Sugarcane Bagasse Is an Effective Soilless Substrate Amendment in Quick-turn Osteospermum Production

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Maureen Thiessen Hammond Research Station, Louisiana State University Agricultural Center, 21549 Old Covington Hwy., Hammond, LA 70403, USA

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Jeb S. Fields Hammond Research Station, Louisiana State University Agricultural Center, 21549 Old Covington Hwy., Hammond, LA 70403, USA

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Damon Abdi Hammond Research Station, Louisiana State University Agricultural Center, 21549 Old Covington Hwy., Hammond, LA 70403, USA

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Jeffrey Beasley School of Plant, Environment and Soil Sciences, Louisiana State University Agricultural Center, 137 J.C. Miller Hall, Baton Rouge, LA 70803, USA

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Abstract

Many greenhouse growers rely on peat-based soilless substrates to produce salable crops in a relatively short period of time. Peat-based substrate suppliers often incorporate additional organic materials such as wood fiber to extend peat supplies. Given the relative success of wood-based substrates, growing interest in other fiber materials such as sugarcane bagasse may provide similar benefits for substrate processers. The objective of this research was to evaluate substrate properties and the productivity of a short-term floriculture crop, Osteospermum ‘Bright Lights Purple’, in a commercially available peat-based substrate (PL) that has been amended with either commercially available wood fiber [Hydrafiber (HF)] or an aged sugarcane bagasse fiber (SCB). Thus, substrates consisting of PL amended with 15% or 30% HF or SCB were developed. Plants were fertigated weekly at rates of 100, 200, or 300 ppm N, respectively. Crop growth and fertility dynamics were assessed. Substrate shrinkage was greatest in the 30% bagasse blend but had minimal impact given the 2-month crop cycle. The incorporation of 15% and 30% SCB and HF produced slight changes in pH over a 9-week growth period, with HF generally raising pH and SCB generally lowering pH compared with the 100% PL, showing promise for bagasse in managing substrate pH where irrigation water has high pH and/or alkalinity. Substrate EC was initially reduced by blending SCB and, to a lesser extent, HF, but differences ceased to exist by the end of the experiment. Chlorophyll and blooms were abundant in all substrates and fertigation rates. Regardless of fertigation rate, 30% HF had the lowest growth index and shoot dry mass, and 30% SCB had the lowest root dry mass, although differences were not visually apparent. Foliar N concentrations were greatest in plants grown in the PL and SCB substrates and lowest in HF blends. Overall, growth and dry mass differences were minimal across substrate treatment and fertigation rate, and all plants were marketable with statistically similar shelf life. In conclusion, this research indicates the potential of using SCB as a substrate amendment for short-term crop systems in a similar manner as wood fiber.

Peat moss has historically been the primary component of soilless substrates used in horticultural plant production due to the ideal physical and chemical properties, demonstrated success in crop production, and widespread availability of this material (Maher et al. 2008). However, in recent years, efforts to find alternatives to peatmoss have increased due to sustainability concerns, rising transport costs, and increases in peatmoss demand as horticulture sales increase (McClellan 2022). Sustainability concerns in peat production/processing include habitat loss, removal of carbon sinks, and increased greenhouse gas emissions due to the peat extraction process (Alexander et al. 2008; Cleary et al. 2005; Dunn and Freeman 2011). Furthermore, with steady increases in substrate demand projected for the coming decades (Blok et al. 2021), peatmoss alternatives with similar characteristics will be necessary to sustain growth. The desirable qualities of peatmoss as a plant growth substrate include low bulk density, high water-holding capacity, high air-filled porosity, adequate cation exchange capacity, easily amendable pH and nutrient content, limited pathogen and weed seed pressures, and material uniformity (Krucker et al. 2010; Schmilewski 2008; Yu et al. 2019). Several alternative substrate materials are being evaluated as an amendment for soilless substrates, such as coconut coir, wood fiber, and other organic byproducts (Barrett et al. 2016), with wood fiber exhibiting promise due to abundance and relatively low costs.

Interest in soft-wood fiber as a substrate amendment continues to grow due to its global availability, renewability, limited carbon inputs, and low production costs (Durand et al. 2021; Harris et al. 2020). Inclusion of wood fibers in peat-based soilless substrates has shown demonstrable success in producing quality crops when incorporated between 10% to 40% by volume with peat (Dickson et al. 2022; Jackson 2018), highlighting the opportunity to alleviate the pressure on peat supplies. Although the water-holding capacity of wood fiber is lower than that of peat, the higher air-filled porosity can be optimized to enhance the overall properties of the substrate. Jackson (2018) described how the wood and peat fibers combine to form a new matrix, resulting in higher porosity, increased water retention, reduced hydrophobicity and particle separation, and improved overall root growth. Wood fibers are currently incorporated into many soilless substrates at a rate of up to 40% by volume (Chiu 2020; Drotleff 2018). A common concern in using wood fibers in soilless substrates is the associated nitrogen immobilization due to microbial decomposition of the added carbon; however, previous research has shown that supplementing nitrogen fertilizer can alleviate these effects, reducing the likelihood of nitrogen deficiency commonly associated with high carbon materials (Jackson et al. 2008, 2009; Wright et al. 2008).

