Nutrient leachates when biochar and vermicompost are used as growing media replacement

Jose Maria Alvarez de la Puente, Claudio Pasian, Rattan Lal, Rafael Lopez Nuñes, Manuel Fernández Martinez


Containerized ornamental plant production is facing several environmental challenges. One of them is to replace the widely used but not sustainable peat based substrates and another is to avoid water contamination by chemicals leaching from the nursery. Therefore, as have been verified that petunia and geranium plants can be produced in peat-based growing media partially replaced by vermicompost (V) and biochar (B) without decreasing commercial quality, this study has focused on analyzing the leachate from a standard peat-based substrate as a control, used for producing these two ornamental species, and those from the same substrate to which different proportions of V (10 % and 20 %) and B (4 % and 12 %) have been added. It has been found that the amount of nitrogen leached from the mixed substrates was reduced compared to the control one in both species (on average 37 %). Nitrogen was mainly as nitrate-nitrogen (89 % in Petunia and 97 % in Pelargonium). In Petunia phosphorous was also decreased (30 %) for the treatment with 10 % V and 4 % B, while potassium in substrate containing 20 % V and 12 % B increased by 100 %. Our results show that these two organic materials tested (V and B) can help producers to reduce the use of non-renewables resources as well as the risk of contamination by chemicals, mainly nitrate, from their wastewater facilities.

Key words: bedding plants, nitrates, reduction non-renewables resources, substrate´s substitution, Carbon footprint improvement.



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