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In Quebec, commercial sod is produced on >3000 ha. Generally, ≈20 months are required to produce market-ready sod. When conditions are suitable, harvest of marketable sod is possible within a year. However, intensive management may result in soil compaction and a reduction of the organic matter content. Considering the increasing amount of amendment available, sod production fields could be interesting for their disposal. In this study, visual quality and sod root growth was examined following an application of an organic amendment at 50, 100, and 150 t·ha–1, incorporated to depth of 6 or 20 cm. Plots established on a sandy soil receiving organic amendments had higher visual quality ratings. Bulk density was significantly reduced following compost or paper sludge application to a heavy soil. The shearing strength required to tear sod amended with compost was significantly higher in comparison with control and paper sludge treatments.

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Compost is organic matter that has undergone partial thermophilic, aerobic decomposition. This environmentally safe process is called composting. The combination of raw materials and the chosen composting method yields a wide range of characteristics, such as organic matter (OM) content, nutrient content, potential for disease suppressiveness and other physical, chemical, and biological properties. The objectives of this review are describing the horticultural outlets for composts, defining compost characteristics important for the above uses, and describing composting procedures and raw materials leading to these characteristics. The two main horticultural uses of composts are as soil amendment and as an ingredient in container media. Soil-applied composts improve soil fertility mainly by increasing soil organic matter (SOM) that activates soil biota. Compost's nutrient content, and especially that of nitrogen (N), should be high (>1.8%). Composts having these characteristics are produced of raw materials rich in both OM and N, while minimizing their loss during composting. Typical raw materials for this purpose include animal manures, offal, abattoir residues, sewage sludge, and grass clippings. Various composting methods can yield the required results, including turned windrows, aerated static piles, and in-vessel composting. Composts are also used for substrates as low-cost peat substitute, potentially suppressive against various soilborne diseases. These composts must be stable and non-phytotoxic. Physical properties of compost used as substrate are important. Hydraulic conductivity, air porosity, and available water should be high. Reconciling the physical and biological demands may be difficult. Materials such as softwood bark, wood shavings, various types of shells or hulls, and coconut coir are characterized by good physical properties after composting. However, being relatively resistant to decomposition, these materials should be subjected to long and well-controlled composting, which may be shortened using N and N-rich organic matter such as animal manures. High temperatures [>65 °C (149.0 °F)] may cause ashing, which leads to reduced porosity. In addition to ligneous materials, composts serving as growing media may be produced from numerous organic wastes, such as manures, food industry wastes, etc. These materials are better composted in aerated static piles, which tend to minimize physical breakdown. Animal excreta are of special value for co-composting as they contain large, diverse populations of microorganisms, which accelerate the process.

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Conservation tillage systems provide optimum conditions to reduce soil erosion and increase surface soil organic matter. This experiment was established with the long-term goal of developing conservation tillage systems that use either chemical inputs to produce vegetables and control pests, or legume cover crops, biological pesticides, and tillage to provide plant nutrition and control pests. The experiment consisted of cabbage (Brassica oleracea var. L. Capitata Group) grown by traditional-tillage (TT) or strip-tillage (ST) culture using either chemical or organic production methods for pest control. Cabbage heads were heavier with TT than with ST for the chemical production system. Although weed biomass was significantly higher with organic methods, there was a poor relationship between weed biomass at harvest and cabbage head weight. The lack of differences in lepidopterous pest damage suggests that the conservation tillage systems examined likely would not affect lepidopterous pest management systems using biological insecticides. Within tillage treatments, the organic production system resulted in less Alternaria infection than did the chemical production system. Since no fungicides were applied on any treatment, lower disease ratings in the organic production system may have been the result of reduced soil contact of the cabbage leaves from the increased soil coverage by the weed and intercropped legume canopy.

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The time-domain reflectometry (TDR) method of measuring water content has been applied to mineral soils but not to organic growing media. We investigated the applicability of TDR for measuring the water content of organic media in containers. TDR calibration was conducted for sand, peat, composted pine bark, sand and peat mix, sand and bark mix, and a commercial growing medium (Metro Mix 300). Regression analysis of volumetric water content was conducted with the ratio of apparent: physical length of the probe (La: L) as an independent variable. The calibration curve for Metro Mix 300 was compared to curves generated for a range of soils by other investigators. Additionally, water-content and La: L changes were monitored in Metro Mix 300 for 10 months and were compared to predicted values from the calibration curve. Organic media had a higher water content than sand for the same La: L value. Equations developed by previous authors generally underestimated water content when compared with the calibration curve for Metro Mix 300. We attribute this difference to a large fraction of highly decomposed organic matter or vermiculite and, thus, to the presence of more bound water. Specific calibration of TDR may be required to determine the absolute water content of organic growing media.

