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.
The success of long-term vegetable production and maintenance of environmental quality is dependent on soil quality. Indicators of soil quality include cation exchange capacity (CEC), organic matter (OM), carbon (C), pH, and the number and community structure of soil organisms. The use of appropriate compost has been shown to improve soil quality and enhance the response to fertilizer, therefore improving growth and yield of vegetable crops. The objective of this study was to evaluate changes in the chemical and biological properties of soil in response to compost use in conventional vegetables production systems. A survey was conducted on 5 farms (three in Immokalee, and one each in Delray Beach, and Clewiston) growing tomato, pepper, and specialty vegetables. Most of the farms were applying composted yard trimming waste alone or in combination with biosolids or horse manure at application rates of between 7 to 112 Mg·ha-1 once a year. Soil samples were taken from composted and non-composted areas in each farm during Feb. and Mar. 2002. Soil pH, OM, C, K, Ca, Mg, Cu, Fe, MN and Zn were higher in the composted areas compared with the non-composted areas for each farm. CEC values in composted areas were double those in non-composted areas. Most importantly, application of compost enhanced the overall soil microbial activity as determined by total microorganism number, SRD (species richness diversity), and TSRD (total species richness diversity) of six functional groups including heterotrophic aerobic bacteria, anaerobic bacteria, fungi, actinomycetes, pseudomonads, and nitrogen-fixing bacteria, in all the participating farms. The greatest soil quality improvement was seen in soils receiving the highest rates of compost for the longest time.
This review integrates information from common organic amendments used in conventional vegetable production, including 1) cover crops (legumes and nonlegumes), 2) compost generated from yard wastes, biosolids, municipal solid waste (MSW), animal manures, and other biodegradable waste by-products, and 3) raw animal manure (with and without bedding). Environmental monitoring has shown elevated nitrate concentration to be widespread in both surface and groundwater, often occurring in regions with concentrated horticultural production. Therefore, the objective of this review was to calculate the nutrient content from organic amendments, since these are not considered nutrient sources. Common organic amendments affect soil bulk density, water-holding capacity, soil structure, soil carbon content, macro- and micronutrients, pH, soluble salts, cation exchange capacity (CEC), and biological properties (microbial biomass). The first step in building a conventional tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) fertility program will be to take a soil sample and send it to a soil laboratory for a nutrient analysis. These results should be compared with the local crop recommendations. Second, select the organic amendments based on local cover crop suitability and availability of compost, raw animal manure, or both. Then, determine the nutrients available from cover crops and other applied organic amendments and use inorganic fertilizer sources to satisfy the crop nutrient requirements not supplied from these other sources.
Iron (Fe) deficiency is a frequent nutritional problem in Florida vegetable crops because of leaching of Fe fertilizer from the soil, poor soil aeration, low soil organic matter (SOM), temperature, high soil pH and/or water bicarbonate content, and interactions with high levels of manganese (Mn) and calcium (Ca). Most Fe-deficient plants are yellow and stunted, with symptoms on younger leaves near the top of the plant because of Fe immobility and poor translocation resulting in interveinal chlorosis. Iron deficiency in tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) is characterized by a drastic reduction of leaf chlorophyll content at first at the base of the leaves (bleached leaf) ending in necrotic spots. Iron deficiency can have a significant economic impact depending on the timing of the deficiency during the crop production cycle. Furthermore, crop genotypic variations influence the ability of root systems to acquire Fe. The objective of this article was to describe current methods used by vegetable growers to correct Fe deficiency and to evaluate their effectiveness in tomato, pepper (Capsicum annuum), bean (Phaseolus vulgaris), and eggplant (Solanum melongena) production in Florida. A survey was conducted in the major vegetable production areas in Florida during 2012. Results from the survey indicated that since Fe availability depends on complex soil and environmental factors, there was no reliable soil test method that can predict Fe deficiency on vegetable crops in Florida. Production areas surveyed with calcareous or alkaline soils that are often due to over-liming, Fe becomes unavailable because of significant reduction of Fe. Production practices for those areas were not to use calcitic lime to raise Ca levels, especially if the pH is adequate (6.5). Instead, gypsum or calcium nitrate was recommended for soil Ca. The survey indicated that Fe sulfate (inorganic form) is the most commonly used Fe fertilizer in Florida. However, chelates of Fe were effective but expensive Fe alternative. Among chelate sources, ferric ethylenediaminediaminedi-o-hydroxyphenylacetic acid was frequently the preferred chelate fertilizer for soil application, but it is an expensive option. Soil acidification to lower the soil pH was also used to improve soil Fe availability. Organic matter in animal manures and composts was used as an effective alternative to increase Fe with positive results in Florida tomato production. However, the survey indicated that Fe applied to the soil was converted into unavailable forms especially under high soil pH, thus foliar application was used if Fe deficiency symptoms were observed early in the production cycle.
