Two grades of ground bovine bone were evaluated as potential alternatives to perlite in horticultural substrates. The bulk density of small and large bone-amended substrates was significantly higher than equivalent perlite-amended substrates. Large and small bone increased the air-filled pore space of sphagnum peat. However, at 10% and 20% (v/v), neither size of bone resulted in as high an air-filled pore space as equivalent amounts of perlite. At 30% and 40%, incorporation of small bone resulted in a similar air-filled pore space as incorporation of equivalent amounts of perlite, and incorporation of large bone resulted in a higher air-filled pore space than incorporation of equivalent amounts of perlite. Water-filled pore space and water-holding capacities of substrates were inversely related to air-filled pore space. When placed in a moist substrate, mineral elements within the bone were able to leach into the substrate over time. Substrates amended with 40% large and small bone had significantly higher concentrations of ammonium (NH4+), phosphorus (P), potassium (K), calcium (Ca), sodium (Na), and chloride (Cl-) than the 40% perlite-containing substrates. Substrates amended with 40% large bone had similar concentrations of magnesium (Mg), sulfur (S), iron (Fe), and copper (Cu) while substrates amended with 40% small bone had higher levels of these elements than perlite-amended substrates. Substrate concentrations of nitrate (NO3-), manganese (Mn), zinc (Zn), and boron (B) were not different among the substrates after 4 weeks in the greenhouse. The pH, electrical conductivity (EC) and NH4+ levels of bone-amended substrates increased to levels significantly higher than recommended and resulted in rapid mortality of `Orbit Cardinal' geranium (Pelargonium × hortorum), `Cooler Blush' vinca (Catharanthus roseus), and `Dazzler Rose Star' impatiens (Impatiens walleriana) plants grown in bone-amended substrates. Therefore, ground bovine bone was not a feasible alternative to perlite for use in horticultural substrates.
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