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This study was conducted over 3 years for the purpose of determining how tomato yield, fruit number, and vegetative dry matter are affected by winter cover crop and recommended fertilizer N rates. The following winter-spring fertility treatments were applied using randomized complete-block design with four replications: 1) 0 N winter–0 N spring, 2) 0 N winter–90 kg N/ha spring, 3) 0 N winter–180 kg N/ha spring, 4) 0 N winter+abruzi rye–0 N spring, 5) 0 N winter+hairy vetch–0 N spring, and 6) 0 N winter+crimson clover–0 N spring. In Spring of 1996, 1997, and 1999 `Mountain Pride' tomatoes were transplanted in all plots. Total yield was compiled over 6 weeks, while seasonal fruit number and plant dry matter were measured at final harvest. In 1999, highest plant dry matter (350.5 g/plant) was produced by vetch and highest fruit number (36/plant) by 180 kg N/ha. Total yield were highest (85.8 Mg/ha) at 90 kg N/ha in 1996 and lowest (35.3 Mg/ha) for control during 1997. Organic nitrogen from hairy vetch and crimson clover affected plant dry weight, tomato number and yield comparable to those receiving synthetic N. Results over three years for this study indicate that legume cover crops can be an effective N fertilizer in supporting plant dry matter, fruit number and fruit yield of tomato.

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Recent demand for high-quality garlic (Allium sativum L.) has prompted an interest in growing garlic as an alternative crop in the Upper Midwest. The overall objective of this study was to determine the effects of various amendments on garlic growth and selected soil quality indices in two contrasting soils. Garlic (Rocambole type) was planted in the fall of 1995 on a Kandota sandy loam (5% organic matter) and a Spartan loamy sand (1.5% organic matter). Three treatments replicated three times were tested: 1) a nonamended control, 2) manure compost, and 3) fertilizer application based on a soil test. Scapes were removed on half the plants in each plot and allowed to grow until harvest on the other half. Soil microbial biomass nitrogen (N) and carbon (C) were determined before planting and about 4 weeks after emergence. Within each site, the effect of soil amendments on garlic yield depended on scape removal. Garlic yield in nonamended soil was lowest when scapes were not removed. The effect of scape removal tended to diminish when compost or fertilizer was applied. Overall yields were 35% higher in the sandy loam soil compared to the loamy sand soil. Drought stress occurred during bulbing at both locations. Higher yields in the sandy loam soil were likely due to its higher water-holding capacity. Soil amendments did not consistently affect microbial biomass N and C; however, the sandy loam soil had 2 to 6 times higher biomass N and 3 to 4 times higher biomass C than the loamy sand soil and reflected the higher organic matter content of the sandy loam.

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Compost offers the potential to suppress root rots and vascular wilts caused by soilborne plant pathogens, as well as plant diseases affecting aerial plant parts. Many factors affect the degree of control obtained. They include the decomposition level (stability) of the compost, the types of microorganisms colonizing the organic matter after peak heating of the compost, plant nutrients released by the compost (fertility), its salinity, loading rates, and other factors. Biocontrol agents in composts induce suppression through various mechanisms, including competition, antibiosis, hyperparasitism, and the induction of systemic resistance in the plant (roots as well as foliage) to pathogens. Examples of each of the effects are reviewed.

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A 5-year study using winter cover crops (wheat or rye, crimson clover, and fallow) in a tomato and bean rotation indicated several soil responses to the cover crops. Advantages of crimson clover winter cover crop to the soil in a tomato-bean rotation included adding organic matter to the soil, which resulted in an increase in the amount of inorganic nitrogen in the upper levels of the soil profile and an increase in the soil's water-holding capacity. An additional benefit of winter cover crops to the soil was the potential of reduced nitrogen leaching.

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Three field studies on high-organic-matter soils were conducted to determine the zone of influence of spiny amaranth on lettuce head quality. Spiny amaranth reduced lettuce head firmness at all distances from the weed, ≤105 cm. Lettuce ribbiness increased at 15 and 45 cm compared with the weed-free control. Untrimmed lettuce head weight was not affected by spiny amaranth presence beyond 45 cm. Trimmed lettuce head weight was reduced at all distances compared with the control. Stem diameter and core length were not affected by spiny amaranth competition. The presence of a single spiny amaranth plant significantly influenced some lettuce quality traits at ≤105 cm.

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Several herbidices were evaluated over a 2-year period as early and late postemergence teratments applied to low-statured blueberry plants (Vaccinium angustifolium × V. corymbosum L.) growing in a low-organic matter soil in northern Minnesota. Good to excellent control of quackgrass (Agropyron repens (L.) Beauv.) was obtained with both terbacil [3-tert-butyl-5-chloro-6-methyluracil] and glyphosate [N-(phosphonomethyl)glycine]. The annual broadleaf weed complex was effectively controlled by simazine [2-chloro4,6-bis(ethylamino)-s-triazine] and terbacil. Glyphosate controlled quackgrass the most consistently. Terbacil, through root absorption, and glyphosate and paraquat [1,1’-dimethyl-4,4’-bipyridinium ion], by foliage contact, injured the blueberry plant.

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