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In recent years, several peat and pine bark (PB) alternative substrates have been developed and researched in the United States and throughout the world. The interest in new substrates is in response to the increasing cost and environmental issues

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Sixteen media prepared from peat, coir, vermiculite, or perlite were used to determine the optimum growing media for tomato (Lycopersicum esculentum Mill.) transplants. Medium composition did not affect tomato seed emergence, although seedling emergence was higher in winter (90%) than summer (85%). Greatest transplant root dry weight, stem diameter, and leaf area were achieved in 50% to 75% peat + 25% to 50% vermiculite in summer. In winter, greatest transplant root dry weight, stem diameter, and leaf area were achieved in eight media: 100% peat, 75% peat + 25% vermiculite, 75% peat + 25% perlite, 50% peat + 50% vermiculite, 50% peat + 50% perlite, 25% peat + 50% coir + 25% vermiculite, 50% peat + 25%coir + 25% vermiculite, and 25% peat +25% coir +25% vermiculite +25% perlite. Transplants grown with >50% coir exhibited reduced plant growth compared to peat-grown transplants, a response that may be associated with high N immobilization by microorganisms and high C:N ratio. Despite transplant growth differences during the summer, fruit yields generally were unaffected by transplant media.

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When the substrate surface and drainage holes of feather fiber, peat, and plastic containers were sealed with wax, hyperbolic growth curves were good fits to cumulative water loss on a per container and per cm2 basis, with R 2 values ranging from 0.88 to 0.96. The effect of container type was significant as the differences in asymptotic maximum water loss (max) values for all container pairs were significant at P < 0.05 for both water loss per container and water loss per cm2. The predicted total water loss for peat containers was ≈2.5 times greater than feather containers, and the predicted water loss per cm2 for the peat container was ≈3 times greater than feather containers. Vinca [Catharanthus roseus (L.) G. Don.] `Cooler Blush' and impatiens (Impatiens walleriana Hook f.) `Dazzler Rose Star' plants grown in feather and peat containers required more water and more frequent irrigations than those grown in plastic containers. However, plants grown in feather containers required less water and fewer irrigations than plants grown in peat containers. The surface area of containers covered by algal or fungal growth was significantly higher on peat containers than on feather containers. No fungal or algal growth was observed on plastic containers. Additionally, primarily algae were observed on peat containers whereas most discoloration observed on feather containers was due to fungal growth. Dry feather containers had a higher longitudinal strength than dry plastic containers but a lower longitudinal strength than dry peat containers. Wet feather containers had higher longitudinal strength than wet peat containers but a similar longitudinal strength as wet plastic containers. Dry feather and plastic containers had similar lateral strengths and both had significantly higher lateral strength than dry peat containers. Wet feather containers had significantly lower lateral strength than wet plastic containers but had higher lateral strength than wet peat containers. Dry and wet plastic containers had higher punch strength than wet or dry peat and feather containers. Dry peat containers had significantly higher punch strength than dry feather containers. However, wet feather containers had significantly higher punch strength than wet peat containers. Decomposition of peat and feather containers was significantly affected by container type and the species grown in the container. When planted with tomato (Lycopersicum esculentum L.) `Better Boy', decomposition was not significantly different between the peat and feather containers. However, when vinca and marigold (Tagetes patula L.) `Janie Bright Yellow' were grown in the containers, decomposition was significantly higher for feather containers than for peat containers. Therefore, containers made from processed feather fiber provided a new type of biodegradable container with significantly improved characteristics as compared to peat containers.

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A comparison was made of Philippine coconut coir dust and Canadian spaghnum peat as components of three growing media for greenhouse production of Dieffenbachia maculata `Camille'. The soilless media were prepared using coir or peat in various amounts (by volume) combined with pine bark, vermiculite, and/or perlite (Media A–50% coir/peat: 25% vermiculite: 25% perlite; Media B–40% coir/peat: 30% vermiculite: 30% bark; Media C–50% coir/peat: 50% bark). Chemical and physical properties of the soils were determined at the beginning and the end of the five-month production cycle. Plant root and top growth and grades were determined at the end of the experiment. Initially, saturated media extracts from coir-containing media had elevated K, Cl, and soluble salts levels compared to peat-containing media; however, by the end of the experiment those levels were lower in coir- than in peat-based media. Water-filled pore space and water-holding capacities were generally higher and air-filled pore space lower in coir- than in peat-based media, probably due to differences in particle size distributions. There were no interaction effects on plant growth between growing media and coir versus peat. Plant root and top growth in Media A > Media B > Media C and plant top growth was greater in coir- than in peat-based media. Differences in growth could be due, in part, to differences in media water-holding capacities.

