Soilless, peatmoss-based growing media are used commonly in vegetable transplant production (Sterrett, 2001). Peatmoss-based media give consistent and reliable results in the horticulture industry (Boodley and Sheldrake, 1982), but peatmoss is declining in availability and increasing in price (Sterrett, 2001). Compost has been suggested as a possible substitute to reduce both the environmental impact of harvesting peatmoss and costs for growers (Bugbee and Frink, 1989; Sterrett, 2001; Treadwell et al., 2007). Compost is considered a safe and environmentally responsible product, but it can vary in nutrient content, other chemical properties, and biological properties (Raviv, 2005).
The use of YWC has become increasingly desirable in the past few years. Yard waste compost includes grass clippings, leaves from trees and shrubs, woody branches, and other materials that are the result of yard trimmings (Ozores-Hampton et al., 1999). Facilities designed to process YWC have become more popular across the United States (Goldstein, 2001). Several studies have examined the use of YWC as a potential substitute for peat-lite mixes in containerized plant production (Burger et al., 1997; Hartz et al., 1996; Ozores-Hampton et al., 1999; Spiers and Fietje, 2000).
Basil has been a popular choice for greenhouse growers over the past few decades because of its high dollar value. While some studies have been conducted on compost use for herb production (De Lucia et al., 2013; Herrera et al., 1997; O’Brien and Barker, 1996), only a few have involved compost use for basil production. Fresh weights of basil transplants grown in a manure–wheat straw (Triticum aestivum) compost were higher than those of transplants grown in peat, and the compost suppressed the development of fusarium wilt (incited by Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. basilici) in the transplants (Reuveni et al., 2002). Container-grown basil plants grew well in a mixture of soil and 20% source-separated municipal solid waste compost in a study by Zheljazkov and Warman (2004). Succop and Newman (2004) demonstrated that, with appropriate hydroponic cultural practices, basil could be grown in a greenhouse using a commercial peat–perlite compost (blend of wood waste and poultry manure) medium in a polyethylene bag. Pitchay and Diaz-Perez (2008) successfully produced basil transplants in blends of coir and up to 40% by volume of a compost of unspecified feedstock. We found no studies that demonstrated production of basil transplants using YWC. Therefore, our objective was to determine the feasibility of using YWC as a substitute for, or amendment to, peat-lite growing media for basil transplant production.
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