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Nutrient Release and Availability from Individual and Blended Nutrient Sources for Organic Transplant Production

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0021484/00001

Material Information

Title: Nutrient Release and Availability from Individual and Blended Nutrient Sources for Organic Transplant Production
Physical Description: 1 online resource (119 p.)
Language: english
Creator: Sierra Augustinus, Idalia A
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2007

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: basil, ec, mineralization, nitrification, ph, temperature
Horticultural Science -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre: Horticultural Science thesis, M.S.
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation

Notes

Abstract: Plant available nutrients are released from organic nutrient sources through biological processes that are influenced by temperature, moisture, pH and electrical conductivity (EC) of the plant growing medium. To improve fertility management in organic vegetable systems, this research was conducted to study the effect of temperature on the release rates of ammonium nitrogen (NH4+-N), nitrate nitrogen (NO3--N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) from individual and blended organic nutrient sources. The objective of this research was to study the effect of temperature on the release rate of ammonium nitrogen (NH4+-N), nitrate nitrogen (NO3--N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) from nutrient sources and blends for five weeks under two temperature regimes during two seasons (spring and summer) and the effect of these blends on growth and nutrient content of basil (Ocimum basilicum) transplants. Five individual nutrient sources approved for use in organic production were used, and included two N sources: 1) blood meal (BLM); 2) feather meal (FM); two P sources: 3) bone meal (BM); 4) rock phosphate (RP); and one K source: 5) potassium magnesium sulfate (KMS). In addition, four custom blends: 1) FM + BM + KMS (FBK); 2) FM + RP +KMS (FRK); 3) BLM + BM + KMS (BBK); and 4) BLM + RP + KMS (BTK) were compared to a controlled-release synthetic fertilizer (CRF) and a control of potting media with no amendment (NA). Media was composed of peat, vermiculite, perlite, gypsum and dolomitic limestone. Individual nutrient sources were mixed with media at a 1:5, while blends were applied at a rate to provide 16N-2.6P-9.9K. Media solution pH and EC significantly affected N nitrification from individual amendments. Increasing temperature, as the sum of degree days, enhanced cumulative plant available nitrogen release for all treatments. In both experiments, nitrification was low, and was attributed to high EC; and although not studied in this research, by the volatilization of NH3+, denitrification and scarce presence of nitrifying bacteria in peat. Water extractable P was detected only in CRF ( < 5g kg-1). The BRK blend had the highest net cumulative K release rate, 45% equivalent to 44 g kg-1 blend, followed by BBK and FBK (39% and 38%), representing 38 g kg-1 blend of available K. In the basil experiment, the percent of basil germination and mean days to emergence were similar among all treatments except in one case the BBK, where reduction was attributed to high EC levels. Basil transplants grown during spring in blends containing FM (FBK and FRK) were taller and had more dry weight than those in blends containing BLM. During summer, CRF 0.94 g > FRK 0.62 g = FBK 0.53 g = BRK 0.39 g = BBK 0.25 g, and > NA 0.04 g. All fertilized transplants had sufficient tissue N concentration; however transplants produced in NA were deficient in N.
General Note: In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note: Includes vita.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Statement of Responsibility: by Idalia A Sierra Augustinus.
Thesis: Thesis (M.S.)--University of Florida, 2007.
Local: Adviser: Treadwell, Danielle.

Record Information

Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2007
System ID: UFE0021484:00001

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0021484/00001

Material Information

Title: Nutrient Release and Availability from Individual and Blended Nutrient Sources for Organic Transplant Production
Physical Description: 1 online resource (119 p.)
Language: english
Creator: Sierra Augustinus, Idalia A
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2007

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: basil, ec, mineralization, nitrification, ph, temperature
Horticultural Science -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre: Horticultural Science thesis, M.S.
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation

Notes

Abstract: Plant available nutrients are released from organic nutrient sources through biological processes that are influenced by temperature, moisture, pH and electrical conductivity (EC) of the plant growing medium. To improve fertility management in organic vegetable systems, this research was conducted to study the effect of temperature on the release rates of ammonium nitrogen (NH4+-N), nitrate nitrogen (NO3--N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) from individual and blended organic nutrient sources. The objective of this research was to study the effect of temperature on the release rate of ammonium nitrogen (NH4+-N), nitrate nitrogen (NO3--N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) from nutrient sources and blends for five weeks under two temperature regimes during two seasons (spring and summer) and the effect of these blends on growth and nutrient content of basil (Ocimum basilicum) transplants. Five individual nutrient sources approved for use in organic production were used, and included two N sources: 1) blood meal (BLM); 2) feather meal (FM); two P sources: 3) bone meal (BM); 4) rock phosphate (RP); and one K source: 5) potassium magnesium sulfate (KMS). In addition, four custom blends: 1) FM + BM + KMS (FBK); 2) FM + RP +KMS (FRK); 3) BLM + BM + KMS (BBK); and 4) BLM + RP + KMS (BTK) were compared to a controlled-release synthetic fertilizer (CRF) and a control of potting media with no amendment (NA). Media was composed of peat, vermiculite, perlite, gypsum and dolomitic limestone. Individual nutrient sources were mixed with media at a 1:5, while blends were applied at a rate to provide 16N-2.6P-9.9K. Media solution pH and EC significantly affected N nitrification from individual amendments. Increasing temperature, as the sum of degree days, enhanced cumulative plant available nitrogen release for all treatments. In both experiments, nitrification was low, and was attributed to high EC; and although not studied in this research, by the volatilization of NH3+, denitrification and scarce presence of nitrifying bacteria in peat. Water extractable P was detected only in CRF ( < 5g kg-1). The BRK blend had the highest net cumulative K release rate, 45% equivalent to 44 g kg-1 blend, followed by BBK and FBK (39% and 38%), representing 38 g kg-1 blend of available K. In the basil experiment, the percent of basil germination and mean days to emergence were similar among all treatments except in one case the BBK, where reduction was attributed to high EC levels. Basil transplants grown during spring in blends containing FM (FBK and FRK) were taller and had more dry weight than those in blends containing BLM. During summer, CRF 0.94 g > FRK 0.62 g = FBK 0.53 g = BRK 0.39 g = BBK 0.25 g, and > NA 0.04 g. All fertilized transplants had sufficient tissue N concentration; however transplants produced in NA were deficient in N.
General Note: In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note: Includes vita.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Statement of Responsibility: by Idalia A Sierra Augustinus.
Thesis: Thesis (M.S.)--University of Florida, 2007.
Local: Adviser: Treadwell, Danielle.

Record Information

Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2007
System ID: UFE0021484:00001


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901cad80efbad625dd841981f6d9a1ef9ebeaec4







NUTRIENT RELEASE AND AVAILABILITY FROM INDIVIDUAL AND BLENDED
NUTRIENT SOURCES FOR ORGANIC TRANSPLANT PRODUCTION



















By

IDALIA ALEJANDRA SIERRA AUGUSTINUS


A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
MASTER OF SCIENCE

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA

2007

































O 2007 Idalia Alej andra Sierra Augustinus


































To my son
Andree this is for you









ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Many people supported me during this life experience. First and foremost I want to thank

God for his immense love, help, and fidelity. I give him the honor and glory of this journey.

I would 1 like to thank my supervisory committee members (Dr. Danielle Treadwell, Dr.

Eric Simonne, and Dr. Donald Graetz) for giving me the opportunity to work with them, and for

their great contributions to my personal and professional development. I am especially grateful

to Dr. Danielle Treadwell. Without her guidance, perseverance, and patience this would have

not been possible. I will always admire her personally and professionally. I also want express

my gratitude to the Fulbright-OAS Ecology Program for enabling me to pursue my graduate

studies. I extend my thanks to all the Horticultural Sciences Department staff for their help; and

especially Mike Alligood, I extend to him my deepest gratitude.

I thank all of my friends (Gina Canales, Pili Paz, Elena and Dilcia Toro, Elena Sierra,

Byron Reyes and Aparna Gazula) for their friendship and fun and happy memories. I would like

to thank my son, my parents, brothers, family, and friends for all of their love and support from

the distance. Finally, I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to Jorge Abastida for all his

support and love during this time.












TABLE OF CONTENTS


IM Le

ACKNOWLEDGMENT S ................. ...............4...._.__ ......


LIST OF TABLES ........._.._ ........... ...............7....


LI ST OF FIGURE S .............. ...............9.....


AB S TRAC T ............._. .......... ..............._ 1 1..


CHAPTER


1 INTRODUCTION ................. ...............13.......... ......


2 LITERATURE REVIEW ................. ...............16................


Overview of the Organic Industry .................. .. ......... ...............16.....
US Greenhouse and Vegetable Transplant Production .............. ...............17....
Vegetable Greenhouse Production .............. ...............17....
Transplant Production .............. ...............18....
Environmental Concerns .................. ......................1
Use of Organic Amendments in Vegetable Production............... ...............2
Organic Transplant Research ................... ..... ..... ..... ...............21......
Factors Affecting Mineralization and Nitrification Process ............ ...... .... ..............25
Electrical Conductivity and pH .............. ...............26....
Temperature and Moisture .............. ...............27....
Conclusions............... ..............2


3 EFFECT OF TEMPERATURE ON NUTRIENT RELEASE RATES FROM
ORGANIC NUTRIENT SOURCES APPROVED FOR ORGANIC TRANSPLANT
PRODUC TION ................. ...............33.................


