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  • Author or Editor: J Austin Gimondo x
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Drawbacks of traditional synthetic fertilizer led us to explore a biologically based (bio-based) alternative. Our objective was to quantify the efficacy of wastewater-grown algae pellets and pastes harvested from rotating algal biofilm systems as fertilizers for three crops, ‘Honeycomb’ marigold (Tagetes patula L.), ‘Beefsteak’ tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.), and ‘Ambrosia’ sweet corn (Zea mays L.). Factorial experiments were designed for each crop with fertilizer type (algae pellets, algae paste, a synthetic controlled-release fertilizer, or a commercially available bio-based fertilizer from wastewater treatment) and substrate (commercial or custom-made) as factors. Shoot growth, shoot nutrient concentration, and substrate pH and electrical conductivity (EC) were affected by fertilizer, substrate, or their interaction. Algae pellets and paste supplied nutrients to all three species effectively, increasing shoot size, dry weight, perceived health, and nutrient concentrations compared with unfertilized controls. Notwithstanding some variability among crops, performance of algal materials was similar to that of the synthetic fertilizer and better than that of the commercial bio-based fertilizer. As a bio-based fertilizer that supplies plants with recycled nutrients sequestered from wastewater, wastewater-grown algae can reduce the impacts of mineral nutrition management in container-crop production by partially supplanting synthetic fertilizer use.

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