562 Incorporating Zeolite into Soilless Container Media Reduces Nutrient Leaching in Ornamental Plant Production

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  • 1 University of Florida, Mid-Florida Research and Education Center, 2725 binion Road, Apopka, FL 32703

Containerized ornamental plant production represents extremely intensive agricultural production. An average of 200,000 containers may occupy 1 acre of surface area, to which a large amount of chemical fertilizers will be applied. Because of the use of high-drainage soilless potting mixes coupled with excessive fertigation, a great amount of nutrients, particularly nitrogen and phosphorus, are leached, which increases the potential for ground and surface water contamination. Over the past 2 decades, research has been centered on developing fertigation delivery systems such as nutrient film techniques, ebb-and-flow and capillary mat systems, for reducing leaching. Relatively limited research has been conducted on improving potting medium substrates to minimize nutrient leaching. The objectives of this study were to determine the adsorption isotherm of six different zeolites to ammonium, nitrate and phosphorus, identify and incorporate desired zeolites in a peat/bark-based medium for reducing nutrient leaching in ornamental plant production. Results indicated that the zeolites possess great holding capacities for ammonium, nitrate, and phosphorus. Compared to control, ammonium leaching was reduced 70% to 90%, phosphorus 30% to 80% and nitrate 0% to 60% depending on zeolite species and quantity used per pot. Zeolite amended media caused no adverse effects on plant growth. Conversely, biomass increased significantly when compared to that of the control.

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