Sugarcane bagasse (SCB), the fibrous remains of the cane stalk after juice is extracted for sugar production, is another potential substrate component for growers. This by-product is composed primarily of cellulose, lignin, and hemicellulose, suggesting potential value as a substrate component. Sugarcane bagasse is currently used as a fuel to power sugarcane mills and as a raw material in the paper industry; however, substantial amount of SCB waste remains (Bhadha et al. 2020). It is estimated that between 280 and 520 million tons of SCB are produced each year, making it one of the largest agricultural residues worldwide (Chandel et al. 2012; Loh et al. 2013; Toscano Miranda et al. 2021). In Louisiana alone, an estimated 350,000 to 700,000 Mg of SCB remains after 80% to 90% is used as fuel for mills (Webber et al. 2018), demanding additional storage costs for the sugarcane industry. With recent trends in the consolidation of sugar mills, individual mills are producing more SCB, resulting in larger stockpiles of this byproduct (Holland 2023). The abundance of SCB and the low production and pretreatment costs associated with this material highlight opportunities for use as a substrate amendment, particularly in the southeastern United States where shipping costs can be minimized due to the proximity of the sugarcane manufacturing industry. Sugarcane bagasse has demonstrated success in increasing crop yields in field-based production (Bhadha et al. 2020); however, the control over growing conditions provided in soilless substrate production may maximize the benefits SCB may impart—namely, improving substrate physiochemical properties such as water-holding capacity and organic matter content. Despite the potential benefits, the evaluation of SCB’s physical and chemical properties and suitability for plant growth in soilless systems has been limited. Sugarcane bagasse has a high C:N ratio [65.88:1 (Xu et al. 2021), 73.82 (Nisaren et al. 2019), 97.5 (Uchimiya et al. 2022), to 213.57 (Bhat et al. 2015)] and may immobilize N as microbial decomposition consumes the carbon, causing concerns over the longevity of this material as a substrate component. The use of SCB in stabilized forms, such as vermicompost (Khomami and Moharam 2013), ash (Webber et al. 2016, 2017), and biochar (Webber et al. 2018; Yu et al. 2019), has been evaluated in seedling production; however, the processes involved in creating these stabilized materials require additional time, material inputs, and energy that can increase costs and limit sustainability benefits. Thus, evaluation of unprocessed SCB as a soilless substrate component is ideal. A study evaluating gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides) production in pine bark amended with varying proportions of fresh and aged SCB supported previous beliefs that fresh, unprocessed SCB may still decompose too quickly for production cycles longer than 2 to 3 months (May et al. 2021). Therefore, the use of unprocessed SCB may prove most valuable as a substrate fiber in containerized crops with production cycles shorter than 3 months.

The overall goal of this study was to evaluate the potential of using unprocessed SCB in floriculture production in a similar fashion to commercially available wood fiber. This will be achieved through evaluating the inclusion of SCB and commercially available wood fibers into commercially available greenhouse substrates and 1) assessing amendment impacts on substrate physical and chemical properties, 2) evaluating subsequent crop growth and quality differences in a short-term production ornamental greenhouse crop, and 3) determining suitable fertigation rates needed to compensate for possible nitrogen immobilization.

Materials and Methods

Substrate blending and physical properties.

An industry standard peat-based greenhouse substrate (Jolly Gardener Pro-Line C/20, Oldcastle Lawn and Garden, Tylertown, MS, USA), consisting of Canadian sphagnum peatmoss (75%), perlite (15%), and aged pine bark (10%), was blended with 1) a commercially available wood fiber-based substrate component (HF; EZ-Blend Hydrafiber, Profile Products, LLC, Buffalo Grove, IL, USA), a disc-refined fiber material made from Loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) or 2) SCB (Louisiana Sugar Cane Cooperative, St. Martin Parish, LA, USA) aged for ∼2 years. The HF and SCB materials were hydrated, and clumps were hand-separated before blending. The standard peat-based greenhouse substrate was blended with either the HF or SCB components at 15% and 30% by volume, respectively, and compared with an unblended 100% peat commercial substrate control (PL). Substrates were blended for 10 min each using a 0.11 cubic-meter concrete mixer (Yardmax YM0115, Roselle, IL, USA). The base material was a ready-to-use substrate, therefore no additional lime or fertilizer was applied.

Three replicate samples for each blended substrate combination and individual raw substrate component were evaluated using the North Carolina State University porometer method as described by Fonteno and Bilderback (1993) for bulk density (Db), container capacity (CC), air space (AS), and total porosity (TP). Particle size distribution was performed on three replicates of each substrate treatment and component by passing a 100-g oven-dried sample (105 °C for 48 h) through six US Standard sieves ranging from 0.11- to 6.30-mm diameter mesh, plus a bottom pan, by shaking for 5 min using a sieve shaker at 278 oscillations per minute (Ro-Tap RX-29; W.S. Tyler, Mentor, OH, USA). Fractions retained in each of the sieves were weighed and represented as a percentage of the total sample.

Three replicate 100-mL volume samples for each blended substrate treatment and raw substrate component were also evaluated using the swirl test method for pH and electrical conductivity (EC). Samples were mixed with 100 mL of deionized water and allowed to equilibrate for 10 min before measuring pH and EC with a handheld meter (GroLine HI9814; Hanna Instruments, Smithfield, RI, USA).

Crop growth and evaluation.

The greenhouse study design was a multifactorial, randomized block design experiment, with main effects consisting of substrate component (PL, HF, and SCB), incorporation proportion (15% and 30%), and fertigation concentration (100, 200, and 300 ppm), totaling 12 treatments. Eighteen 2.5-L plastic containers (NP300SC; Nursery Supplies, Inc., Kissimmee, FL, USA) were filled with each of the five substrate treatments. All containers were filled to the top, dropped from a height of 5 cm three times, and filled to a final substrate level at 1 cm below the top of the container. One vegetatively propagated plug per container of Osteospermum ‘Bright Lights Purple’ was transplanted in the container center on 23 Feb 2022. Plants were placed in a greenhouse with plastic sheeting at the LSU AgCenter Hammond Research Station in Hammond, LA, USA. One pressure compensating spray stake (12.1 L·h−1, 160° spray pattern; 40201-002020, Netafim Corp., Hatzerim, Israel) was installed at the edge of each container. Plants were manually irrigated for 1 week, after which they were irrigated with 200 mL per container once per day through spray stakes. Irrigation water was tested on 28 Mar 2022 with a measured pH of 8.6 and alkalinity of 185.44 ppm CaCO3.

Beginning 14 d after planting (DAP), plants were fertigated with 200 mL at one of three concentration treatments every Wednesday, replacing that day’s 200-mL irrigation. Stock solutions of a water-soluble fertilizer [Peters Professional Peat-Lite Special (20% total N, 10% P2O5, 20% K2O) Base Formulation, ICL Group Ltd., Tel-Aviv, Israel] were mixed at 100, 200, and 300 ppm nitrogen and stored in 95-L plastic drums. Plumbing was engineered so that the fertigation solution was delivered through the spray stakes at 200 mL per fertigation. Thus, six replicates existed of each substrate × fertigation treatment.

