Seven organic materials including 1) the bacterium Brevibacterium lactofermentum (Okumura et al.) in a nonviable state, 2) a mixture of two bacteria, Bacillus licheniformis (Weigmann) and Bacillus subtilis (Ehrenberg), plus the fungus Aspergillus niger (van Tieghem) in a nonviable state, 3) an activated microbial sludge from waste-water treatment, 4) sludge from a poultry manure methane generator, 5) unsteamed bonemeal, 6) aged pine needles, and 7) poultry feathers were evaluated to determine their pattern and term of N release and the possibility of using them as an integral part of root media releasing N at a steady, low rate over 10 to 12 weeks for production of Dendranthema × grandiflorum (Ramat.) Kitamura `Sunny Mandalay'. These were compared to the inorganic slow-release fertilizer micro Osmocote (17N-3.9P-10.8K) and a weekly liquid fertilizer control. All organic sources released N most rapidly during the first 2 weeks, followed by a decline, which ended at 6 to 7 weeks. Brevibacterium lactofermentum, bonemeal, and micro Osmocote treatments resulted in about equal growth, which was similar to growth of a weekly liquid fertilizer control for 9 weeks in the first and for 12 weeks in the second experiment. The period of N release could not be extended through increased application rate of source due to the high initial release rate. It was not possible to lower source application rates to achieve an effective, low soil solution concentration due to the large variation in release rate over time. Efficiency of N use varied among plants grown in media treated with various microorganismal sources and was highest in those treated with B. lactofermentum. Nitrogen release from ground poultry feathers was inadequate, and additions of the viable hydrolyzing bacterium B. licheniformis to feathers failed to increase soil solution N levels. Attempts to retard mineralization of B. lactofermentum by cross-linking proteins contained within the bacterium by means of heat treatment at 116C vs. 82C failed. While anaerobic poultry manure sludge proved to be an inefficient source of N, it provided large amounts of P. Organic sources released primarily ammoniacal N, which raised the medium pH by as much as one unit, necessitating the use of less limestone in the medium formulation.
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