The re-established IPS Expert Group (EG) on Peatlands and Agriculture has started its work. Two priority actions identified by coordinator Jos Schouwenaars are:
1) Obtaining a view on the most relevant and urgent topics in agricultural peatland use, and
2) getting in touch with more IPS members, who potentially could contribute significantly to the activities of the EG.
What did we conclude from a first global orientation?
It was very interesting to notice that a lot of work is being done at the moment on cost-benefit analyses for peatland use, in particular agricultural use (including paludiculture). Certainly, this type of research will contribute to the necessary discussions within IPS. Therefore not only economic aspects, but also social and environmental aspect need to be included.
In the period 1950-1990, in research most emphasis was given to improving growing conditions (drainage, fertilization, soil physics) and plant production. Since 1990 this has been still of importance in certain countries, in particular where agriculture is of importance for the daily livelihood of communities, like in Indonesia. However, the focus in Western Europe has clearly shifted towards extensification because of climate smart approaches, water quality and biodiversity reasons.
For IPS it will be important to focus on some selected items which have priority in the actual discussions on peatland use. One of these priorities certainly is the search for political and economic viable incentives for farmers to change their crops and practices in the direction of extensification under wet soil conditions.
However, in some countries ( e.g. Indonesia ) we also see an advocacy for more intensive agricultural use with higher yields on existing peat soils. It is argued that this will reduce the need to open new agricultural land (in peatland regions) for increasing population and need for food supply.
In general IPS should focus on mitigation of climate change caused by peatland use, working with a broad scope on potential developments and paying attention to various socio-economic conditions in different regions.
Based on recent FAO statistics on peatland use for agriculture, the following countries/regions are important to contribute to the work of the IPS community.: Russia-Ukraine, Poland, Germany, UK, Indonesia-Malaysia, Canada-USA and the Netherlands.
Therefore IPS members in these countries were asked to participate in the work of the EG.
Up to now the request to participate in the EG resulted in almost 10 positive responses, which means that the EG is ready are to start with a qualified team.
First, a questionnaire will be prepared to assess the most relevant questions and challenges related to the agricultural use of peatlands. Experts from different countries will be asked to share their knowledge on these aspects. If you have any recommendations or observations for the work of this EG, please contact Jos.
Jos Schouwenaars, Coordinator EG Peatlands and Agriculture