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Nancy E. Roe and Peter J. Stoffella

Rapid production of compost often results in crop damage by phytotoxic compounds or high C/N ratios in immature (uncured) compost. The influence of immature biosolids-yard trimmings compost on germination and growth of cucumber (Cucumis sativus L.) was evaluated. Germination percentages of cucumbers seeded in equal parts (v/v) of compost and vermiculite were similar to those in vermiculite. When screened compost was placed in flats and compared with flats of potting mix or sandy field soil, germination percentages were 98, 96, and 89 for mix, sand, and compost respectively. Germination in compost-amended field plots was higher than in soil when cucumbers were planted 1, 2 or 10 weeks after compost application, but similar in 3 and 5 week plantings. Use of this immature compost increased, decreased, or did not affect cucumber seed germination, depending on media and growing conditions.

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Chris A. Martin, L. Brooke McDowell, Thomas E. Marler and Jean C. Stutz

Seedlings of Carica papaya L. `Waimanalo' (papaya) were transplanted into 27-L containers filled with nonsterile composted landscape yard trimmings passed through a 1.3-cm screen. At transplanting, papaya plants were inoculated with either one of three different AMF communities or were not inoculated as control plants. Two of the AMF communities were from Arizona citrus orchards, and one AMF community was from an undisturbed western Chihuahuan Desert soil. After transplanting, papaya plants were grown for 4 months under well-watered conditions in a temperature-controlled (32 °C day/24 °C night) glasshouse (45% light exclusion). Control plants remained non-mycorrhizal. Total colonization of papaya roots by AMF communities ranged from 56% to 94%. Depending on mycorrhizal treatment, AMF arbuscules and internal hyphae were present in 30% to 60% and 20% to 24% of roots, respectively. Noticeably absent in papaya roots were AMF vesicles. Papaya height, trunk diameter, and leaf phosphorus concentration were similar for inoculated and control plants. Compared with control plants, papayas inoculated with AMF communities had about 20% less shoot dry weight and about 50% less root dry weight. Under nonlimiting conditions in an organic substrate, AMF communities did not stimulate papaya growth but rather appeared to function as a carbon sink.

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Nancy E. Roe and Peter J. Stoffella

Composts may improve crop growth in sandy soils. A biosolids-yard trimming compost (C) was incorporated into sandy soil at 134 t·ha–1 (49.7% moisture) before applying polyethylene mulch. Fertilizer (F) was applied at 0%, 50%, and 100% of the grower's rate (71N–39P–44K t·ha–1 broadcast and 283N–278K t·ha–1 banded in bed centers). `Elisa' pepper transplants were planted 20 Jan. 1994. Marketable fruit weights were 20, 31, and 32 t·ha–1 without C and 30, 35, and 32 t·ha–1 with C for 0%, 50%, and 100% F, respectively. Pepper fruit weights increased with increasing F rates and were higher in plots with C than without C. Without removing mulch, `Thunder' cucumbers were seeded on 26 Sept. 1994. Marketable fruit weights were similar at the three F levels, but were 23 and 27 t·ha–1 without and with C, respectively. One application of C significantly increased bell pepper yields and a subsequent cucumber crop.

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Monica Ozores-Hampton, Thomas A. Obreza and George Hochmuth

Large volumes of compost produced from waste materials like yard trimmings, household trash (municipal solid waste), or biosolids (wastewater sludge) will likely become available for use by the Florida vegetable industry in the future. Using compost to produce vegetables has the potential to increase water and fertilizer conservation and reduce leaching from inorganic fertilizers in Florida's sandy soils. Compost quality for vegetable production systems should be based on soluble salts, phytotoxic compounds, C:N ratio, plant nutrients, trace metals, weed seeds, odor, moisture, pH, water-holding capacity, bulk density, cation exchange capacity, and particle size. In Florida, immature compost contained phytotoxic compounds that were harmful to crop germination and growth. Amending soil with mature composted waste materials has been reported to increase the growth and yields of vegetable crops grown in Florida. However, a beneficial response does not always occur, and the magnitude of the response is often not predictable.

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Monica Ozores-Hampton

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Mike Litvany and Monica Ozores-Hampton

Commercial citrus (Citrus sp.) groves in Florida use an average of 150 lb/acre (168 kg·ha-1) of elemental nitrogen (N) per year. There are about 853,000 acres (345,000 ha) of commercial citrus requiring about 63,975 tons (62,652 t) of N. At an average analysis of 12% N, about 533,125 tons (483,811 t) of blended nitrogenous fertilizers are applied to citrus annually. To meet this annual N demand from compost, it would be necessary to produce 3,198,750 tons (2,901,906 t) of 2% N compost. The market for high-quality compost products in Florida is far greater than the current or projected production capacity of the state. As long as the cost benefits of compost are clear to citrus growers, demand will always exceed supply. Not all composts are equal in their nutrient availability. The best composts for use as fertilizers are derived from sewage sludge or biosolids, municipal solid waste and sludge, food waste, and/or animal manure combined with a bulking agent such as sawdust or wood chips. Composts made from wood waste as their only feedstock contain large amounts of lignin and cellulose to break down within a reasonable period to directly offset chemical fertilizers. Ultimately, they will mineralize in the soil and provide all of the benefits described earlier, but their rates of availability are in years rather than months, like the other composts.