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Peat is used extensively in the nursery industry as a primary component in commercial “soilless” potting media. The increased use of peat as an organic amendment with superior water-holding capacity is challenged by economic and environmental pressures. Developing inexpensive and nutrient-rich organic media alternatives can potentially reduce fertilization rates, irrigation rates, and ultimately, nursery costs. In addition, controversy over the effects of peat mining has inspired a national search for peat substitutes. With our burgeoning population, it is logical to screen waste products as potential alternatives to peat. Growth of Pachystachys lutea Nees. (Golden Shrimp Plant) transplants was evaluated in media containing 0%, 25%, 50%, 75%, or 100% compost derived from biosolids and yard trimmings. Compost was amended with a commercial peat- or coir-based media. As compost composition in the peat or coir-based media increased from 0% to 100%, carbon/nitrogen (C/N) ratios decreased, and media stability, N mobilization, pH, and electrical conductivity (EC) increased. Bulk density, particle density, air-filled porosity, container capacity, and total porosity increased as more compost was added to either peat- or coir-based media. Plants grown in media with high volumes of compost (75 or 100%) had reduced leaf area and reduced shoot and root DW than the controls (no compost). Regardless of percentage of compost composition in either peat or coir-based media, all plants were considered marketable after 8 weeks.

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Growth of Pentas lanecolata (Forssk.) Deflers `Starburst Pink' and Ixora coccinea L. `Maui' was compared in container media using sphagnum peat, sedge peat, or coir dust as their peat components. Growth index and top and root dry weights of both crops were significantly better in coir-based medium than sedge peat-based medium. Pentas grew equally well in coir- and sphagnum peat-based medium. Growth index and top dry weight of Ixora were significantly lower in the coir-based than the sphagnum peat-based medium, although root dry weights were equal. This difference was not apparent and may have been caused by N drawdown in the coir-based mix. The sedge peat-based medium had the highest air porosity and the lowest water-holding capacity of the three media at the initiation of the trials, but at the termination of the study, it showed a reversal of these characteristics. The coir-based medium showed the least change in these attributes over time. Coir dust seems to be an acceptable substitute for sphagnum or sedge peat in soilless container media, although nutritional regimes may need to be adjusted on a crop-by-crop basis.

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Coir is the name given to the fibrous material that constitutes the thick mesocarp of the coconut fruit (Cocos nucifera L.). The long fibers of coir are extracted from the coconut husk and utilized in the manufacture of various products. The short fibers and dust (“pith”) left behind have accumulated as a waste product. Coir pith is light to dark brown in color and consists primarily of particles in the size range 0.2-2.0 mm (75-90%). In composition, it is 65-70% lignin and 20-30% cellulose. To date, few replicated tests have assessed the performance of coir pith as a plant growth medium. From April, 1993 to April, 1994, four ornamental crops (pentas, ixora, anthurium and majesty palm) were grown in container media that differed only in the peat fraction (40%), either sphagnum, Florida (sedge) peat, or coir pith. On the basis of plant growth parameters, coir pith was superior to sedge peat as a medium component (though only marginally for the anthurium) and at least equal to sphagnum peat. In addition to physical qualities equal to or better than sphagnum peat, coir decomposes more slowly than either sedge or sphagnum peat, withstands compression better and is easier to wet than peat. There are also no ecological drawbacks to the use of coir -- a waste product -- relative to the harvest of peat from wetland ecosystems.

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Eight different peat-based or peat: bark-based potting media were evaluated for their wetting performance when treated with the media wetting agent AquaGro 2000 (2–5 oz/yd3). Upon initial irrigation, no differences in wetting uniformity were observed in seven of the eight test media regardless of their media wetting agent treatments. In four media, water retention was reduced by media wetting agent treatment, however, uniform distribution of water was achieved. AquaGro 2000 improved uniformity of initial wetting in one medium in which the initial moisture content was 6.5%. Uniformity of wetting and water retention improved with increasing wetting agent rate. All media were allowed to air dry and then were re-irrigated. Wetting agent-treated media rewet uniformly, while rewetting varied greatly in untreated media (7.5%–82.5%). Less than 50% of the mass of untreated media wet subsequent to drying. Those portions of the untreated media that did wet retained up to three times more water per unit volume compared to AquaGro 2000-treated media. AquaGro 2000 enhanced uniformity of rewetting, reduced water logging, and improved drainage at all rates (2–5 oz/yd3) tested. Media composition (peat vs. peat: bark did not affect wetting agent efficacy.

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Abstract

The effects of peat: vermiculite mixes on increased growth response of radish (Raphanus sativus L. ‘Early Scarlet Globe’) induced by Trichoderma harzianum Rifai (isolate T-12) were investigated. Canadian sphagnum peat and vermiculite were mixed in various ratios to form 0-100% peat mixes. Four levels of T-12 amendment were added to these mixes—0%, 2%, 5%, and 10% (v/v) or 0%, 0.1%, 1%, and 10%. In general, increasing levels of T-12 amendment induced linear increases in radish dry weights after 4 and 5 weeks. Greatest increases were seen in mixes containing 20% peat or 80% peat. The smallest increases were observed when T. harzianum was added to 0% peat or 100% peat mixes. There was no effect on the population densities of T-12 after it was introduced into the mixes. No Pythium spp. or root disease were detected in the mixes, suggesting that T. harzianum, a biological control agent, can increase plant growth independent of any detectable root pathogens.

Open Access

Abstract

Due to scarcity of manure for use in preparing seed and potting compost, and also for use in growing plants to maturity under glass, interest in using peat and muck for these purposes has increased. In Poland there are about 1.8 million hectares (4.4 million acres) of these organic soils, and the area of glasshouses is also expanding. Of these organic soils, about 90% is muck and 10% is peat; thus, the cost of muck per cubic meter is about 1/3 that of peat.

Open Access