At 26 and 63 DAP, pH and EC were measured in leachate collected from three replicates of each substrate and fertigation treatment after applying the nondestructive pour-through procedure described by Wright (1986) using a handheld meter (GroLine HI9814, Hanna Instruments). Final data collection occurred 63 DAP. Plant growth and quality parameters included growth index (widest width × perpendicular width × height), bloom count (number of blooms at least 50% open), and chlorophyll. Growth index and bloom count were measured at 26 and 63 DAP (4 and 9 weeks) on each replicate. Foliar chlorophyll content was measured nondestructively on three random leaves per plant on three replicates of each treatment using a SPAD meter (SPAD 502 Plus; Spectrum Technologies, Aurora, IL, USA). Substrate shrinkage was measured as the depth from the top of the container to the substrate surface at 63 DAP on four replicates to determine relative degrees of settling and decomposition of substrate blends.

Dry plant biomass was measured for both shoots and roots by destructively harvesting tissue, severing shoots from the roots at the substrate surface from four of the six replicates (n = 4). Shoot tissue was separated from root tissue and dipped in deionized water to rinse any fertilizer solution from the leaves and dried at 70 °C for 48 h. Shoot tissue was weighed and leaf tissue was separated from flower and stem material, ground, and analyzed for total nitrogen concentration [Dumas Dry-Combustion method and LECO CN Analyzer (St. Joseph, MI, USA)]. Foliar concentration of N was assessed in fully mature leaves (inductively coupled plasma spectroscopy; LSU AgCenter Soil Testing and Plant Analysis Laboratory, Baton Rouge, LA, USA). Root tissue was separated from substrate material manually, washed, and then dried at 70 °C for 48 h before weighing.

Post-growth substrate evaluation.

Substrate samples were collected from three replicates (the same replicates used for root and shoot analysis) of each fertigation and substrate blend combination to evaluate fertigation effect and production process on substrate physical properties (e.g., Db, AS, CC, and TP) and particle size distribution. The samples were processed using the porometer method previously described in pre-growth substrates.

Dry down procedure.

To assess the substrate blend effect on marketable shelf life, the remaining two replicates from each substrate and fertigation combination were maintained in the greenhouse for 12 d. On 10 May 2022, containers were irrigated with 400 mL of water between 0900 and 1000 HR for the final time and allowed to wilt. Subjective ratings of wilting state (1 = fully turgid, 5 = fully wilted) were recorded twice daily, once in the morning and once in the afternoon, until all plants reached stage 5 wilting. The number of days to reach stage 5 wilting were recorded for each replicate.

Data analysis.

Analysis of variance (ANOVA) was conducted in JMP Pro 16.2.0 (SAS Institute, Cary, NC, USA) to evaluate substrate blend and fertigation effects on static physical properties, pH, EC, and particle size distribution at pre- and post-growth stages of this study. A standard least squares model was used to evaluate the effects of substrate, fertigation rate, and the substrate/fertigation interaction. Data collected from the greenhouse experiment was evaluated with ANOVA in JMP Pro for substrate and fertigation rate effects on pour-through pH and EC, blooms, SPAD chlorophyll content, growth index, root and shoot dry mass and ratio, and foliar nutrient content. If ANOVA tests were significant, means separation of the substrate and fertigation treatments were assessed using Tukey’s honestly significant difference at α = 0.05.

Results and Discussion

Substrate properties.

When comparing individual raw substrate components, both the SCB and HF had lower CC (P = 0.0006) and greater AS (P = 0.0029) than the PL, with the proportion of solids of all three substrate components equivalent (P = 0.3546; Fig. 1). The 100% Hydrafiber had a pH (6.59 ± 0.05SD) that is slightly greater than that of the 100% PL (6.14 ± 0.02SD), whereas 100% aged SCB had a much lower pH (3.41 ± 0.03SD; P < 0.0001, Table 1). Additionally, substrate EC was much lower in the 100% HF (0.09 mS·cm−1) and 100% SCB (0.62 mS·cm−1) than the 100% PL (1.41 mS·cm−1), which had a starter charge of fertilizer already incorporated (Fig. 1). It should be noted that the properties of SCB discussed herein pertain to a single source of SCB. With the current lack of commercial sources of SCB, ubiquity of its properties across the country is unknown, and further data from additional sources is needed before establishing production guidelines that incorporate SCB.

Fig. 1.
Fig. 1.

Physiochemical properties of 100% Jolly Pro-Line C/20 (PL; left), 100% HydraFiber EZ blend (HF; middle), and 100% aged sugarcane bagasse (SCB; right). Proportions of air, water, and solids evaluated via North Carolina State University porometer (Fonteno and Bilderback 1993). Electrical conductivity (EC) and pH evaluated on a 1:1 swirl test.

Citation: HortScience 58, 10; 10.21273/HORTSCI17286-23

Table 1.

Physical and chemical properties of substrate blends used to grow Osteospermum crop in this research. Physical properties determined using the North Carolina State University porometer test (Fonteno and Bilderback 1993) and chemical properties determined using a 1:1 swirl test.

Table 1.

Differences in static physical properties between the substrate blends evaluated in the greenhouse study were minimal (Table 1). Air space and TP values of HF- and SCB-blended substrates were similar to those of PL (P = 0.6225 and P = 0.0784, respectively). The addition of 15% or 30% SCB did not significantly change the CC of PL; however, an increase in CC from 15% to 30% SCB was significant. Addition of HF slightly increased CC compared with the PL (P = 0.0126). Both SCB and HF increased the bulk density of the PL (P < 0.0001; Table 1), but values did not exceed typical/desirable bulk density of 0.1 g·cm−3 (Bailey et al. 1995). It is notable that the addition of 15% SCB resulted in all static physical properties values similar to the addition of 15% to 30% HF (Table 1).

Addition of SCB and HF altered the particle size distribution of the PL, increasing the proportions of extra large (>6.3 mm) particles (Table 1). This is likely due in part to the aggregation of SCB and HF fibers that did not fragment during the sieving process. Although this greater proportion of extra large particles did not change the static physical properties, it may raise concerns relating to blending uniformity challenges when scaling for greenhouse substrates at higher proportions. Overall, the addition of 15% to 30% SCB and HF to a standard greenhouse potting substrate does not substantially alter the static physical properties of the PL, although increases in container capacity with increased blending percentages may be considered.

