Properties of Plastic, Peat, and Processed Poultry Feather Fiber Growing Containers

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  • 1 Department of Horticulture, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR 72701

When the substrate surface and drainage holes of feather fiber, peat, and plastic containers were sealed with wax, hyperbolic growth curves were good fits to cumulative water loss on a per container and per cm2 basis, with R2 values ranging from 0.88 to 0.96. The effect of container type was significant as the differences in asymptotic maximum water loss (max) values for all container pairs were significant at P < 0.05 for both water loss per container and water loss per cm2. The predicted total water loss for peat containers was ≈2.5 times greater than feather containers, and the predicted water loss per cm2 for the peat container was ≈3 times greater than feather containers. Vinca [Catharanthus roseus (L.) G. Don.] `Cooler Blush' and impatiens (Impatiens walleriana Hook f.) `Dazzler Rose Star' plants grown in feather and peat containers required more water and more frequent irrigations than those grown in plastic containers. However, plants grown in feather containers required less water and fewer irrigations than plants grown in peat containers. The surface area of containers covered by algal or fungal growth was significantly higher on peat containers than on feather containers. No fungal or algal growth was observed on plastic containers. Additionally, primarily algae were observed on peat containers whereas most discoloration observed on feather containers was due to fungal growth. Dry feather containers had a higher longitudinal strength than dry plastic containers but a lower longitudinal strength than dry peat containers. Wet feather containers had higher longitudinal strength than wet peat containers but a similar longitudinal strength as wet plastic containers. Dry feather and plastic containers had similar lateral strengths and both had significantly higher lateral strength than dry peat containers. Wet feather containers had significantly lower lateral strength than wet plastic containers but had higher lateral strength than wet peat containers. Dry and wet plastic containers had higher punch strength than wet or dry peat and feather containers. Dry peat containers had significantly higher punch strength than dry feather containers. However, wet feather containers had significantly higher punch strength than wet peat containers. Decomposition of peat and feather containers was significantly affected by container type and the species grown in the container. When planted with tomato (Lycopersicum esculentum L.) `Better Boy', decomposition was not significantly different between the peat and feather containers. However, when vinca and marigold (Tagetes patula L.) `Janie Bright Yellow' were grown in the containers, decomposition was significantly higher for feather containers than for peat containers. Therefore, containers made from processed feather fiber provided a new type of biodegradable container with significantly improved characteristics as compared to peat containers.

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