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Allen V. Barker and Tara A. O'Brien

An agricultural compost of chicken manure and cranberry pomace, a municipal compost of biosolids and mixed municipal solid wastes, and a compost of autumn leaves were evaluated for production of turfgrass sods and wildflower sods. Composts made during the year of the experiment and one-year-old composts were compared. The experiment was conducted outdoors with composts layered on sheets of plastic laid on the soil surface. The sheets of plastic controlled soil-borne weeds and facilitated harvest of sods. The best sods measured by stand and growth were produced with the agricultural compost, which was rich in N (avg. 1.7%) and low in NH4+ (avg. 135 mg/kg). High NH4+ (>900 mg/kg) appeared to limit stand establishment with the fresh municipal compost. The leaf compost was too low in N to support sod growth without fertilization. Aging of each compost improved its capacity to support sod production, apparently as a result of changes in the N status in the media.

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Catherine S.M. Ku and John C. Bouwkamp

Production of `Top White', `Peterstar Pink', `Lilo Red', and `Red Success' poinsettias were evaluated in a treatment combinations that included 10 compost blends, three compost levels, and two commercial soilless substrates of Sunshine Mix 1 and Pro Gro 300S as controls. The compost feedstocks included PSG polymer dewatered biosolids (PSG), lime dewatered biosolids (CP), yard trimmings (YT), poultry litter (PL), and municipal solid waste (MSW Bedmininster). The PSG, PL, YT, and MSW were co-blended with CP on a 2:1 ratio (v/v), all other composts were co-blended on a 1:1 ratio (v/v). The compost levels of 33%, 50%, and 67% were mixed with peat:perlite (1:1, v/v). There were five replicates per treatment. Plants were fertilized once weekly with 200 mg·L–1 N from 21N–2.2P–16.6K. Sunshine mix produced control plants that had greater canopy diameter and plant grade than Pro Gro mix. Plant height was reduced as compost level increased from 33% to 67%. Blends of PSG:PL at the 33% and 50% levels and PSG:YT at the 33% level produced premium-quality plants. Good-quality plants, similar to those grown in Sunshine Mix, were produced with the PSG or PL compost blended with immature MSW at the 33% level; PSG:PL blend at a 67% level; PSG:YT blend at the 50% and 67% levels; and PL:YT blend at the 33% level.

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Tara A. O'Brien and Allen V. Barker

This research evaluated production of wildflower sods in soil and composts of mixed municipal solid waste, biosolids and woodchips, fall leaves, and mixed agricultural wastes. Soil or composts were laid on plastic sheeting in outdoor plots, and a mixture of wildflower seeds was sown in July and in September in separate experiments. Quality of sods was assessed in two growing seasons. Best sods with respect to seed germination, stand establishment, and intensity and diversity of bloom over two seasons occurred in mature biosolids compost and in agricultural waste compost. These composts were low in ammonium but rich in total N. Germination and growth of wildflowers were limited by high ammonium concentrations in immature biosolids composts. Nitrogen deficiency limited sod growth and quality in leaf composts. Poor N nutrition and weed competition restricted sod production in soil. Fertilization of soil promoted unacceptably large weed growth. Summer seeding or fall seeding resulted in good sods, but many annual flowers that appeared in the summer seeding were absent in the fall-seeded planting. Using plastic-lined plots was a convenient system for evaluating composts and other media in outdoor culture.

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Bert T. Swanson and James B. Calkins

Five composted Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) (garbage) products and a composted manure were evaluated as container growing media components on eight woody and herbaceous plants. Plant growth response to the different composts and to the quality of compost used was species-specific. Media UM Manure 100 provided the greatest increase in plant height across all species during the first year. However, only one species, V. lentaga, actually ranked number one in UM Manure 100. J.h. `Blue Chip' and A. tuberosa both grew the tallest in Control I. The remaining five species grew tallest in five different media. Therefore, several amended media can provide increased plant height for specific species; however, the top three media for plant height across all species were: #1 UM Manure 100, #2 Prairieland 50, and #3 Pennington 50. Plant height was the lowest in Recomp 100 media. Pennington 50 provided the greatest increase in plant volume. Media producing the highest plant dry weights across all species were: #1 Prairieland 50, #2 Pennington 50 and #3 UM Manure 50. Plants grown in Recomp 100 had the lowest plant dry weight. Media physical properties such as media drainage and aeration were affected by amendment quality and quantity.

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R.K. Reeder, R.L. Darnell, and T.A. Obreza

Blueberry plants fertilized at 3-week intervals with nitrogen (N) throughout the year and protected from freezing temperatures avoid dormancy and produce an off-season “winter” crop. Southwestern Florida offers a climate where this production system can be implemented without undue fear of freezes. `Sharpblue', `Gulfcoast', and `Warmabe' southern highbush blueberry cultivars have been planted at high density (10,000 plants/ha) to determine the feasibility of successfully establishing an evergreen production system for blueberry. Three rates of N fertilization (84, 168, and 252 kg·ha–1) and the use of peat or municipal solid waste (MSW) compost as soil amendments are being evaluated in this study. Initial data on plant growth indicate that, during the first 9 months of the planting, 168 kg N/ha will produce plants similar in height, but with significantly less volume, to those receiving 252 kg N/ha. MSW compost appears to be a beneficial soil amendment for blueberry establishment despite an increase in soil pH associated with the compost amendment.