Differences in pH and EC from the 1:1 swirl test in substrate blends before growth experiment were significant (Table 2). Initially, addition of HF lowered the pH (P < 0.0001) and raised the EC (P < 0.0001) when blended at 15%, which was unexpected due to the lower EC of the HF material than the PL (Fig. 1; Table 1). At 30% incorporation, the addition of HF elevated substrate pH (although not to a higher level than PL) and reduced the EC (P < 0.0001, Table 1). The addition of SCB reduced both pH and EC significantly as the percentage of incorporation increased. For all substrates, pH values ranged from 5.3 to 6.1 and ECs ranged from 1.03 to 1.56 mS·cm−1, conditions that are deemed suitable for Osteospermum growth (Tables 1 and 2).

Table 2.

Growth and pore water fertility assessment over the production cycle of an Osteospermum crop produced in Trade #1 containers, conducted using the pour-through method.

Table 2.

Crop growth.

At 26 DAP, pH levels in all substrates were statistically similar and ranged from 5.5 to 6.1, regardless of the provided fertigation rate (P = 0.7754, Table 2). By 63 DAP, pH values had increased, with the differences emerging due to substrate effect but not fertigation rate (Table 2). Increases in substrate pH are typically observed during crop production at the study location due to the high pH and alkalinity of the irrigation water source, an occurrence also observed elsewhere in areas with similar source water conditions (Argo and Fisher 2008). Differences in pH generally reflected lower values in SCB-amended substrates than HF-amended substrates (P < 0.0001, Table 2). At 63 DAP, incorporation of SCB lowered substrate pH in all instances, with the exception of 30% SCB in 200 ppm fertigation, whereas addition of HF generally increased substrate pH. Therefore, SCB amendments may serve to mitigate rising substrate pH and concomitant lack of nutrient availability associated with irrigation sources high in alkalinity.

Concerns that nitrogen immobilization due to the addition of HF and SCB components would decrease substrate EC and fertilizer availability were considered in this experiment. Pour-through EC values at 26 DAP were not significantly different between the substrate treatments at each level of fertigation (Table 2). This was hypothesized to be due to the overall dilution of the starter charge in the PL when amended with the SCB and HF. Within a particular substrate treatment, EC generally increased with fertigation rate, except for SCB treatments. This could be due to decomposition occurring at levels sufficient to consume extra N from fertigation. By 63 DAP, differences in EC values in each of the substrates remained insignificant and were less pronounced than at 26 DAP, regardless of fertigation level (P = 0.1197, Table 2). Within each substrate, fertigation level did not significantly alter pour-through EC (P = 0.2973, Table 2).

Overall, the incorporation of 15% and 30% SCB and HF produced slight changes in pH over a 9-week growth period, with HF generally raising pH and aged SCB generally lowering pH compared with the unamended 100% PL. These trends show promise for managing pH in peat-based substrates. When pH values exceed 7.0, iron and other micronutrients become less available for plant uptake. The PL exceeded a pH of 7.0 and approached a pH of 8.0 in several of the HF treatments (Table 2). Incorporation of SCB could potentially stabilize rising pH values in longer-term production cycles. Incorporation of either HF or SCB at 15% and 30% did not significantly influence substrate EC, regardless of fertilizer level. These results were consistent with previous research indicating nitrogen immobilization/mineralization of wood fiber substrates incorporated into peat-based substrates were not discernable from 100% peat substrates (Dickson et al. 2022).

The incorporation of SCB as a substrate had no deleterious effect on plant growth across all fertilizer treatments compared with HF blends and PL during the 63-day production cycle of Osteospermum. There were no differences in growth index throughout the study (Table 2). Within each substrate treatment, increasing fertilizer concentration only had an effect on 30% SCB treatments, where the higher fertigation rate resulted in greater shoot biomass and growth index (P = 0.0063 and P = 0.0261, respectively). There were limited differences in growth index and the biomass of roots and shoots when comparing all substrates and fertigation rates. The exceptions to this were 30% HF with 300 ppm, which yielded the lowest shoot dry mass, and 100% PL with 200 ppm, which yielded the lowest root dry mass. Harris et al. (2020) performed two experiments evaluating Petunia growth in substrates amended with 30% wood fiber and observed reduced growth and dry weight in only one experiment. Dickson et al. (2022) also found minimal differences between Petunia height and dry weight in wood fiber–blended substrates at 30% incorporation. Substrate blends across all fertigation rates were significant for shoot dry mass, root dry mass, and root-to-shoot ratio, with 15% SCB yielding the greatest shoot dry mass (P = 0.0123) and HF blends yielding greater root dry mass (P = 0.0089) and root-to-shoot (P = 0.0072) than SCB blends and the PL. Overall, and regardless of fertigation rate, 30% HF had the lowest growth index and shoot dry mass, and 30% SCB had the lowest root dry mass. Although not statistically significant, the addition of 30% of either SCB or HF produced lower plant dry mass than when these materials were incorporated at 15% by volume and should be considered when incorporating these products at higher rates.

Substrate shrinkage ranged from 0.08 to 0.53 cm (Table 3). Differences existed in the extent of shrinkage as a result of substrate type across all fertigation rates, most prominently in 30% SCB, which had 3.3 times the amount of shrinkage as the PL control (Table 3). No statistical differences in shrinkage depth in each substrate existed according to fertigation, with the exception of 30% SCB in 200-ppm fertigation exhibiting greater shrinkage than in other substrates (Table 3). The greater shrinkage observed in the higher blend percentage of SCB is consistent with previous research demonstrating that increasing the proportion of SCB led to unsustainable decomposition and substrate shrinkage in longer term crops (May et al. 2021). However, despite the observed shrinkage, total porosity was not markedly different in post-growth substrate vs. pre-growth conditions (Tables 1 and 5) in 30% SCB. Although decomposition and shrinkage did not create observable effects in this 2-month crop cycle, these trends warrant consideration in longer production cycles.

Table 3.

Substrate effects on root-to-shoot, shrinkage, SPAD chlorophyll, and bloom count of Osteospermum ‘Bright Lights Purple’ grown with 15% or 30% amendment of wood fiber and sugarcane bagasse.

