Plant Growth in Plastic, Peat, and Processed Poultry Feather Fiber Growing Containers

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

A biodegradable container made from processed waste poultry feathers was developed, and plant growth was evaluated in plastic, peat, and feather containers. Under uniform irrigation and fertilization, dry shoot weights of `Janie Bright Yellow' marigold (Tagetes patula L.), `Cooler Blush' vinca [Catharanthus roseus (L.) G. Don.] and `Orbit Cardinal' geranium (Pelargonium ×hortorum L.H. Bailey) plants grown in feather containers were higher than for those grown in peat containers, but lower than those grown in plastic containers. Container type did not significantly affect dry shoot weights of `Dazzler Rose Star' impatiens (Impatiens walleriana Hook.f.). `Better Boy' tomato (Lycopersicum esculentum L.) dry shoot weights were similar when grown in peat and feather containers. Feather containers were initially hydrophobic, and several irrigation cycles were required before the feather container walls absorbed water. If allowed to dry, feather containers again became hydrophobic and required several irrigations to reabsorb water from the substrate. Peat containers readily absorbed water from the substrate. Substrate in peat containers dried more rapidly than the substrate in feather containers. Plants grown in peat containers often reached the point of incipient wilting between irrigations, whereas plants grown in feather containers did not. This may have been a factor that resulted in higher dry shoot weights of plants grown in feather containers than in peat containers. Tomato plants grown in feather containers had higher tissue N content than those grown in plastic or peat containers. The availability of additional N from the feather container may also have been a factor that resulted in higher dry shoot weights of plants grown in feather containers than in peat ones. Under non-uniform irrigation and fertilization, dry shoot weights of impatiens and vinca grown in feather containers were significantly higher than those of plants grown in plastic or peat containers. When grown under simulated field conditions, geranium dry shoot weights were significantly higher for plants initially grown in feather containers than for those initially grown in peat containers. Container type did not significantly affect dry shoot weights of vinca when grown under simulated field conditions. As roots readily penetrated the walls of both feather and peat containers, dry root weights of vinca and geranium were not significantly affected by container type when grown under simulated field conditions.

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