Water and Phosphorus Efficiency in Containerized Crop Production of Cotoneaster dammeri `Skogholm' with an Industrial Mineral Aggregate Amended Pine Bark Substrate

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  • 1 1North Carolina State University, Horticultural Science, Raleigh, NC, 27695-7609
  • | 2 2Agriculture Research Service–U.S. Department of Agriculture, Horticulture and Breeding Research, Fort Pierce, FL, 34945

The physical and chemical properties of pine bark yield low water and nutrient efficiency; consequently, an engineered substrate altering the substrate properties may allow greater water and nutrient retention. Past research has focused on controlling the quantity and rate of water and nutrient inputs. In this study, pine bark was amended at 8% (by volume) with a Georgiana palygorksite-bentonite blended industrial mineral aggregate with a particle size of 850 μm-4.75 mm or 300 μm-710 μm to improve water and nutrient efficiency. Each particle size was pretreated at temperatures of ≈140 °C (pasteurized) or ≈390 °C (calcined). The study was a 2 (particle size) × 2 (heat pretreatment) factorial in a randomized complete-block design with four replications. The control was a pine bark substrate amended with 11% sand (by volume). Containers (14 L) were topdressed with 17–5–12 controlled release fertilizer. A 0.2 leaching fraction was maintained by biweekly monitoring container influent from spray stakes and effluent volume measured daily. An aliquot of the daily collected effluent was analyzed for phosphorus (P). After 112 days, tops and roots were harvested, dried, and weighed for dry weight comparisons. Compared to pine bark amended with sand the 300 μm-710 μm particle size mineral decreased mean daily water application by ≈0.4 L/day per container. The calcined mineral reduced P leaching by ≈10 mg of P per container or 60% over the course of the study compared to pine bark: sand. Top and root dry weights were unaffected. These results suggest 300 μm–710 μm calcined mineral provided the most significant decreases in water use and P leaching while growing an equivalent plant.

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