Table 3.

Leaf SPAD chlorophyll content was >50 for all substrate blends and all fertigation levels, with no significant differences (Table 3). This is consistent with findings from a study conducted by Harris et al. (2020), where there were no observed differences in leaf SPAD chlorophyll for petunia crops grown in 30% wood fiber vs. 100% peat. Similarly, blooms were equally abundant across all treatments, and no significant differences or effects of substrate, fertigation rate, or the interaction of these effects were identified (Table 3).

Mean foliar nitrogen content for each treatment ranged from 4.0% to 5.3% and fell within sufficiency ranges previously reported for other Osteospermum cultivars (Papineau and Krug 2014). Therefore, N immobilization that can occur when using higher C-to-N materials such as HF and SCB, appeared negligible in the studied blend percentages and production period. Interestingly, increasing fertigation rate did not lead to a corresponding increase in foliar nitrogen content (P = 0.4992), which was dissimilar from results presented in the Papineau and Krug (2014) study. Foliar N concentration in both SCB treatments were comparable to the PL treatment (Table 4). Overall (P = 0.0036) and within the 200-ppm fertigation rate, the HF blends yielded lower N concentrations than the SCB blends and the PL. Previous research yielded mixed results for foliar N concentrations in crops grown in wood fiber blends. Dickson et al. (2022) observed that shoot tissue N concentration was reduced for crops grown in most wood fiber blends and further reduced as the incorporated percentage of wood fiber increased. However, the exception was observed in substrates using HF, where percent foliar N increased with increasing proportions of this material in the blend percentage. Harris et al. (2020) observed that foliar N concentration in plants grown in 30% wood fiber blend was similar to that of plants grown in peat at the end of the production cycle.

Table 4.

Substrate effect on Ospeospermum ‘Bright Lights Purple’ foliar leaf tissue concentration of nitrogen when grown in standard substrates or substrates amended with either wood fiber or sugarcane bagasse.

Table 4.

Although minor differences in plant characteristics were present quantitatively, visually qualitative differences were imperceptible, and all treatments produced marketable plants (Fig. 2). Furthermore, no significant differences were observed for the average duration of time it took for each substrate treatment to reach a wilting stage of 5, which ranged from 6.0 to 7.8 d (P = 0.2812). Therefore, no decrease in crop marketability or shelf life was indicated when amending the PL with up to 30% SCB or HF. These characteristics are important in maintaining quality during shipping and retail display and determining product pricing for maximum grower profits.

Fig. 2.
Fig. 2.

Crop growth and plant marketability differences between plants produced in standard peat-based substrate (PL) amended with either wood fiber [EZ-Blend Hydrafiber (HF)] or sugarcane bagasse (SCB) under fertigation low (100 ppm N), standard (200 ppm N), or elevated (300 ppm N) fertility treatments. Pictured are the most average-looking reps of each substrate and fertigation combination.

Citation: HortScience 58, 10; 10.21273/HORTSCI17286-23

Substrate physical properties—post-production.

Fertigation rate during the production process did not yield any differences in substrate static physical properties (Table 5). Container capacity differences observed in pre-growth substrates were no longer present after the production phase concluded. Differences in total porosity and bulk density in post-production substrates were due solely to substrate effect. The addition of 15% SCB reduced total porosity compared with other substrates, a difference not observed in the pre-production substrates. The addition of 15% SCB reduced total porosity across all fertigation rates but increased total porosity when incorporated at 30%, an effect similarly observed in the pre-growth blends. Greater bulk densities in SCB-amended treatments were still present, although this value remained within the acceptable range of 0.1 g·cm−3 (Bailey et al. 1995). While the effect of substrate composition dominated the differences in extra large particles in post-production substrates, fertigation rate, and the interaction between substrate and fertigation rate influenced the proportions of large, medium, and small particles (Table 5).

Table 5.

Physical properties of substrates after used for production of Osteospermum crop. Crops were grown for 63 d, and plant materials were harvested. Remaining substrate assessed for physical properties and final particle size.

Table 5.

Conclusion

Many premixed, peat-based growing substrates are already incorporating wood fibers up to 40% to reduce the use of peat materials. This research validates the efficacy of aged SCB as a sustainable, low-cost amendment that can be incorporated into short-term crop substrate blends without necessitating modifications in fertigation practices or sacrificing crop quality. In this study, SCB-blended substrate at 15% to 30% yielded similar physical properties and crop performance as those grown with a standard peat-based greenhouse substrate and substrates amended with HF.

Both SCB and wood fiber may require special attention to blending uniformity due to the greater fraction of extra large particles compared with PL. Despite the relatively increased shrinkage observed in 30% SCB, overall shrinkage was minimal at 0.53 cm. Moreover, total porosity by the end of the growing cycle was no different from porosities measured pre-growth in 30% SCB or the standard PL and HF substrates. The slower increase in substrate pH values observed in the SCB blends compared with the PL and HF substrates demonstrate the possibility of better substrate pH management in long-term production cycles with SCB, especially in growing systems using high pH and alkalinity irrigation water. Furthermore, the use of SCB as a substrate amendment to modify physiochemical properties can yield the potential for targeted, prescription substrates for ericaceous plant production. There were no changes in substrate EC in SCB-blended substrates, and growth and plant quality differences were minimal to absent during the 2-month growing period, supported by sufficient chlorophyll and foliar N contents. Finally, despite decomposition and nitrogen immobilization concerns that arise when using SCB, plants grown in SCB substrates had greater foliar N concentrations than those grown in HF substrates. The similarity in performance of SCB in floriculture production to standard peat-based and HF substrates, coupled with its low cost and abundance, warrants further evaluation as a significant component in blended growing substrates, particularly in regions such as the Southeast United States where this otherwise waste product is readily available. To substantiate the usability of SCB further, additional crops and incorporation percentages need to be evaluated. In addition, the uniformity of aged sugarcane SCB across sources is not currently known and must be established to effectively scale up the practice of incorporating this material into a successful production system.

