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Pablo R. Hidalgo and Richard L. Harkess

Earthworm castings (vermicompost) were evaluated as a substrate amendment for chrysanthemum [Dendranthema ×grandiflora (Ramat.) Kitam.] `Miramar' production. Vermicompost produced from sheep, cattle, and horse manures were mixed at different ratios with 70 peatmoss: 30 perlite (v/v) to create 12 substrates. The 70 peatmoss: 30 perlite mix at 100% and Sunshine® Mix 1 were used as control substrates. The bulk density, percentage of pore space, and water holding capacity increased as vermicompost content increased while the percentage of air space decreased. At 100% vermicompost, water holding capacity and bulk density were greatest in vermicompost from sheep manure. Plants grown in mixtures of 50% vermicompost from sheep had a greater growth index at harvest, foliar area, number of flowers per pot, and dry weight and fewer days for flower development than plants grown in other substrates. Vermicompost from sheep manure added at 50% by volume was most effective as a substrate amendment for chrysanthemum production.

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Pablo R. Hidalgo and Richard L. Harkess

Experiments were conducted to evaluate earthworm castings (vermicompost) as a substrate for poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima Willd.) `Freedom Red' production. Vermicomposts produced from sheep, cattle, or horse manures were mixed at different ratios with 70 peatmoss: 30 perlite (v/v) to create 13 substrates. Chemical and physical properties were measured on all substrates used. Growth index, foliar and bract area, and dry weight were greater on plants grown in substrates with castings from sheep or cattle manure. These castings had greater initial nutrient content than the castings from horse manure. Mixtures of castings and peat produced better plant responses than castings alone. Better plant responses were sometimes associated with values outside the recommended pH and electrical conductivity levels for poinsettia production. The highest values obtained for growth index, foliar and bract area, dry weight, and root development were produced in the substrates with moderate pore space or water holding capacity. Substrates with greater air space produced plants with greater dry weight and root development than substrates with less air space. The highest quality plants were grown in substrates with 25% castings from sheep or cattle manures.

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Pablo R. Hidalgo, Richard L. Harkess and Frank Matta

Earthworm castings were evaluated to determine the effect of earthworm castings on growth of Poinsettia `Freedom Bright Red'. Castings derived from cow (CC), horse (HC), or sheep (SC) manure were combined with peatmoss at 1:0, 1:3, 1:1, 3:1, or 0:1 peat: castings (v/v). One plant was potted per 1.5-L container and were fertilized at 0, 50, 200, or 350 mg/L N in a RCB arrangement. Plant growth index at all fertilizer rates was greatest when grown in SC at 0:1, 1:3, and 1:1 and CC at 0:1 and 1:3 (peat: castings) ratios. For each of the three animal sources, no differences in growth index were observed among fertilizer rates when 100% castings was used as the substrate. Bract area was greatest on plants grown in SC at 1:0, 1:3, and 1:1 (peat: castings) ratios at all four fertilizer rates. Bract area on plants grown in CC at 0:1 and 1:3 (peat: castings) was less than SC, but better than CC at 1:1, 3:1, or 1:0 or any of the HC substrates. Plants grown in substrates with 75% or more castings all had similar bract area regardless of fertilizer rate. As castings in the substrate decreased, bract area increased as fertilizer rate increased. When fertilized at 0, 50, or 200 mg/liter N plant dry weight decreased as castings increased in the substrate. Fertilization at 350 mg/liter did not affect dry weight between substrates.

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Pablo R. Hidalgo, Frank B. Matta and Richard L. Harkess

The effects of various substrates with or without earthworm [Eisenia fetida (Savigny, 1826] castings on growth of marigolds were evaluated. In addition, the physical and chemical properties of such substrates were determined. Castings had a greater nutrient content than the remaining substrates. The 4 pine bark: 1 sand treatment (v/v) (PBS) had higher P, K, and Zn than 7 peat moss: 3 perlite (v/v) (PP). PP had the lowest nutrient content of all substrates. Castings (C) had the highest pH followed by 1 PBS: 1 C (v/v), 2 PBS: 1C (v/v) and 3 PBS: 1C (v/v). Sunshine Mix 1 and PP had the lowest pH. EC (ER) was increased by castings, which had high ER. Castings and PP had the greatest percentage pore space. Water-holding capacity was greatest for 2 PBS: 1C (v/v) compared with Sunshine Mix 1 followed by castings. Earthworm castings increased plant growth index, stem diameter, root growth, dry weight, and flower number of marigolds compared with PP, Sunshine Mix 1, and PBS. All mixtures of castings (C) with PP, PBS, except 3 PBS: 1C (v/v), increase the growth index of plants. 1 PP: 1 C (v/v), increased flower number compared with all substrates without castings. Castings alone increased number of open flowers, but did not differ from 1 PP: 1 C or 3 PP:1 C.

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Pablo R. Hidalgo, Richard L. Harkess and Frank Matta

Castings from earthworm (Eisenia fetida) when fed on sheep (SC), cow (CC), or horse (HC) manures were evaluated on growth of Dendranthema `Miramar' cuttings. Castings were produced placing 100 L of manure and 1 kg of earthworms in a 212-L plastic container for each animal manure. Mixtures of peat moss and castings at 0:1, 1:3, 1:1, or 3:1 were evaluated for each animal waste with 100% peat and Sunshine Mix 1 used as the controls. Each media treatment was replicated eight times with each replication consisting of four cuttings per 1-L (15-cm diameter) plastic container. Leachate pH and nutrient content increased as the amount of castings in the media increased. Plant growth index, leaf area, and number of flowers were greatest in media consisting of SC at 1:1 and 3:1 peat:castings. Similar results for growth index and leaf area were obtained with CC at 3:1 and 1:1, respectively. Increasing the amount of castings in the substrate reduced the plant dry weight and increased shrinkage of the media.

