Plantations of reed (Phragmites) on cutover peatlands in the Tver Province

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Case study

As international experience suggests, the rewetting of degraded peatlands can stimulate sustainable regional development and offer local communities new economic prospects for the future. One example of sustainable management of rewetted peatlands is paludiculture, which involves growing biomass of mire plants on rewetted peatlands. The most promising plants are reeds, sedges, sphagnum mosses, alder, and willow.

The common reed (Phragmites australis) can be used in the production of fuel, construction materials (insulation), fertilizers, as well as for chemical processing. Natural reed beds can be harvested for these purposes, but propagation of reeds using vegetative parts, nurslings, or seeds seems a more promising technology. Machinery and special equipment can be used both for planting and harvesting. When the biomass above ground is skimmed off, the biomass located underground accumulates new peat , thus providing for the renewal of peat.

Currently, Greifswald University (Germany) is the leading center for the development of scientific methods of paludiculture. These methods have been successfully applied in Germany, Belarus, and Ukraine. Since 2014, paludiculture techniques have been applied in Russia.

Biomass cultivation on rewetted peatlands has a beneficial effect on climate and allows integration of conservation and utilisation through wet, environmentally harmless forms of peatland agriculture. Since paludiculture helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere, the peatland gains an additional commercial value.

In 2014, in the framework of the Restoring peatlands in Russia Project, experts of the Peat Institute at the Tver State Technical University (Instorf TvGU) launched a study on biomass formation of reed under natural growing conditions in the Tver Province that is aimed to obtain optimal reed biomass yields, as well as to develop technologies of harvesting planting stock and growing plants.

Reeds were planted on three permanent plots that were allocated in a cutover peatland (Galitsky Mokh Fen in Konakovo District, Tver Province) and differed by moisture content. To prepare the plots, all vegetation and some of the upper peat layer were removed, and the surface leveled. Sections of reed rhizomes were used as the planting material.

Studies into growth peculiarities and productivity of reed plants were carried out on the cutover Chuvitsyno Fen (Kalinin District, Tver Province). Positive results were obtained despite adverse weather conditions.

As a follow-up of a research performed at the TvGU in the early 1960s, samples of fuel pellets and bricks were made of reed biomass. International certificates of conformity were obtained to prove high quality of the fuel providing an eco-friendly heating solution.

In 2015–2016, monitoring studies were carried out for assessing the productivity of natural and planted reeds. The results of all pilots have been summarized in a publication: Panov, V.V., E.E. Kukushkina, Yu.N. Zhenikhov, and K.L. Shakhmatov. Cultivation and use of reed biomass on cutover peatlands (experimental research materials). 2016. Tver: Triada Publishers. 160 pp. [In Russian, English summary]

Панов В.В., Кукушкина Е.Е., Женихов Ю.Н., Шахматов К.Л. Выращивание и использование биомассы тростника на обводняемых выработанных торфяных болотах (материалы научно-экспериментальной работы). Монография. Тверь: ООО Издательство «Триада», 2016. 160 с.