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  • Blok C, Eveleens B, van Winkel A. 2021. Growing media for food and quality of life in the period 2020-2050. Acta Hortic. 1305:341356. https://doi.org/10.17660/actahortic.2021.1305.46.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Chandel AK, da Silva SS, Carvalho W, Singh OV. 2012. Sugarcane bagasse and leaves: Foreseeable biomass of biofuel and bioproducts. J Chem Technol Biotechnol. 87:1120. https://doi.org/10.1002/jctb.2742.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Chiu G. 2020. Wood content rises steadily in soilless media. https://www.greenhousecanada.com/wood-content-rises-steadily-in-soilless-media/. [accessed 31 May 2023].

  • Cleary J, Roulet NT, Moore TR. 2005. Greenhouse gas emissions from Canadian peat extraction, 1990–2000: A life cycle analysis. Ambio. 34:456461.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Dickson RW, Helms KM, Jackson BE, Machesney LM, Lee JA. 2022. Evaluation of peat blended with pine wood components for effects on substrate physical properties, nitrogen immobilization, and growth of petunia (Petunia ×hybrida Vilm.-Andr.). HortScience. 57:304311. https://doi.org/10.21273/HORTSCI16177-21.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Drotleff L. 2018. HydraFiber soaks up horticulture market share with wood fiber media. https://www.greenhousegrower.com/production/media/hydrafiber-soaks-up-horticulturemarket-share-with-wood-fiber-media/. [accessed 28 Dec 2018].

  • Dunn C, Freeman C. 2011. Peatlands: Our greatest source of carbon credits? Carbon Manag. 2(3):289301. https://doi.org/10.4155/cmt.11.23.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Durand S, Jackson BE, Fonteno WC, Michel JC. 2021. The use of wood fiber for reducing risks of hydrophobicity in peat-based substrates. Agronomy (Basel). 11:907. https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy11050907.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Fonteno WC, Bilderback TE. 1993. Impact of hydrogel on physical properties of coarse-structured horticultural substrates. J Am Soc Hortic Sci. 118:217222. https://doi.org/10.21273/JASHS.118.2.217.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Harris CN, Dickson RW, Fisher PR, Jackson BE, Poleatewich AM. 2020. Evaluating peat substrates amended with pine wood fiber for nitrogen immobilization and effects on plant performance with container-grown petunia. HortTechnology. 30:107116. https://doi.org/10.21273/HORTTECH04526-19.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Holland R. 2023. Louisiana’s bagasse piles are bigger than ever. Could new technology find other uses? The Advocate. https://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/louisianas-bagasse-piles-are-bigger-than-ever-could-new-technology-find-other-uses/article_5ea22930-f4e4-11ed-b509-4bcce84c12a8.html. [accessed 18 May 2023].

  • Jackson BE, Wright RD, Seiler JR. 2009. Changes in chemical and physical properties of pine tree substrate and pine bark during long-term nursery crop production. HortScience. 44:791799. https://doi.org/10.21273/HORTSCI.44.3.791.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Jackson BE, Wright RD, Barnes MC. 2008. Pine tree substrate, nitrogen rate, particle size, and peat amendment affect poinsettia growth and substrate physical properties. HortScience. 43:21552161. https://doi.org/10.21273/HORTSCI.43.7.2155.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Jackson BE. 2018. Substrates on trial: Wood fiber in the spotlight. https://www.greenhousemag.com/article/substrates-on-trial-wood-fiber-in-the-spotlight/. [accessed 7 Nov 2022].

  • Khomami AM, Moharam MG. 2013. Evaluation of sugar cane bagasse vermicompost as potting media on growth and nutrition of Dieffenbachia amoena ‘Tropic Snow’. Int J Agron Plant Prod. 4:18061812.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Krucker M, Hummel RL, Cogger C. 2010. Chrysanthemum production in composted and noncomposted organic waste substrates fertilized with nitrogen at two rates using surface and subirrigation. HortScience. 45:16951701. https://doi.org/10.21273/HORTSCI.45.11.1695.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Loh YRD, Sujan D, Rahman ME, Das CA. 2013. Sugarcane bagasse—The future composite material: A literature review. Resour Conserv Recycling. 75:1422. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.resconrec.2013.03.002.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Maher M, Prasad M, Raviv M. 2008. Organic soilless media components, p 459–504. In: Raviv M, Lieth JH (eds), Soilless culture: Theory and practice. Academic Press, San Diego, CA, USA.

  • May K, Fields JS, Edwards A. 2021. Fresh vs. aged sugarcane bagasse as a pine bark substrate amendment. HortScience. 56(9):S213 [Abstr].

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • McClellan M. 2022. Looking ahead. https://www.greenhousemag.com/article/looking-ahead-2023-expectations-americanhort/. [accessed 9 Nov 2022].

  • Nisaren BN, Wogi L, Tamiru S. 2019. Effect of filter cake and bagasse on selected physicochemical properties of calcareous sodic soils at Amibara, Ethiopia. Int J Agron Agric Res. 14:2028.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Papineau A, Krug BA. 2014. Osteospermum leaf tissue nutrient sufficiency ranges by chronological age. Acta Hortic. 1034:531537. https://doi.org/10.17660/ActaHortic.2014.1034.67.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Schmilewski G. 2008. The role of peat in assuring the quality of growing media. Mires Peat. 3(3):18.

  • Toscano Miranda N, Motta IL, Filho RM, Maciel MRW. 2021. Sugarcane bagasse pyrolysis: A review of operating conditions and products properties. Renew Sustain Energy Rev. 149:111394. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rser.2021.111394.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Uchimiya M, Hay AG, LeBlanc J. 2022. Chemical and microbial characterization of sugarcane mill mud for soil applications. PLoS One. 17(8):e0272013. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0272013.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Webber CL III , White PM Jr , Petrie EC, Shrefler JW, Taylor MJ. 2016. Sugarcane bagasse ash as a seedling growth media component. J Agric Sci. 8:17. https://doi.org/10.5539/jas.v8n1p1.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Webber CL III , White PM Jr , Spaunhorst DJ, Petrie EC. 2017. Impact of sugarcane bagasse ash as an amendment on the physical properties, nutrient content and seedling growth of a certified organic greenhouse growing media. J Agric Sci. 9:111. https://doi.org/10.5539/jas.v9n7p1.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Webber CL III , White PM Jr , Spaunhorst DJ, Lima IM, Petrie EC. 2018. Sugarcane biochar as an amendment for greenhouse growing media for the production of cucurbit seedlings. J Agric Sci. 10:104115.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Wright RD. 1986. The pour through nutrient extraction procedure. HortScience. 21:227229. https://doi.org/10.21273/HORTSCI.21.2.227.

