Billions of tonnes of peat – a key ingredient in top composts – have been discovered in a remote part of the Central African Republic of the Congo.

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The peat bog covers an area the size of England and was found by a team from the University of Leeds, the Wildlife Conservation Society-Congo and the country’s Marien Ngouabi University.

They estimate that the bog covers between 40-80,000 square miles (100-200,000 square kilometres), with the peat-layer reaching under ground to 23ft (7m).

Dr Simon Lewis, from the University of Leeds, said: “Few people venture into these swamps.”
Explorers had to contend with crocodiles, gorillas and elephants as they moved through the country.

Simon added: “It’s remarkable that there are parts of the planet that are uncharted territory.”

Any peat extraction is a long way off – and is likely to face fierce opposition from green groups.

AG’s Peter Seabrook said: “I was told that when engineers moved on to virgin peat bogs in Northern Europe, they found more solids in milk than the bogs.

“They floated the first ditch-digging machines onto the bog and it took 10 years for them to drain enough to start harvesting the peat. It’s a long process.”

Peter also warned of the environmental impact from shipping peat long-distance. He said: “I am not too convinced about shipping of coir from the tropics. I would be uneasy about shipping peat from the Congo.

“It looks more sustainable to restore the water levels on British and Irish bogs to encourage the regrowth of sphagnum here.

“Where this has been done in the UK, the regrowth of peat has been much faster than we had been lead to believe,” Peter added.

Compost giant Scotts, which makes Levington and Miracle-Gro, would not comment.

[Picture credit: Wikimedia]