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Manuel Abad, Fernando Fornes, Carolina Carrión, Vicente Noguera, Patricia Noguera, Ángel Maquieira and Rosa Puchades

Selected physical properties of 13 coconut coir dusts from Asia, America, and Africa were compared to physical properties of sphagnum peat. All properties studied differed significantly between and within sources, and from the peat. Coir dusts from India, Sri Lanka, and Thailand were composed mainly of pithy tissue, whereas most of those from Costa Rica, Ivory Coast, and Mexico contained abundant fiber which was reflected by a higher coarseness index (percentage by weight of particles larger than 1 mm in diameter). Coir dust was evaluated as a lightweight material, and its total porosity was above 94% (by volume). It also exhibited a high air content (from 24% to 89% by volume) but a low easily available and total water-holding capacity which ranged from <1% to 36% by volume and from 137 to 786 mL·L–1, respectively. Physical properties of coir dust were strongly dependent on particle size distribution. Both easily available and total water-holding capacity declined proportionally with increasing coarseness index, while air content was positively correlated. Relative hydraulic conductivity in the range of 0 to 10 kPa suction dropped as particle size increased. Coir dusts with a particle size distribution similar to peat showed comparatively higher aeration and lower capacity to hold total and easily available water. An air–water balance similar to that in peat became apparent in coir dust at a comparatively lower coarseness index (29% vs. 63% by weight in peat). Stepwise multiple regression analysis showed that particles with diameters in the range of 0.125 to 1 mm had a remarkable and highly significant impact on the physical properties studied, while particles <0.125 mm and >1 mm had only a slight or nonsignificant effect.