Ab stract ................. ...............33.................
Introduction................ .............3
Materials and Methods ............... .......... ...........3
Media Characteristics and Organic Nutrient Sources .............. ...............37....
Cultural Practices................ ...............3
Leachate Collection and Analysis ................... ... ...............39
Calculation of net N mineralization and nitrification ....._____ ........_ ...............40

Experimental design and statistical analysis .............. ...............41....
Results and Discussion .............. ...............41....
M edia Solution pH .............. ...............41....
M edia Solution EC .............. ...............42....
Ammonium Release Rates .............. ...............43....
Nitrate Release Rates ............ ... ........... ................ ............4

Phosphorus and Potassium Release and Availability ................. .......... ...............46












Nitrogen Availability ................. ...............47.......... ......


4 EFFECT OF TEMPERATURE ON NUTRIENT RELEASE RATES FROM CUSTOM
ORGANIC BLENDS FOR ORGANIC TRANSPLANT PRODUCTION............................58


Ab stract ................. ...............58.................
Introduction................ .............5
Materials and Methods ............... ........ ... ...........6
Media Characteristics and Organic Amendments .............. ...............63....
Cultural Practices................ ...............6
Leachate Collection and Analysis ..................... .... ..............6
Calculation of Net N Mineralization and Nitrification. ......___ .......___ ..............65

Experimental Design and Statistical Analysis............... ...............66
Results and Discussion .............. ...............66....
M edia Solution pH .............. ...............66....
M edia Solution EC .............. ...............68....
Ammonium Release Rates .............. ...............70....
Nitrate Release Rates ............__... .......__ ............._ ............7

Phosphorus and Potassium Release and Availability ......................... ................73
Nitrogen Availability .....___................. ......._. ..........7


5 ORGANIC CUSTOM BLENDS AFFECT GROWTH AND NUTRIENT CONTENT
OF BASEL (Ocinsun ba~silica~n L.) TRANSPLANTS .............. ...............84....


Ab stract ................. ...............84.................
Introduction................ .............8
Materials and Methods ............... ....... ... ...........8
Media Characteristics and Organic Blends .............. ...............87....
Cultural Practices............... ...............8
Data Collection ................. ...............90.................
Statistical Analysis .............. ...............90....
Results and Discussion .............. ...............91....
M edia Solution pH .............. ...............91....
M edia Solution EC .............. ...............92....
Seedling Germination ................. ...............93.................
Seedling Growth ................. ...............95.................
Nutritional Status ................. ...............97.................


APPENDIX


A ADDITIONAL RESOURCES .............. ...............105....


B ANALYSIS OF VARIANCE............... ...............10


LIST OF REFERENCES ................ ...............112................


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ................. ...............119......... ......










LIST OF TABLES


Table page

3-1. Chemical properties of potting media and organic nutrient sources. ................ ...............49

3-2. Values for constituents of the irrigation water used in the greenhouse and laboratory
used for irrigation of organic nutrient sources ................. ...............49........... ..

3-3. Regression analysis between media solution pH and EC and N mineralization
(Nmin) and nitrification (Nnit) of organic nutrient sources for the summer season. ........50

3-4. Net cumulative release as mineralized (Nmin) and nitrified (Nnit) N from three
organic nutrient sources, a controlled-release fertilizer and potting media with no
fertilizer, as influenced by temperature regime, season and time of incubation. ...............51

4-1. Chemical properties of potting media and custom organic blends. ................ ................75

4-2. Values for constituents of the irrigation water used in the greenhouse and laboratory
used for irrigation of custom organic blends. ............. ...............75.....

4-3. Regression analysis between media solution pH and EC and N mineralization (Nmin)
and nitrification (Nnit) of custom organic blends. ............. ...............76.....

4-4. Net release as mineralized (Nmin) and nitrified (Noit) N from four custom organic
blends, a controlled-released fertilizer and potting media with no amendment, as
influenced by temperature regime, season and time of incubation ................. ................77

5-1. Chemical properties of potting media and custom organic blends used for basil
transplant production. ............. ...............99.....

5-2. Values for constituents of the irrigation water used in the greenhouse. ................... .........99

5-3. Analysis of variance on the effect of four custom organic blends, a controlled-
released fertilizer and media with no fertilizer on germination and mean days to
emergence of basil transplants. .............. ...............100....

