Author(s): Atiyeh RM, Edwards CA, Subler S, Metzger JD
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Abstract This experiment was designed to characterize the physical, chemical and microbial properties of a standard commercial horticultural, greenhouse container, bedding plant medium (Metro-Mix 360), that had been substituted with a range of increasing concentrations (0\%, 5\%, 10\%, 25\%, 50\% and 100\% by volume) of pig manure vermicompost and to relate these properties to plant growth responses. The growth trials used tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.), grown in the substituted media for 31 days under glasshouse conditions, with seedling growth recorded in 20 pots for each treatment. Half of the tomato seedlings (10 pots per treatment) were watered daily with liquid inorganic fertilizer while the other half received water only. The percentage total porosity, percentage air space, pH and ammonium concentrations of the container medium all decreased significantly, after substitution of Metro-Mix 360 with equivalent amounts of pig manure vermicompost; whereas bulk density, container capacity, electrical conductivity, overall microbial activity and nitrate concentrations, all increased with increasing substitutions of vermicompost. The growth of tomato seedlings in the potting mixtures containing 100\% pig manure vermicompost was reduced, possibly as a result of high soluble salt concentrations in the vermicompost and poorer porosity and aeration. The growth of tomato seedlings was greatest after substitution of Metro-Mix 360 with between 25\% and 50\% pig manure vermicompost, with more growth occurring in combinations of pig manure vermicompost treated regularly with a liquid fertilizer solution than in those with no fertilizer applied. Some of the growth enhancement in these mixtures seemed to be related to the combined effects of improved porosity, aeration and water retention in the medium and the high nitrate content of the substrate, which produced an increased uptake of nitrogen by the plant tissues, resulting in increased plant growth. When the tomato seedlings were watered daily with liquid inorganic fertilizer, substitution of Metro-Mix 360 with a very small amount (5\%) of pig manure vermicompost resulted in a significant increase in the growth of tomato seedlings. Such effects could not be attributed solely to the nutritional or physical properties of the pig manure vermicompost. Therefore, it seems likely that the pig manure vermicompost provided other biological inputs, such as plant growth regulators into the container medium, that still need to be identified fully.
This article was published in Bioresour Technol
and referenced in International Journal of Waste Resources