The agriculture industry uses thousands of different substrates, but if you are considering moving yours to organic and eco-friendly options, there are two important products you have probably heard of before: peat moss and coco coir.
Once a ubiquitous component of soil-less media, the use of sphagnum peat moss is in the spotlight because of the harmful process required for its production. Besides the ecological perspective, many other convincing findings illustrate the advantages of coir products over other growing ingredients.
The Two Types of Green Substrates Explained
- Peat Moss:
This dead fibrous material is a type of soil generated over thousands of years from plant constituents submerged in bogs, typically from the sphagnum moss plant. Most of it is harvested from peat bogs in Canada .
Peat offers properties highly valued by horticulturists, such as moisture retention capacity, aeration, and suppression of fungal diseases afflicting seedlings. Gardening examples include seed germination, camellias, tomatoes, rhododendrons, lawns.
Also known as Cocopeat, it is a by-product of the coconut industry. It is an extremely durable, rot-resistant fiber obtained from the tough, dense husk inside coconuts. Over the years, coir has become a popular type of hydroponic growing medium.
Today, it is considered one of the most promising substrate materials because of its lightweight, easy manipulation, very neutral pH level, and ecological footprint. Long popular with hydroponic growers, you can now utilize coco coir for nearly all your crops and garden plants, including crops, strawberries, blueberries, and tomatoes   .
Sustainability is the main reason behind coco coir experiencing a surge in popularity as more growers move to eco-friendly plant cultivation strategies; it uses repurposed waste products, thereby contributing to a circular economy.
Choosing coir over peat moss helps stop the destruction of ecologically fragile peat bogs. Producers drain the swamps before harvesting and then mine the top layers with a large vacuum apparatus . With unsustainable practices like these, many businesses are phasing out peat moss altogether .
Peat and coir show similar drainage patterns in the following curves. Moreover, researchers found their water-buffering capacity is significantly higher than that of other components, which means plants can pull water easier from these two media .
Moisture retention curves of peat, coconut coir, perlite, aged pine bark, shredded pine wood (SPW; Pinus taeda ), and pine wood chip (PWC) substrate components. Source:
Coir has some additional advantages over peat, e.g., it is better in handling water, and its pH is closer to an ideal/neutral pH—between 5.2 and 6.8—which makes it better for a wider variety of plants, saves water and fertilizers . It also provides you with maximum flexibility when working under different weather conditions.
How Coco Coir Is Easier To Deal With
The usefulness of these two media is similar. However, implanting and maintaining coco coir is easier and less labor-intensive by just placing bags instead of filling pots, saving manpower if necessary. It often involves no loss of material and offers flexibility: you might choose to start with a fraction of Cocopeat or find a need for a mix; that depends on the size and complexity of your plantation.
Both substrates can be used to deter fungus gnats and certain diseases. The two are also excellent in trapping air in the soil and, by doing so, benefit root development . However, coir holds more air when completely saturated. That’s where the ideal air and water ratio of coir comes in: it naturally handles the nutrient solution, enabling you to practice high-frequency fertigation, load balancing, and plant health monitoring.
Another significant distinction is that, contrary to peat, dried coconut fiber can be wetted back. The process of wetting the media is done to keep the media used in a humid condition, while dried products are easy to store, transport and manipulate.
Summing Up Peat Moss vs. Coco Coir
These growing media gives growers choice, flexibility, and attributes that conventional soil or other materials cannot provide.
With that said, utilizing coir is a better way to future-proof your business. Let’s recap its main assets:
- Highly flexible and suitable for multiple climates;
- Cost-effective, saving time and money by an easy implementation and maintenance;
- Allows complete control over your nutrient balance and helps manage fertigation easily;
- Can be ecologically sourced;
- Prevents certain diseases.
As it becomes less common to invest in peat moss, choosing good coir supplying alternatives is a safer, more reliable option. With a leading organic supplier, you get access to sustainably-sourced materials at any time.
There are different types of coir and sector requirements (domestic, professional), with varying levels of coir quality and specifications. Therefore, it is essential to know what each supplier can offer; some coco coir products are suitable for a large range of crops and growing conditions, but some crops require specific properties that should be considered in the product design.