5-4. Analysis of variance on the effect of four custom organic blends, a controlled-
released fertilizer and media with no fertilizer on height and dry weight of basil
transplants. ............. ...............101....

5-5. Analysis of variance on the effect of four custom organic blends, a controlled-
released fertilizer and media with no fertilizer on total nitrogen per gram of dry
weight of basil transplants. ............. ...............102....

A-1. Research on the use of compost and other organic fertilizer for organic vegetable
production in greenhouse ........... ......_.._ ...............105....










A-2. Research on the use of compost and other organic fertilizer for organic vegetable and
transplant production in greenhouse .....__._._ .........._. ....__ ...........10

A-3. Volume of custom blends and controlled-release fertilizer added to each pot................ 107

B-1. Analysis of variance of cumulative nitrogen mineralization from five organic
nutrient sources, a controlled-released fertilizer and potting media with no fertilizer. ...108

B-2. Analysis of variance of cumulative nitrogen nitrification from five organic nutrient
sources, a controlled-released fertilizer and potting media with no fertilizer. .................1 08

B-3. Analysis of variance of cumulative nitrogen mineralization from four custom organic
blends, a controlled-released fertilizer and potting media with no fertilizer. ..................109

B-4. Analysis of variance of cumulative nitrogen nitrification from four custom organic
blends, a controlled-released fertilizer and potting media with no fertilizer. ..................109

B-5. Analysis of variance of total nitrogen content in basil transplants grown using four
custom organic blends, a controlled-released fertilizer and potting media with no
amendment. ........... ..... ._ ...............110...

B-6. Analysis of variance of dry weight of basil transplants grown using four custom
organic blends, a controlled-released fertilizer and potting media with no
amendment. ........._.__...... ._ __ ...............110....

B-7. Analysis of variance of height of basil transplants grown using four custom organic
blends, a controlled-released fertilizer and potting media with no amendment. .............110

B-8. Analysis of variance of mean days to emergence of basil transplants grown using
four custom organic blends, a controlled-released fertilizer and potting media with
no amendment ................. ...............111................

B-9. Analysis of variance of emergence (%) of basil transplants grown using four custom
organic blends, a controlled-released fertilizer and potting media with no
amendment ................. ...............111................










LIST OF FIGURES


FiMr page

2-1. Biochemical equations for mineralization and nitriaication............... .... .........3

3-1. Average media solution pH measured by pour-through media extraction procedure
for summer season from fiye organic nutrient sources, a controlled-released fertilizer
and potting media with no amendment. .............. ...............52....

3-2. Average media solution EC measured by pour-through media extraction procedure
for summer season from fiye organic nutrient sources, a controlled-released fertilizer
and potting media with no amendment. .............. ...............53....

3-3. Regression analysis between net cumulative release of NH4' N and NO3- N from
Hyve organic nutrient sources, a controlled-release fertilizer and potting media with
no fertilizer as affected by cumulative degree days. ....._.__._ ........___ ........._......54

3-4. Net cumulative plant available nitrogen (PAN) from three organic nutrient sources, a
controlled-release fertilizer and potting media with no fertilizer under two
temperature regimes during two seasons. ............. ...............55.....

3-5. Net cumulative available ammonium (NH4 -N) from three organic nutrient sources, a
controlled-release fertilizer and potting media with no fertilizer under two
temperature regimes during two seasons. ............. ...............56.....

3-6. Net cumulative available nitrate (NO3--N) from three organic nutrient sources, a
controlled-release fertilizer and potting media with no fertilizer under two
temperature regimes during two seasons. ............. ...............57.....

4-1. Average media solution pH measured by pour-through media extraction procedure
from four custom organic blends, a controlled-released fertilizer and potting media
with no amendment, as influenced by temperature regime, season and time of
incubation. ........._.__...... ._ __ ...............78....

4-2. Average media solution EC measured by pour-through media extraction procedure
from four custom organic blends, a controlled-released fertilizer and potting media
with no amendment, as influenced by temperature regime, season and time of
incubation. ........... ..... ._ ...............79...

4-3. Regression analysis between net cumulative release of NH4' N and NO3- N from
custom organic blends, a controlled-release fertilizer and potting media with no
amendment as affected by cumulative degree days. .............. ...............80....

4-4. Net cumulative available potassium from four custom organic blends, and
controlled-release fertilizer under two temperature regimes during two seasons..............81










4-5. Net cumulative plant available nitrogen (PAN) from four custom organic blends, a
controlled-release fertilizer and potting media with no amendment under two
temperature regimes during two seasons. ............. ...............82.....