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C. Chong, P. Purvis, G. Lumis, B. E. Holbein, R. P. Voroney, H. Zhou, and H.-W. Liu

Wastewaters from farm and composting operations are often rich in certain nutrients that can be reutilized in crop production. Liners of silverleaf dogwood (CornusalbaL. `Argenteo-marginata'), common ninebark [Physocarpusopulifolius(L.) Maxim.], and `Anthony Waterer' spirea (Spiraea×bumaldaBurvenich) were grown in 6-L containers filled with a medium consisting of 73% bark, 22% peat, and 5% pea gravel, by volume. Plants were fertigated daily via a computer-controlled multi-fertilizer injector with three recirculated fertilizer treatments: 1) a stock solution with macro- and micronutrients, electrical conductivity (EC) 2.2 dS·m-1; 2) wastewater from a mushroom farm; and 3) process wastewater from anaerobic digestion of municipal solid waste. The wastewaters used in both treatments 2 and 3 were diluted with tap water, and the computer was programmed to amend, dispense, and recirculate nutrients, based on the same target EC as in treatment 1. For comparison, there was a traditional controlled-release fertilizer treatment [Nutryon 17–5–12 (17N–2P–10K) plus micronutrients incorporated into the medium at a rate of 6.5 kg·m-1, nutrients not recirculated]. All three species responded similarly to the three recirculated fertilizer treatments. Growth in the recirculated treatments was similar and significantly higher than that obtained with controlled-release fertilizer. A similar trend in EC was observed in the media near harvest. Throughout the study, there was no sign of nutrient toxicity or deficiency with any of the species or treatment.

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William E. Little, Jonathan R. Schultheis, and Robert L. Mikkelsen

North Carolina is a leading poultry producer in the United States. Thus, much waste by-product also is produced and must be handled in an environmentally responsible way. Using poultry and similar waste products as a fertilizer source for vegetables, such as sweetpotatoes, might serve as a viable use option. Our purpose was to determine the effectiveness of animal wastes and sludges as nutrient sources for sweetpotatoes. The effects of municipal solid waste, composted litter, fresh litter, and synthetic fertilizers were compared for their effects on yield and quality of `Regal' and `Beauregard' sweetpotato varieties. The test was planted as a split-plot randomized complete-block design with each treatment replicated four times. Planting was 3 June, and harvest was 27 Sept. 1994. Yields were similar when fertilized with either organic or synthetic nutrient sources. Root quality was excellent, regardless of fertilizer, because few culls resulted, and there were no differences between treatments. Sweetpotatoes can be successfully grown with various organic nutrient sources without affecting quality or yield and might be marketed as “organically grown” produce. This label may command a higher market price than sweetpotatoes grown traditionally with synthetic nutrient sources.

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James H. May, P. Diane Relf, and Thomas Simpson

The Commonwealth of Virginia has mandated a recycling goal of 10% of municipal solid waste (MSW) by 1991, 15% by 1993, and 25% by 1995. Yardwaste (leaves, grass clippings, shrub and tree prunings) comprises 15% to 20% of MSW going to landfills daily. Yardwaste can be recycled by collecting material, piling it into large windrows, and allowing it to decompose by comporting. The finished product can be used as a soil amendment by nurseries, landscapers, farmers, local/state government projects, and homeowners.

The Virginia Co-op. Ext. Service at VPI&SU was authorized to perform a feasibility study on implementing a statewide yardwaste comporting program. The methods included a literature review, site visits in other states to assess technologies, and surveys to determine potential uses and users of composted yardwaste in Virginia.

The study was presented to the Virginia Dept. of Waste Mgmt. in November 1989, and as House Document No. 34 to the Virginia General Assembly. Three bills and one joint resolution are pending.

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Mouna Benmbarek, Y. Desiardins, and R.R. Simard

Landfiling and incineration constitute the most commonly used methods of biosolid disposal. To minimize the environmental risk, their chemical and biological characteristics have been the subject of several investigations.

The present research was undertaken to evaluate the agronomic value of municipal solid wastes (MSW) and composted de-inked sludge (CDS) in a field experiment for sod production. Four variables in a split factorial design, were investigated at two sod farms: compost (MSW and CDS), soil (sandy loam and clay loam), application method (surface applied 6cm and incorporated 20cm), and the application rate (50-100 and 150t/ha). Controls consisted of unfertilized and unamended but fertilized plots. Both experimental sites were seeded with kentucky bluegrass.

Preliminary data indicate that the two biosolids promoted the sod growth at the rates applied. However, a better plot cover was observed if composts were rototilled at a depth of 6cm as compared to the conventional treated plots. Measurements of root and foliar weights revealed that the turf growth was enhanced with increasing rates, which is probably caused by additional soil macronutrients showed by the analysis. Seed germination and seedling emergence were not delayed as indicated by the observed increase in the water retention capacity of the soil especially at higher compost rates.

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Monica Ozores-Hampton

A rapid increase in municipal solid waste (MSW) production (2 kg/person per day), combined with a decreasing number of operating landfills, has increased waste disposal costs. Composting MSW can be an alternative method of waste disposal to traditional landfilling or incineration. Weed control methods using waste materials such as bark, straw, and sawdust were used in commercial crop production for many years before the advent of chemical weed control. Weed growth suppression by mulching can often be almost as effective as conventional herbicides. A 10 to 15 cm-deep mulch layer is needed to completely discourage weed growth in these systems, and best results are obtained with composted materials. In recent years, composts made from a large variety of waste materials have become available on a commercial scale. Preliminary investigations into the use of MSW compost as a weed control agent have shown that compost, especially in an immature state, applied to row crop middles reduced weed growth due to its high concentration of acetic, propionic, and butyric acids. Subsequently, compost can be incorporated into the soil for the following growing season to potentially improve soil physical and chemical properties. Integrated pest management programs that incorporate biological control should be adopted wherever possible because some weed species with persistent seeds can escape chemical control.