Formation, properties, types, production and application of turf
The turf is a fossil, fossil material, formed during the destruction of marsh plants.
Composition and characteristics of turf:
The turf is a sedimentary material, formed during the decomposition of plants in swampy countryside.
The turf usually has a relatively loose structure, it can be gray, yellow, brown, brown, brown-black or black in color. The turf in its botanical composition consists of various plant residues: trees, roots of trees and shrubs, various parts of herbaceous plants, as well as mosses of sypnowich and sphagnum species.

The turf is a renewable mineral resource and renewable energy source.

The turf lies on the surface or at a depth of several tens of meters under the guise of mineral deposits.

The turf and brown coal. The turf differs from brown coal in organic compounds — more than 50% is dry matter. Under the influence of high pressure and high temperature, at great depths inside the Earth, turf is converted into brown coal.

The turf from a chemical point of view, is a complex mixture of mineral and organic components. The content of mineral components should not be more than 50% in terms of dry matter. The presence and amount of minerals determines the ash content of turf.

The chemical composition and properties of turf directly depend on the type. An important parameter is the Botanical composition and the degree of decomposition. The composition of turf consists of the following chemical elements: carbon — 48−65% organic matter (an integral part of turf, which is dry matter, except ash), oxygen — 25−45%, hydrogen — 4.7−7%, nitrogen 3.8%, sulfur — up to 1.2% (in rare cases — up to 2.5%), calcium — up to 5% and silicon oxide 43% by weight ash, calcium oxide up to 40%, aluminum oxide — up to 12%, iron oxide-up to 13%. There are also trace elements: Zinc — 250 mg / kg, copper — 0.2−85 mg / kg, cobalt — 0.1−10 mg / kg, molybdenum, and 0.1 — 10 mg / kg, manganese-2−1000 mg / kg. The content of turf-bitumen organic matter in its component composition (benzene compounds) is 1.2−17%, water-soluble and hydrolysable substances 10−60%, cellulose, 2−10%, humic acid-10−50%, lignin — 3−20%.

The chemical composition of turf, when it has reached the highest degree of degradation (70%), is characterized by a minimum cellulose content, so it consists mainly of soluble and hydrolysable substances.

The world’s turf reserves are enormous and according to various estimates range from 250 to 500 billion tons. About 3% of the land area. There is more turf in the northern hemisphere than in the South.
Formation of turf:
The turf is formed in swampy areas, in so-called turf bogs (floodplains and terraces) that occur in river valleys and in watersheds. Marsh plants (trees, shrubs, grasses, mosses, lichens, etc.) over the years, they die and descend to the bottom of the swamp, where due to the lack of oxygen the plant remains do not completely decompose, so as a result of biochemical processes it develops into organic matter, which is an unstructured (amorphous) substance. This is turf. Decomposition and biochemical processes occur and occur mainly during the warmer part of the year at lower groundwater levels. The turf is of organic (biogenic) origin.

The average rate of formation and accumulation of turf is different, and it depends on the predominant source of plant groups, influenced by geographical and climatic zonality, hydrological and other conditions.
Classification of turf. Types, subtypes, turf groups
Pine-in botanical composition: 40−100% pine and shrub remains.

Pine-grass-turf-in its botanical composition, pine and turf are the main components.

Pine-sphagnum sphagnum tree-moss group, in the Botanical composition 35−65% sphagnum mosses remains and 15−35% Pine.

Grass sphagnum-Botanical composition of 40−100% turf residues, 35% sphagnum moss and 15% Pine.

Alder turf — a group of turf trees, the Botanical composition is 40−100% dominated by tree bark and remnants of alder wood.

Pine wood — 40−100% is dominated by the remains of pine wood.

Willow turf — 40 -100% is dominated by the remains of Willow.

Birch turf — 40−100% is dominated by the remains of birch.

Other types of turf according to the typical plant: spruce turf, Reed turf, sedge turf…
Turf extraction:
The turf extraction is relatively easy because it is usually close to the Earth’s surface.
The use of turf:
Turf, unlike other minerals, has a complex application. It is used as a fuel, for nutrient supplementation in crop production, as a medium in horticulture, as an insulating material, as a chemical raw material, for environmental and other purposes.

Soils containing turf serve as a natural filter for natural waters.

The turf has a restorative function. It restores poor, depleted, polluted and eroded soils. It also effectively absorbs heavy metals, nitrates and other impurities. Reduces the effect of pesticides.

The most widely used turf and its processing products (fulvosavs, humic acid, etc.) are used in agricultural production. In agriculture, it is used to replenish soil humus to improve water retention and change the physical and biological properties of soils. The turf contains all the necessary plant nutrients in a form that is easily absorbed by plants. Improves soil porosity and optimizes its pH. It has antiseptic properties, so it inhibits the development of pathogenic microflora.

