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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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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 K. Moore

Growth of `Aladdin Peach Morn' petunia (Petunia × hybrida) and `Accent White' impatiens (Impatiens wallerana) was compared in substrates containing 0%, 30%, 60%, or 100% compost made from biosolids and yard trimmings and fertilized with Nutricote Total 13-13-13 (13N-5.7P-10.8K) Types 70, 100, and 140 incorporated at rates of 0.5x, 1x, 2x, or 3x (x = standard application rate for a medium-feeding crop). Petunia shoot dry weight of plants fertilized with Type 70 incorporated at 0.5x increased as the percentage of compost in the substrate increased from 0% to 60% and then decreased, while shoot dry weight of plants fertilized with Type 70 incorporated at 1x, 2x, or 3x increased as the percentage of compost increased from 0% to 30% and then decreased. Impatiens shoot dry weight of plants fertilized with Type 70 incorporated at 0.5x and 1x also increased as the percentage of compost increased from 0% to 30% and then decreased, while shoot dry weight of plants fertilized at 2x and 3x decreased as the percentage of compost increased from 0% to 100%. Both petunia and impatiens shoot dry weight of plants fertilized with Type 100 and Type 140 incorporated at 0.5x, 1x, 2x, or 3x increased as the percentage of compost increased from 0% to 60% and then decreased.

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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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Monica Ozores-Hampton and Deron R. A. Peach

Land application and landfilling are the most common destination for biosolids in the United States. When properly treated and managed in accordance with the existing state and federal regulations and standards, biosolids are safe for the environment and human health. Application of biosolids in vegetable production as an organic amendment to soils can increase plant growth and produce comparable crop yields with less inorganic nutrients than a standard program of commercial synthetic fertilizers. No application rate of treated biosolids alone will produce crop yields equivalent to commercial fertilizers. Biosolids may be used in conjunction with fertilizer thus lessening the application rate required. The major obstacles to public acceptance are issues concerning water pollution, risk of human disease, and odors. Additionally, heavy metals are an issue of bias with public perception. To ensure safe use of biosolids to a vegetable production systems the agronomic rate (nutrient requirement of the vegetable crop grown) should be calculated before application for the specific crop.

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Joan Bradshaw and Monica Ozores-Hampton

In 1988, the Florida Legislature passed the Solid Waste Management Act that affected the solid waste disposal practices of every county in the state. With legislation directly affecting the industry, organic recyclers and Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) regulators recognized a need to establish a professional organization that could serve as a unified industry voice, and foster high standards and ethics in the business of recycling and reuse of organic materials. In December 1994, a meeting was held to discuss the formulation of a Florida organic recycling association which became known as the Florida Organics Recyclers Association (FORA). FORA's first major contribution to the industry was the development of a recycling best management practice manual for yard trash in 1996. The second major project undertaken by FORA was a food waste diversion project which sought to promote an increase in food waste recovery and reuse. In Spring 1999, FORA became the organic division of Recycling Florida Today (RFT) further unifying recycling efforts within the State of Florida. In an attempt to address mounting concerns regarding industry marketing and promotional needs, RFT/FORA developed an organic recycling facility directory for the State of Florida in Spring 2000. Most recently RFT/FORA developed an organic recycling facility operator training course outline to assist the FDEP in identifying industry training needs. From its modest beginnings in 1994, to future joint programming efforts with the University of Florida's Florida Organic Recycling Center for Excellence (FORCE), RFT/FORA continues to emerge as a viable conduit of educational information for public and private agencies relative to organic recycling in Florida.

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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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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.