  • Wright RD, Jackson BE, Browder JF, Latimer JG. 2008. Growth of chrysanthemum in a pine tree substrate requires additional fertilizer. HortTechnology. 18:111115. https://doi.org/10.21273/HORTTECH.18.1.111.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Xu N, Bhada JH, Rabbany A, Swanson S, McCray JM, Li YC, Strauss SL, Mylavarapu R. 2021. Crop nutrition and yield response of bagasse application on sugarcane grown on a mineral soil. Agronomy (Basel). 11:1526. https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy11081526.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Yu P, Li Q, Huang L, Niu G, Gu M. 2019. Mixed hardwood and sugarcane bagasse biochar as potting mix components for container tomato and basil seedling production. Appl Sci (Basel). 9:4713. https://doi.org/10.3390/app9214713.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Fig. 1.

    Physiochemical properties of 100% Jolly Pro-Line C/20 (PL; left), 100% HydraFiber EZ blend (HF; middle), and 100% aged sugarcane bagasse (SCB; right). Proportions of air, water, and solids evaluated via North Carolina State University porometer (Fonteno and Bilderback 1993). Electrical conductivity (EC) and pH evaluated on a 1:1 swirl test.

  • Fig. 2.

    Crop growth and plant marketability differences between plants produced in standard peat-based substrate (PL) amended with either wood fiber [EZ-Blend Hydrafiber (HF)] or sugarcane bagasse (SCB) under fertigation low (100 ppm N), standard (200 ppm N), or elevated (300 ppm N) fertility treatments. Pictured are the most average-looking reps of each substrate and fertigation combination.

  • Alexander PD, Bragg NC, Meade R, Padelopoulos G, Watts O. 2008. Peat in horticulture and conservation: The UK response to a changing world. Mires Peat. 3:110.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Argo B, Fisher P. 2008. Understanding plant nutrition: Irrigation water alkalinity and pH. 13 https://www.greenhousegrower.com/production/fertilization/understanding-plant-nutrition-irrigation-water-alkalinity-ph/. [accessed Jan 2023].

  • Bailey DA, Fonteno WC, Nelson PV. 1995. Greenhouse substrates and fertilization. North Carolina State University, Department of Horticultural Science, Raleigh, NC.

  • Barrett G, Alexander PD, Robinson JS, Bragg NC. 2016. Achieving environmentally sustainable growing media for soilless plant cultivation systems—A review. Scientia Hortic. 212:220234.

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    • Export Citation
  • Bhadha J, Xu N, Khatiwada R, Swanson S, Laborde C. 2020. Bagasse: A potential organic soil amendment used in sugarcane production. University of Florida Extension #SL477. EDIS. 5:5. https://doi.org/10.32473/edis-ss690-2020.

  • Bhat SA, Singh J, Vig AP. 2015. Potential utilization of bagasse as feed material for earthworm Eisenia fetida and production of vermicompost. Springerplus. 4:11. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40064-014-0780-y.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Blok C, Eveleens B, van Winkel A. 2021. Growing media for food and quality of life in the period 2020-2050. Acta Hortic. 1305:341356. https://doi.org/10.17660/actahortic.2021.1305.46.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Chandel AK, da Silva SS, Carvalho W, Singh OV. 2012. Sugarcane bagasse and leaves: Foreseeable biomass of biofuel and bioproducts. J Chem Technol Biotechnol. 87:1120. https://doi.org/10.1002/jctb.2742.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Chiu G. 2020. Wood content rises steadily in soilless media. https://www.greenhousecanada.com/wood-content-rises-steadily-in-soilless-media/. [accessed 31 May 2023].

  • Cleary J, Roulet NT, Moore TR. 2005. Greenhouse gas emissions from Canadian peat extraction, 1990–2000: A life cycle analysis. Ambio. 34:456461.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Dickson RW, Helms KM, Jackson BE, Machesney LM, Lee JA. 2022. Evaluation of peat blended with pine wood components for effects on substrate physical properties, nitrogen immobilization, and growth of petunia (Petunia ×hybrida Vilm.-Andr.). HortScience. 57:304311. https://doi.org/10.21273/HORTSCI16177-21.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Drotleff L. 2018. HydraFiber soaks up horticulture market share with wood fiber media. https://www.greenhousegrower.com/production/media/hydrafiber-soaks-up-horticulturemarket-share-with-wood-fiber-media/. [accessed 28 Dec 2018].

  • Dunn C, Freeman C. 2011. Peatlands: Our greatest source of carbon credits? Carbon Manag. 2(3):289301. https://doi.org/10.4155/cmt.11.23.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Durand S, Jackson BE, Fonteno WC, Michel JC. 2021. The use of wood fiber for reducing risks of hydrophobicity in peat-based substrates. Agronomy (Basel). 11:907. https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy11050907.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Fonteno WC, Bilderback TE. 1993. Impact of hydrogel on physical properties of coarse-structured horticultural substrates. J Am Soc Hortic Sci. 118:217222. https://doi.org/10.21273/JASHS.118.2.217.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Harris CN, Dickson RW, Fisher PR, Jackson BE, Poleatewich AM. 2020. Evaluating peat substrates amended with pine wood fiber for nitrogen immobilization and effects on plant performance with container-grown petunia. HortTechnology. 30:107116. https://doi.org/10.21273/HORTTECH04526-19.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Holland R. 2023. Louisiana’s bagasse piles are bigger than ever. Could new technology find other uses? The Advocate. https://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/louisianas-bagasse-piles-are-bigger-than-ever-could-new-technology-find-other-uses/article_5ea22930-f4e4-11ed-b509-4bcce84c12a8.html. [accessed 18 May 2023].

