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R.P. Flynn, C.W. Wood, and E.A. Guertal

A glasshouse study was conducted to evaluate the suitability of composted broiler chicken (Gallus gallus) litter as a potting substrate using lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.). Broiler litters containing wood shavings or peanut bulls as bedding materials were composted with either shredded pine bark or peanut hulls. Composted materials were then combined with a commercially available potting substrate. Greatest fresh weight yield was obtained when peanut bull compost was mixed with commercial potting substrate at a ratio of 3:1. Fresh weight was less with pine bark compost than with peanut hull compost. However, there were no differences in lettuce dry weight among composts except for pine bark composted with wood-shaving broiler litter. The pH of this material was below the lettuce tolerance level for mixes at or above 50% compost. There was no evidence of lettuce physiological disorders resulting from excessive nutrient concentration. Most elements analyzed (N, P, K, Ca, Mg, Fe, Mn, Cu, Zn, and Al) were within or slightly above sufficiency ranges for Boston-type leaf lettuce. It appears that composting broiler litter for use as a potting substrate or component would be one suitable alternative to land application in the southern United States. We recommend, however, that the pH of substrates be adjusted to suit desired crop requirements.