Compost is primarily a soil-amending product that may improve soil quality and the productivity of organic and conventional vegetable crops. Growers can use compost as a soil conditioner or as nutrient source to supplement the fertility program in vegetable production. Nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium may be low. To lower the environmental impact of high compost application rates and protect water supplies from excessive nutrient runoff or leaching, or an excessive soil nutrient buildup, compost should be applied to match the nutrient needs of a crop. Compost quality use guidelines for assessing compost quality for use in vegetable production are limited. The objective of this paper is to present guidelines for determining compost quality for use in organic or conventional vegetable production.
Intensive peat mining in Chile and worldwide produces a significant increase in production costs and less market availability. Alternative systems to promote peat mining sustainability are an immediate necessity. A viable alternative for replacing peat in tomato transplant production is to use worm castings or vermicompost. Vermicomposting is a biological process that relies on the action of earthworms (Eisenia sp.) to stabilize waste organic materials. The objective of this study was to evaluate the use of Ecobol-S® worm castings as a replacement for peat in tomato transplant production. Three experiments were designed using a randomized complete-block design containing two factors (planting date and worm casting rate). Tomatoes were seeded in a growth chamber using five growth media made up of the different ratios of worm castings, peat, and rice hulls [0:70:30 (control) 18:52:30; 35:35:30; 52:18:30; and 70:0:30], respectively. It was determined that Ecobol-S® worm castings have an adequate C:N and particle size for tomato transplant production. However, limitations were observed due to its high EC and low C content. During early fall, with high temperature in the growth chamber, it is not recommended to use worm castings in transplant production due to nutrient leaching caused by frequent irrigation. In mid-fall, it is recommended to use a rate of 35% worm castings, while in early winter it is recommended to use a rate of 52% to obtain strong and healthy transplants. Therefore, worm castings can be used as a viable alternative in the tomato transplant industry in Chile and possibly worldwide.
In 1997, 24.7 million t of solid waste were produced in Florida (about 4.3 kg per person per day). If all biodegradable material was composted, 12.4 million t of compost would be produced annually. If this compost was used as a soil amendment in fruit and vegetable production, knowledge of its N mineralization rate would be important to determine the application rate. We measured the field N mineralization of four commercial Florida composts mixed with sandy soil (dry weight rate): Jacksonville (yard trimming compost, 127 t•ha-1), Sumter (municipal solid waste compost, 67 t•ha-1), and Nocatee and Palm Beach (yard trimming and biosolids composts, 63 and 56 t•ha-1). The control treatment was unamended soil. Open-top, 20-cm long PVC columns were filled with soil/compost mixtures and fitted at the bottom with a trap containing cation and anion exchange resin to capture leaching NO3 and NH4-N. The columns were buried in the soil at ground level and incubated in situ for 45 and 90 days in the spring. The resin was extracted with 1 N KCl and the mass of NO3-N and NH4-N adsorbed was determined. A similar procedure measured the NO3-N and NH4-N left in the soil/compost mixture. After 90 days in the field, net N immobilization was observed with Nocatee (-4.3%), Sumter (-3.0%), and Jacksonville (-1.3%) composts, while N mineralized (6.4%) from Palm Beach compost. Where N immobilization occurred, composts had initial C: N greater than 20: 1 and N concentration <1.6%. Mineralization occurred where compost had C: N ratio lower than 20: 1 and N concentration greater than 1.6%.