  • Jackson BE, Wright RD, Seiler JR. 2009. Changes in chemical and physical properties of pine tree substrate and pine bark during long-term nursery crop production. HortScience. 44:791799. https://doi.org/10.21273/HORTSCI.44.3.791.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Jackson BE, Wright RD, Barnes MC. 2008. Pine tree substrate, nitrogen rate, particle size, and peat amendment affect poinsettia growth and substrate physical properties. HortScience. 43:21552161. https://doi.org/10.21273/HORTSCI.43.7.2155.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Jackson BE. 2018. Substrates on trial: Wood fiber in the spotlight. https://www.greenhousemag.com/article/substrates-on-trial-wood-fiber-in-the-spotlight/. [accessed 7 Nov 2022].

  • Khomami AM, Moharam MG. 2013. Evaluation of sugar cane bagasse vermicompost as potting media on growth and nutrition of Dieffenbachia amoena ‘Tropic Snow’. Int J Agron Plant Prod. 4:18061812.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Krucker M, Hummel RL, Cogger C. 2010. Chrysanthemum production in composted and noncomposted organic waste substrates fertilized with nitrogen at two rates using surface and subirrigation. HortScience. 45:16951701. https://doi.org/10.21273/HORTSCI.45.11.1695.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Loh YRD, Sujan D, Rahman ME, Das CA. 2013. Sugarcane bagasse—The future composite material: A literature review. Resour Conserv Recycling. 75:1422. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.resconrec.2013.03.002.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Maher M, Prasad M, Raviv M. 2008. Organic soilless media components, p 459–504. In: Raviv M, Lieth JH (eds), Soilless culture: Theory and practice. Academic Press, San Diego, CA, USA.

  • May K, Fields JS, Edwards A. 2021. Fresh vs. aged sugarcane bagasse as a pine bark substrate amendment. HortScience. 56(9):S213 [Abstr].

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • McClellan M. 2022. Looking ahead. https://www.greenhousemag.com/article/looking-ahead-2023-expectations-americanhort/. [accessed 9 Nov 2022].

  • Nisaren BN, Wogi L, Tamiru S. 2019. Effect of filter cake and bagasse on selected physicochemical properties of calcareous sodic soils at Amibara, Ethiopia. Int J Agron Agric Res. 14:2028.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Papineau A, Krug BA. 2014. Osteospermum leaf tissue nutrient sufficiency ranges by chronological age. Acta Hortic. 1034:531537. https://doi.org/10.17660/ActaHortic.2014.1034.67.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Schmilewski G. 2008. The role of peat in assuring the quality of growing media. Mires Peat. 3(3):18.

  • Toscano Miranda N, Motta IL, Filho RM, Maciel MRW. 2021. Sugarcane bagasse pyrolysis: A review of operating conditions and products properties. Renew Sustain Energy Rev. 149:111394. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rser.2021.111394.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Uchimiya M, Hay AG, LeBlanc J. 2022. Chemical and microbial characterization of sugarcane mill mud for soil applications. PLoS One. 17(8):e0272013. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0272013.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Webber CL III , White PM Jr , Petrie EC, Shrefler JW, Taylor MJ. 2016. Sugarcane bagasse ash as a seedling growth media component. J Agric Sci. 8:17. https://doi.org/10.5539/jas.v8n1p1.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Webber CL III , White PM Jr , Spaunhorst DJ, Petrie EC. 2017. Impact of sugarcane bagasse ash as an amendment on the physical properties, nutrient content and seedling growth of a certified organic greenhouse growing media. J Agric Sci. 9:111. https://doi.org/10.5539/jas.v9n7p1.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Webber CL III , White PM Jr , Spaunhorst DJ, Lima IM, Petrie EC. 2018. Sugarcane biochar as an amendment for greenhouse growing media for the production of cucurbit seedlings. J Agric Sci. 10:104115.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Wright RD. 1986. The pour through nutrient extraction procedure. HortScience. 21:227229. https://doi.org/10.21273/HORTSCI.21.2.227.

  • Wright RD, Jackson BE, Browder JF, Latimer JG. 2008. Growth of chrysanthemum in a pine tree substrate requires additional fertilizer. HortTechnology. 18:111115. https://doi.org/10.21273/HORTTECH.18.1.111.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Xu N, Bhada JH, Rabbany A, Swanson S, McCray JM, Li YC, Strauss SL, Mylavarapu R. 2021. Crop nutrition and yield response of bagasse application on sugarcane grown on a mineral soil. Agronomy (Basel). 11:1526. https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy11081526.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Yu P, Li Q, Huang L, Niu G, Gu M. 2019. Mixed hardwood and sugarcane bagasse biochar as potting mix components for container tomato and basil seedling production. Appl Sci (Basel). 9:4713. https://doi.org/10.3390/app9214713.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
Maureen Thiessen Hammond Research Station, Louisiana State University Agricultural Center, 21549 Old Covington Hwy., Hammond, LA 70403, USA

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Jeb S. Fields Hammond Research Station, Louisiana State University Agricultural Center, 21549 Old Covington Hwy., Hammond, LA 70403, USA

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Damon Abdi Hammond Research Station, Louisiana State University Agricultural Center, 21549 Old Covington Hwy., Hammond, LA 70403, USA

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Jeffrey Beasley School of Plant, Environment and Soil Sciences, Louisiana State University Agricultural Center, 137 J.C. Miller Hall, Baton Rouge, LA 70803, USA

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Contributor Notes

J.S.F. is the corresponding author. E-mail: jfields@agcenter.lsu.edu.

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  • Fig. 1.

    Physiochemical properties of 100% Jolly Pro-Line C/20 (PL; left), 100% HydraFiber EZ blend (HF; middle), and 100% aged sugarcane bagasse (SCB; right). Proportions of air, water, and solids evaluated via North Carolina State University porometer (Fonteno and Bilderback 1993). Electrical conductivity (EC) and pH evaluated on a 1:1 swirl test.

  • Fig. 2.

    Crop growth and plant marketability differences between plants produced in standard peat-based substrate (PL) amended with either wood fiber [EZ-Blend Hydrafiber (HF)] or sugarcane bagasse (SCB) under fertigation low (100 ppm N), standard (200 ppm N), or elevated (300 ppm N) fertility treatments. Pictured are the most average-looking reps of each substrate and fertigation combination.

 

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