ycled Paper as a Growth Substrate in Container Production of Spi

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  • 1 Dept. of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, 360 Agriculture Hall, Oklahoma State Univ., Stillwater, OK 74078

Wet Earth (WE) is a recycled paper product being tested as a potential plant growth substrate. It is composed of 80% recycled paper, 18% diatomaceous earth, 1% CaO, and 1% humic acid by volume. Use of WE by commercial growers would reduce demand for both landfill space and for slowly renewable resources such as peat and pine bark. Evidence also suggests that WE reduces nitrate runoff. Objectives included: determining effects of WE on plant growth, examining effects of WE on NO3 and NH4 runoff from container plant production, and determining the chemical and physical properties that characterize WE as a growth substrate. Ratios of pine bark to WE tested were 100% pine bark, 1:3, 1:1, 3:1, and 100% WE by volume. Fertilizer treatments included: 100% of the recommended rate of controlled release fertilizer (CRF), 50% CRF plus 50% liquid fertilizer (LF) and 100% LF. Plant heights, widths, and visual quality ratings were obtained monthly throughout the 16-week experiment. Leaf, shoot and root dry weights were determined at harvest. Nitrogen content of roots, shoots, and substrates were determined at planting and harvest, while NO3 and NH4 content of leachate was determined at each irrigation. All substrates were analyzed at planting and harvest for pH, soluble salts, exchangeable cations, and CEC. Changes in volume, bulk density, porosity, and air space were also measured. Plant size and quality varied significantly between substrate mixes. Mortality was significantly higher in mixes containing 75% and 100% WE. Changes in volume, bulk density, and percent air space were also significant and inversely related to WE concentration.

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