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Pablo R. Hidalgo and Richard L. Harkess

An experiment was conducted to determine the effect of earthworm (Eisenia fetida andrei) castings derived from sheep, cow, or horse manures on the growth of poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima `Freedom Red'). Poinsettia cuttings were transplanted to 1-L (15-cm-diameter) plastic pots that were filled with castings:peat moss at 1:0, 1:3, 1:1, 3:1, or 0:1 by volume for each animal manure evaluated. Plants were fertilized using 200 ppm N from a 15-5-25 (N-P2O5-K2O) fertilizer applied with the irrigation water. Total bract area and growth index were greatest in those treatments consisting of 3:1 and 1:1 (castings:peat) from sheep and cow manures, 1:0 (castings:peat) from cow manure and for growth index only, 1:0 (castings:peat) from horse manure. For these two characteristics, 100% sheep manure castings and 100% peatmoss had the lowest values. The time to anthesis was least when poinsettias were grown in 3:1 or 1:1 castings:peat from sheep and cow manures and 1:3, 1:0, or 3:1 from sheep, cow, or horse manure respectively. Anthesis was most delayed when plants were grown in 100% castings from sheep manure.

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S.A. Ayanlaja, S.O. Owa, M.O. Adigun, B.A. Senjobi and A.O. Olaleye

Seeds of jute (Chorchorus olitorius L.) undergo a period of dormancy, which hitherto has been broken with the conventional method of steeping in boiling water. Another seed treatment procedure, which involves soaking seeds in earthworm cast leachate, was found superior to the conventional method of breaking dormancy. Furthermore, radicle growth was enhanced when seeds were irrigated with water that contained earthworm cast leachate instead of water without earthworm cast leachate. This possibly suggests that earthworms excrete substances that contain hormones or biochemically active ingredients that are capable of stimulating root growth.

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Lindsay C. Paul and James D. Metzger

Vermicomposting is a promising method of transforming unwanted and virtually unlimited supplies of organic wastes into usable substrates. In this process, the digestive tracts of certain earthworm species (e.g., Eisenia fetida) are used to stabilize organic wastes. The final product is an odorless peat-like substance, which has good structure, moisture-holding capacity, relatively large amounts of available nutrients, and microbial metabolites that may act as plant growth regulators. For these reasons, vermicompost has the potential to make a valuable contribution to soilless potting media. The objective of this study was to evaluate the transplant quality and field performance of vegetable transplants grown in vermicompost. Tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.), eggplant (Solanum melongena L.), and pepper (Capsicum annuum L.) transplants were grown in a commercial soilless mix including 0%, 10%, or 20% (v/v) worm-worked cattle manure. Growth of vegetable transplants was positively affected by addition of vermicompost, perhaps by altering the nutritional balance of the medium. Transplant quality was improved in peppers and eggplants while tomato transplant quality was slightly reduced. There were no significant differences in field performance.

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Nader Soltani, George Lazarovits and Arran Brown

Hungavit® products contain extracts of earthworm castings and are marketed by BioLife Ltd. as liquid Bio-leaf fertilizer and plant conditioner. Three experimental plots were set up on the AAFC-SCPFRC research farm to evaluate Hungavit®UR, Hungavit®P, and a preparation containing the equivalent amount of N, P, K fertilizer. In Spring 1998, four replicate plots/treatment of tomato, pepper, and potato were set up in a randomized block design. Each plot received the following treatments: untreated control, Hungavit®UR for tomato and pepper or Hungavit®P for potato, and the fertilizer equivalent of Hungavit®UR or P without the organic components. Tomato and pepper plants were treated three times by foliar application at the rate of 5 L/ha using 300 L of water/ha carrier. Leaf chlorophyll contents were measured at 2, 4, and 6 weeks after initial treatment application. Early and total yield were determined. Tomato fruit were evaluated for symptoms of bacterial spot, early blight, anthracnose, and blossom end rot; pepper fruit for bacterial spot; and potato tubers for potato scab. Both Hungavit® and its equivalent fertilizer application increased the chlorophyll readings significantly in at least one measurement for tomato, pepper, and potato plants. Although there were 40% to 55% fewer diseased tomato and pepper fruit in fertilizer and Hungavit® UR treatments, this was not statistically significant from the control treatments. Fertilizer treatment also reduced scab incidence in tubers by 50%, but the overall scab level was very low even in untreated plots. Hungavit® and its fertilizer equivalent had no significant effect on the early or total yield of tomato, pepper, or potato plants.

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Robert D. Wright, Brian E. Jackson, Jake F. Browder and Joyce G. Latimer

the growth of tomato transplants Adv. Hort. Sci. 13 20 24 Hidalgo, P.R. Harkess, R.L. 2002 Earthworm castings as a substrate for poinsettia production HortScience 37 304 308 Klute, A. 1986 Water retention: Laboratory methods 635 662 Klute A. Methods of