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Jianjun Chen, Dennis B. McConnell, Cynthia A. Robinson, Russell D. Caldwell and Yingfeng Huang

Three composts, derived from municipal solid waste with biosolids, yard trimmings, and yard trimmings with biosolids, were mixed by volume with sphagnum peat and pine bark to formulate 12 substrates. After characterizing physical and chemical properties, the substrates, along with a control, were used for rooting single eye cuttings of pothos (Epipremnum aureum) and terminal cuttings of maranta (Maranta leuconeura) and schefflera (Schefflera arboricola) in enclosed polyethylene tents. All cuttings initiated roots with no significant difference in root numbers per cutting 14 days after sticking, but root lengths 21 days and root-ball coverage ratings 45 days after sticking were significantly affected by substrates. Five of 12 compost-formulated substrates resulted in root lengths of cuttings equal to or longer than the control. In addition to desirable physical properties such as bulk density, total porosity, and air space, common chemical characteristics of the five substrates included low concentration of mineral elements, initial electrical conductivity ≤3.0 dS·m-1 based on the pour through extraction method, and pH between 3.8 to 5.0. The five substrates were formulated by combining composted municipal solid waste with biosolids or yard trimmings with biosolids volumetrically at 20% or less or composted yard trimmings at 50% or less with equal volumes of sphagnum peat and pine bark.

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Kimberly A. Klock-Moore

Growth of `Oasis Scarlet' begonia (Begonia ×semperflorens-cultorum Hort.) and `Super Elfin Violet' impatiens (Impatiens wallerana Hook. f.) was compared in substrates containing compost made from used greenhouse substrates and yard trimmings (GHC) and in compost made from biosolids and yard trimmings (SYT). Treatments consisted of 100% compost (GHC or SYT) or compost combined with control substrate components at 60%, 30%, or 0%. Substrates containing SYT compost produced significantly larger begonia and impatiens plants than substrates containing GHC compost. Higher initial substrate nutrient concentrations in substrates containing SYT probably prompted increased begonia and impatiens growth because substrates containing SYT compost had significantly higher initial soluble salt, nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K), calcium (Ca), and magnesium (Mg) concentrations than substrates containing GHC compost. Begonia and impatiens shoot dry mass and size linearly increased as the percentage of SYT compost in the substrate increased from 0% to 100%. However, no difference in begonia or impatiens growth was observed among the different percentages of GHC compost. Initial soluble salt, N, P, K, Ca, and Mg concentrations also linearly increased as the percentage of SYT increased while only initial P, K, and Ca concentrations linearly increased as the percentage of GHC increased.

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Nancy E. Roe, Peter J. Stoffella and Donald Graetz

Compost (biosolids and yard trimmings at 134 t·ha-1) was applied to a sandy field soil with fertilizer at 0%, 50%, or 100% of the grower's standard rate (71N-39P-44K kg·ha-1 broadcast and 283N-278K kg·ha-1 banded in bed centers). Raised beds were constructed and covered with polyethylene mulch, and `Elisa' bell peppers (Capsicum annuum L.) were transplanted into the plots. Foliage samples taken at early harvest indicated that leaf N concentrations increased and Cu concentrations decreased with increasing fertilizer rates. Leaf concentrations of P, K, Ca, and Mg increased and Cu decreased in plots amended with compost. Marketable pepper yields from plants grown in plots amended with compost were 30.3, 35.7, and 31.1 t·ha-1 in plots with 0%, 50%, and 100% fertilizer rate, respectively. Without compost, yields were 19.8, 31.1, and 32.0 t·ha-1 with 0%, 50%, and 100% fertilizer rate. `Valient' cucumbers (Cucumis sativus L.) were seeded through the same polyethylene mulch into the previous pepper plots. Marketable cucumber yields were not affected by residual fertilizer, but were higher (26.8 t·ha-1) in plots amended with compost than without compost (22.7 t·ha-1). In a second experiment, a biosolids-yard trimming-mixed waste paper (MWP) compost and a biosolids-yard trimming-refuse-derived fuel (RDF) compost were applied at 0 or 134 t·ha-1 with fertilizer at 0%, 50%, or 100% fertilizer rates, respectively. With no fertilizer, total yields from pepper plants were higher in plots amended with composts than without composts. In 50% fertilizer plots, yields were similar between compost treatments. At 100% fertilizer rate, yields with MWP compost were significantly higher than yields with RDF compost or with no compost. In plots without fertilizer or with 50% fertilizer rates, mean fruit size (g/fruit) was largest with MWP compost, intermediate with RDF compost, and smallest without compost. With 100% fertilizer, mean fruit size was larger with either compost than without compost. Composts combined with low rates of fertilizer generally produced higher pepper yields than other treatments. Residual compost increased yields of a subsequent cucumber crop. Yields from pepper plants without fertilizer were higher when soil was amended with composts with added MWP or RDF, but, with fertilizer, yields were similar or only slightly increased.

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S.B. Wilson, P.J. Stoffella and D.A. Graetz

Growth of golden shrimp plant (Pachystachys lutea Nees.) transplants was evaluated in media containing 0%, 25%, 50%, 75%, or 100% compost derived from biosolids and yard trimmings. A commercial coir- or peat-based media was amended with compost. As compost composition in the peat or coir-based media increased from 0% to 100%, carbon/nitrogen ratios decreased; and media stability, nitrogen mobilization, pH, and electrical conductivity 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 less leaf area and lower shoot and root dry weight compared to 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.