a lot of biomass which needs to be disposed of. This vegetation could be burnt or left to rot down and decompose, neither of which is very environmentally friendly and produces a large quantity of various greenhouse gasses.
In an effort to use this waste in a more sustainable and beneficial way the Broads Authority, working with its partners, is hoping to turn this vegetation into compost. Composting is the natural breakdown of organic material in an oxygen rich environment. It is carried out by bacteria, fungi and animals within the soil. By composting the vegetation it is turned into a useful soil conditioner which can then be packaged and sold, with any profits being used for further conservation efforts.
Consumers buying this compost would be helping in a number of ways:
• Enhancing the wildlife of the nature reserves
• Reducing the use of peat-based composts
• Helping save rare peat wetland from damaging exploitation
• Reducing the release of carbon and other greenhouse gasses, helping in the fight against climate change.
Reed compost, has many beneficial qualities including:
• Excellent water retention properties, with the moisture content being near double the average,
• pH values between 6.5-7.5, this neutral pH gives it a more all-around application
• Higher than average levels of organic nitrogen making it more favourable for agricultural purposes
• Double the average levels of organic matter
The Wild Compost project is testing the production and market for locally made compost. Reed will be harvested using a tracked all-terrain vehicle and placed in the EcoPod under controlled conditions to create the compost. The Wild Compost should be ready in spring 2019.