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- Author or Editor: Francis R. Gouin x
During the past decade, numerous commercial composting systems have been developed. Time, as well as economics, are determining which of these systems are feasible. Systems that take time but can operate at low cost are surviving, as are more costly systems capable of producing a mature compost in the shortest possible time. Which system to use can be determined by the amount of space available and the amount of feedstock to be composted. Where space is limited and the volume of feedstock is high, more intensively managed systems are necessary. When space is not a limiting factor, more passive systems may be adequate. Of the more costly system developed, those systems with the least amount of down time and with a high degree of versatility appear to be surviving. Although it is possible to optimize the rate of composting through good engineering and management, there exists a given time period, depending on the feedstock necessary to produce quality mature compost. Minimizing production time to the point where the quality of the compost is jeopardized will result in wide-spread rejection. As horticulturists, we must stand firm in demanding compost standards with qualities based on our needs. Based on the diversity of our industry, the horticultural industries are likely to be the largest potential users of commercial compost.
Compost varies according to content, comporting procedures, age, storage conditions and particle size. Compost made mostly from wood products will have a much lower nutrient and soluble salt concentration than one made from leaves, grass clippings, sewage sludge, manures or food processing waste. Compost from efficiently managed systems optimizing microbial activity will tend to have higher soluble salt levels than compost from piles that are neglected and/or undisturbed.
Regardless of which organic materials used in making compost it will have a pH between 6.2 and 7.2 when ready for use. The effectiveness of compost as a soil amendment and in formulating potting mixes is dependent on particle sizes and soluble salt concentrations. Particles should not be recognizable and less than 2.5 cm in diameter for optimum plant response. Soluble salt concentrations of the compost will determine rates of application and fertilizer regime.
Sewage sludge is being converted to compost by many municipalities. Its use in the production, establishment, and/or maintenance of horticultural crops is dependent on soluble salt concentration, particle size, stability, dewatering procedures, storage conditions, and crop needs. Soluble salt concentration has the greatest effect on the amount of compost that can be used as a soil or potting media amendment. Because composted sewage sludge is rich in plant nutrients, it can supply many of the nutrient needs of plants, depending on the amount used and if the plants are growing in the ground or in containers. However, improper storage of composted sewage sludge can render the product useless due to the accumulation of acetic acid and alcohol that occur under anaerobic conditions.
Seedlings of Norway spruce (Picea abies (L.) Karst) produced longer stems when grown in seedbeds amended with 224 dry MT/ha screened composted sewage sludge or top-dressed with 1 MT/ha of Osmocote 18–6–12 or 112 dry MT/ha of screened composted sewage sludge applied at the end of the first growing season. More seedlings of white pine (Pinus strobus L.) were produced in soils amended with 112 dry MT/ha of unscreened composted sewage sludge than in soils amended with 448 dry MT/ha of screened composted sewage sludge or in the 0 treatment levels. Soils amended with composted sewage sludge had higher pH, Mg, and P level than soils top-dressed with Osmocote 18–6–12 and mulched with pine sawdust.
It is said that only horns, teats, feathers, and manes can attract 4-H’ers. This may be true in some states, but in Maryland, 4-H’ers are attracted to thorns, milkweed, eggplants, and horsenettle as well as apples, tulips, and peas. To many, this may seem hard to believe, but horticulture is now one of the most popular activities in our 4-H program.
“And Thou Shalt Die in a Polluted Land”(Amos 7:17). The only biblical verse that specifically mentions pollution was written in 2,000 BC by the prophet Amos, a simple herdsman and gatherer of wild figs. Although he was denouncing the social and moral degeneracy of Israel during the days of Jeroboam II, he seemed to have accurately described today’s environmental pollution problem.
Brambles (Rubus sp.) are a severe weed problem in Maryland Christmas tree plantations. They compete with the trees for water, nutrients, and light, obstruct tree shearing, mowing and harvesting operations and discourage customers from wandering through “Choose and Cut” plantings.
Compiling and distributing slide-script series has been an ASHS volunteer program since 1972. In Feb. 1983, the ASHS Executive Committee suggested that a “peer review” policy be implemented to add credibility and to improve the quality of slidescript series.
Five species of ornamental plants growing in a media containing 113.4 g and 226.8 g of Osmocote “18-6-12” (18.0-2.7-10.0, N-P-K) per 35.2 liters of artificial growing media produced a total top growth equal to plants receiving 100 to 150 ppm of N at each irrigation from a liquidsoluble fertilizer (25.0-4.4-8.4, N-P-K). Higher levels of Osmocote did not result in a significant increase in growth.