Increasing demand for turf replacement
Horticulturists are increasingly using more sustainable materials in crop production than before (for example, turf-free compost). But what makes turf-free compost a more sustainable choice?
Advantages of turf as a growing medium
The turf has a number of properties — either as a major component of the medium or as a soil improver — that make it a unique and sought-after product for horticulture and agricultural crop production. It improves soil structure, improves water retention in light sand soils, and helps reduce nutrient leaching. The turf can bind a volume of water equal to almost 20 times its own weight. It ventilates and improves heavy clay soils, their drainage, allowing roots to breathe, grow and absorb nutrients better. It is advantageous for the buffer capacity of the soil, as it tolerates pH changes very well. It has a good effect on the cation exchange capacity, which helps to retain minerals, releasing them over time. Prevents leaching of fertilizers. It is a natural resource free of weeds and pollutants. The turf allows plants to grow in airy and well-structured soil, guaranteeing a healthy, vigorous culture. In the domestic market, almost all popular manufacturers (Stender, Kekkil Jupp, Novobalt, Pindstrup, Klasmann, etc.) are represented.) turf product is available. However, manufacturers such as Stender and Klasmann, which are also very popular in Hungary, are working intensively to create the most perfect turf substitute. The domestic market has a rich supply of soil improver products (e.g. Meliorite, Terrum-M, Alginite, Agrolite-l, coconut topsoil Triopack, DCM Vivimus, etc.), which offer a kind of alternative to turf.
Natural resource free of weeds and pollutants.
Why are turflands important?
The turf bogs, which cover only 3% of the Earth’s landmass, contain at least a quarter of the world’s soil carbon reserves. The turf deposits are extremely diverse places, on the survival of which the existence of many species depends. Furthermore, turf bogs are important allies in the fight against climate change, and that is because they are one of the most efficient carbon sinks on the planet. According to some estimates, twice as much carbon is stored as the world’s forests. And that’s not all: turf bogs are both excellent and natural forms of flood management, absorbent landscapes that can absorb huge amounts of precipitation, reducing the risk of flooding. That is why we cannot afford to waste them.

The turf bog restoration can take 5 to 30 years, depending on predetermined criteria such as typical flora and fauna, water level, carbon sequestration.

At the level of individual turflands, the diversity of living beings can be exceptional. For example, the alkaline moorland of Fenor Bog in County Waterford, Ireland, contains 118 species of plants and 214 species of invertebrates, birds and mammals, all within less than 1 square kilometre. There is a great threat to the future if the biodiversity of turflands is reduced.

This may be due to habitat loss, the emergence and spread of invasive alien species, over-exploitation for Agriculture, Forestry and turf extraction, nutrient pollution and climate change. From the point of view of the process of turf formation, it is essential that certain plant and animal species are present on the turf bogs, we think about the presence of turf — forming plant species and animals that help the regeneration of plants. Protecting and / or restoring them is an important task. While organic soils can make a major contribution to agricultural production, irreversible processes resulting from the drainage of organic soils should be treated with caution. The rational use of turf bogs should include avoiding unacceptable ecological impacts on the neighbouring and global environment.
The substrate industry has been looking for alternatives to turf for decades.
Solutions to replace turf
The substrate industry has been looking for alternatives to turf for decades, and they are increasingly being used. However, the quantitative and qualitative requirements of producers and consumers cannot always be met. In addition, the carbon footprint of all materials should be further studied, including details about their transportation and recycling. The industry is strongly committed to responsible turf bog management and tries to minimize its adverse effects where possible.

Years ago, turf-free products were generally less favored than turf-based versions. In many cases, "distancing" was legitimate. Today, due to intensive R & D activities, many products have been developed and refined. These are now as good or even better than traditional turf-based soil improvers on the market. However, imitating nature has always been a difficult task. This is also true in relation to turf. Therefore, traders should also draw the attention of gardeners and farmers to the different characteristics of turf and its substitutes, such as wood fibre or compost, in order to minimize disappointment to consumers when growing crops, as this could impair the widespread acceptance of turf-free soils.

Coconut has an ideal pH of 6.0, which is perfect for most plants and has natural fungicidal properties.

In addition, the use of a reduced or turf-free growing medium in crop production often requires changes to previously used technology, such as irrigation and nutrient supply. Most turf-free mixtures that can be purchased contain one or more of the following ingredients. They are carefully balanced in composition to provide the same or very similar growing conditions with conventional turf-based products:

Coconut shell (coconut fiber). Coconut shell fibers are considered the best known alternative to turf moss. Coconut has an excellent water retention capacity, it can absorb up to 10 times its weight. Adding it to the soil also promotes proper drainage and aeration, so that the roots of the plants receive a lot of water and oxygen.

Woody materials (bark, wood fiber, wood chips, etc.). Woody materials are not the most ideal turf moss alternative, although they do have some advantages. Wood-based materials have been added to commercial soil mixtures for decades to improve water retention and the addition of organic matter. They open the ground to promote better airflow and water movement. The pH of the tree can be low, making the soil more acidic, which is good for acid-loving plants, but not the best choice for plants that prefer a more alkaline environment. Compost. Compost is full of beneficial microbes and nutrients and is commonly referred to as "Black Gold". Compost, made from the breakdown of agricultural, plant waste, is rich in microorganisms that are useful for the soil. "Black Gold" helps with drainage and provides nutritional value. Of course, compost is not a new thing for farmers, but it can also be used as an effective turf moss alternative. When added to soil, it can improve soil structure, increase water infiltration and retention, and add beneficial microbes. The use of compost helps to reduce the amount of waste that goes to landfills, while providing the soil with a rich nutrient, reducing the need for fertilizer.

Author: Michael Czezus

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