Using Processed Corn Stover as an Alternative to Peat

in HortScience

Processed corn (Zea mays L.) stover (PCS), defined as finely ground stover with or without additions, could be a potential alternative to peat in greenhouse mixes. However, this option has not yet been examined. We performed two split-plot experiments (1 and 2) with tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum L.) and marigolds (Tagetes patula L.) as main plots. Expt. 1 involved five stover rates (0%, 25%, 50%, 75%, and 100% by volume) mixed with peat as subplots. Expt. 2 involved 0% stover mixed with peat, 25% distillers grain, and 50% quick compost (mechanically processed to accelerate compost process) stover with and without CaO, and 75% quick compost stover without CaO, as subplots. We measured growth parameters (height, dry weight, and flower number) and properties of the mixes. During Expt. 1, across both species, the addition of stover at rates >50% reduced relative greenness by 40%, vegetative biomass yield by 74%, and reproductive biomass yield by 73% compared to mixes with 0% and 25% stover. As the stover rate increased, available water content in the mixes decreased (r = −0.34; P < 0.001). Mixes with 0% and 25% stover had 34% more available water than mixes with 100% stover, which probably reduced plant growth in the 100% stover treatment. As the stover rate increased, plant tissue N and P concentrations decreased. Mixes with 0% stover generally had greater N and P concentrations than mixes with stover. During Expt. 2, for marigolds, the addition of 50% quick compost stover+CaO and 75% quick compost stover-CaO reduced relative greenness by 19% and vegetative biomass by 66% compared to mixes with 25% distillers grain or 0% stover. For tomatoes, the addition of 50% quick compost stover+CaO and 75% quick compost stover-CaO reduced biomass yield by 64%, which may be due to the higher pH and electrical conductivity (EC) of both treatments. Plant tissue N and P concentrations were greater in the mix with 25% distillers grain compared to most treatments, but N and P concentrations in the other mixes varied. Overall, the 25% distillers grain (3 peat: 1 distiller grain: 4 perlite) and 25% stover (3 peat: 1 stover: 4 perlite) treatments showed the most promise as additives in a peat-based mix.

Contributor Notes

We would like to acknowledge the assistance of Kelsey Karni and Walter Stroup from the Statistics Consulting Team at University of Nebraska-Lincoln for their assistance in the statistical analysis of this manuscript.

Corresponding author. E-mail: sruis2@unl.edu.

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    Influence of corn stover rate when mixed with peat and perlite on the heights of marigold (A) and tomato (B) and on the aboveground biomass yield of marigold (C) and tomato (D). Different letters within a plant species denote statistical differences among treatments. Stover rate is the percentage of 0.94-mm ground stover added by volume to achieve 1:0:1 (peat:stover:perlite), 3:1:4, 2:2:4, 1:3:4, and 0:1:1.

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    Influence of the corn stover rate and composted corn stover additions to peat on the marigold aboveground biomass yield (A) and reproductive biomass yield (B) of marigold and tomatoes. Different letters within a plant species denote statistical differences among treatments. Quick compost stover comprised 0.94-mm sieved stover plus syrup with and without CaO. The 50% quick compost stover with CaO was mixed at 2:2:4 (peat:PCS:perlite). The 50% and 75% quick compost stover without Ca was mixed at 2:2:4 and 1:3:4. The 25% distillers grain was composed of 0.94-mm sieved stover plus distillers grain, which was mixed at 3:1:4 (peat:PCS:perlite). The 0% and 25% stover rates were mixed as per the stover rates experiment.

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    Cumulative water use with different rates of corn stover additions to peat (A) and rate and type of composted corn stover additions to peat (B). Different letters within a plant species denote statistical differences among treatments. Stover rate is the percentage of 0.94-mm ground stover added by volume to achieve 1:0:1 (peat:stover:perlite), 3:1:4, 2:2:4, 1:3:4, and 0:1:1. Quick compost stover comprised 0.94-mm sieved stover plus syrup with and without CaO. The 50% quick compost stover with CaO was mixed at 2:2:4 (peat:PCS:perlite). The 50% and 75% quick compost stover without Ca was mixed at 2:2:4 and 1:3:4. The 25% distillers grain was composed of 0.94-mm sieved stover plus distillers grain, which was mixed at 3:1:4 (peat:PCS:perlite). The 0% and 25% stover rates were mixed as per the stover rate experiment.

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