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  • Author or Editor: Alan W. Meerow x
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Growth of Pentas lanecolata (Forssk.) Deflers `Starburst Pink' and Ixora coccinea L. `Maui' was compared in container media using sphagnum peat, sedge peat, or coir dust as their peat components. Growth index and top and root dry weights of both crops were significantly better in coir-based medium than sedge peat-based medium. Pentas grew equally well in coir- and sphagnum peat-based medium. Growth index and top dry weight of Ixora were significantly lower in the coir-based than the sphagnum peat-based medium, although root dry weights were equal. This difference was not apparent and may have been caused by N drawdown in the coir-based mix. The sedge peat-based medium had the highest air porosity and the lowest water-holding capacity of the three media at the initiation of the trials, but at the termination of the study, it showed a reversal of these characteristics. The coir-based medium showed the least change in these attributes over time. Coir dust seems to be an acceptable substitute for sphagnum or sedge peat in soilless container media, although nutritional regimes may need to be adjusted on a crop-by-crop basis.

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Coir is the name given to the fibrous material that constitutes the thick mesocarp of the coconut fruit (Cocos nucifera L.). The long fibers of coir are extracted from the coconut husk and utilized in the manufacture of various products. The short fibers and dust (“pith”) left behind have accumulated as a waste product. Coir pith is light to dark brown in color and consists primarily of particles in the size range 0.2-2.0 mm (75-90%). In composition, it is 65-70% lignin and 20-30% cellulose. To date, few replicated tests have assessed the performance of coir pith as a plant growth medium. From April, 1993 to April, 1994, four ornamental crops (pentas, ixora, anthurium and majesty palm) were grown in container media that differed only in the peat fraction (40%), either sphagnum, Florida (sedge) peat, or coir pith. On the basis of plant growth parameters, coir pith was superior to sedge peat as a medium component (though only marginally for the anthurium) and at least equal to sphagnum peat. In addition to physical qualities equal to or better than sphagnum peat, coir decomposes more slowly than either sedge or sphagnum peat, withstands compression better and is easier to wet than peat. There are also no ecological drawbacks to the use of coir -- a waste product -- relative to the harvest of peat from wetland ecosystems.

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Growth of Ravenea rivularis Jumelle and Perrier (majesty palm) and `Lady Jane' Anthurium Schott was compared in container media, using as a primary organic component sphagnum peat, sedge peat, or coir dust. Growth index and shoot and root dry weights of majesty palm were significantly higher in the coir than the sedge peat medium. Growth index and shoot dry weight were only marginally higher for the anthurium in the coir vs. sedge peat medium, and root dry weights were comparable. Both crops grew equally well in the coir and the sphagnum peat medium. The sedge peat medium had the most air porosity and the least water-holding capacity of the three media at the initiation of the trials, but at termination showed a reversal of these parameters. The coir medium showed the least change in these parameters over 8 months. High-quality coir dust appears to be an acceptable substitute for sphagnum or sedge peat in soilless container media.

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Anatomical differences in leaves of queen palm [Syagrus romanzoffiana (Chamisso) Glassman] showing visible K, Mn, and Fe deficiency symptoms are described. Potassium-deficient leaves showed less organization in the mesophyll than healthy leaves. Adaxial fibers increased in diameter. Chloroplast frequency was reduced overall, but most severely in areas of the leaf showing gross symptoms of the deficiency. Manganese-deficient leaves had reduced chloroplast frequency, especially in tissue near necrotic areas, and thicker and more fibers per unit length. Iron-deficient leaves had few chloroplasts throughout the mesophyll, and also thicker and more fibers per unit length.

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