4-6. Net cumulative available NH4 -N from four custom organic blends, a controlled-
release fertilizer and potting media with no amendment under two temperature
regimes during two seasons. ............. ...............83.....

5-1. Average media solution pH measured by pour-through media extraction procedure
from four custom organic blends, a controlled-released fertilizer and potting media
with no amendment used for basil transplant production. ............. ....................10

5-2. Average media solution EC measured by pour-through media extraction procedure
from four custom organic blends, a controlled-released fertilizer and potting media
with no amendment used for basil transplant production. ............. ....................10









Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Master of Science

NUTRIENT RELEASE AND AVAILABILITY FROM INDIVIDUAL AND BLENDED
NUTRIENT SOURCES FOR ORGANIC TRANSPLANT PRODUCTION
By

Idalia Alejandra Sierra Augustinus

August 2007

Chair: Danielle Treadwell
Major: Horticultural Science

Plant available nutrients are released from organic nutrient sources through biological

processes that are influenced by temperature, moisture, pH and electrical conductivity (EC) of

the plant growing medium. To improve fertility management in organic vegetable systems, this

research was conducted to study the effect of temperature on the release rates of ammonium

nitrogen (NH4 -N), nitrate nitrogen (NO3--N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) from

individual and blended organic nutrient sources. The obj ective of this research was to study the

effect of temperature on the release rate of ammonium nitrogen (NH4 -N), nitrate nitrogen (NO3

-N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) from nutrient sources and blends for five weeks under

two temperature regimes during two seasons (spring and summer) and the effect of these blends

on growth and nutrient content of basil (Ocimum ba~silicum) transplants. Five individual nutrient

sources approved for use in organic production were used, and included two N sources: 1) blood

meal (BLM); 2) feather meal (FM); two P sources: 3) bone meal (BM); 4) rock phosphate (RP);

and one K source: 5) potassium magnesium sulfate (KMS). In addition, four custom blends: 1)

FM + BM + KMS (FBK); 2) FM + RP +KMS (FRK); 3) BLM + BM + KMS (BBK); and 4)

BLM + RP + KMS (BTK) were compared to a controlled-release synthetic fertilizer (CRF) and a

control of potting media with no amendment (NA). Media was composed of peat, vermiculite,









perlite, gypsum and dolomitic limestone. Individual nutrient sources were mixed with media at a

1:5, while blends were applied at a rate to provide 16N-2.6P-9.9K. Media solution pH and EC

significantly affected N nitriaication from individual amendments. Increasing temperature, as the

sum of degree days, enhanced cumulative plant available nitrogen release for all treatments. In

both experiments, nitrifieation was low, and was attributed to high EC; and although not studied

in this research, by the volatilization of NH3 denitrifieation and scarce presence of nitrifying

bacteria in peat. Water extractable P was detected only in CRF (< 5g kg- ). The BRK blend had

the highest net cumulative K release rate, 45% equivalent to 44 g kg-l blend, followed by BBK

and FBK (39% and 38%), representing 38 g kg-l blend of available K. In the basil experiment,

the percent of basil germination and mean days to emergence were similar among all treatments

except in one case the BBK, where reduction was attributed to high EC levels. Basil transplants

grown during spring in blends containing FM (FBK and FRK) were taller and had more dry

weight than those in blends containing BLM. During summer, CRF 0.94 g > FRK 0.62 g = FBK

0.53 g = BRK 0.39 g = BBK 0.25 g, and > NA 0.04 g. All fertilized transplants had sufficient

tissue N concentration; however transplants produced in NA were deficient in N.









CHAPTER 1
INTTRODUCTION

The National Organic Program (NOP) is a marketing program that is housed in the United

States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Agricultural Marketing Service designed to

provide uniform, national standards for agricultural products. After full implementation of NOP

in October 2002, US interest in organic products continues to grow in both number of product

categories and sales outlets. The increasing consumer demand for healthy and nutritious foods

and increasing distribution in conventional grocery channels are the maj or drivers of market

growth.

Fresh fruits and vegetables are the largest category of sales of organic food, therefore,

research on nutrient management of organic production of vegetables has increased over the past

two decades. In organic systems, plant nutrition is based mainly on the transformation of organic

materials into plant available forms of nutrients by microorganisms. Nutrients are supplied either

by plant and animal-based amendments or mined natural products and are sometimes available

as commercial formulations. This has stimulated interest in meeting crop nutrient requirements

using manures, compost and other organic materials.

According to the new National Organic Standards (NOS), producers are required to use

certified organic vegetable transplants for field grown vegetables. Considerable research has

been done on the use of organic nutrient sources for transplant production. Research has focused

on evaluating compost and vermi-compost as potting media constituents, and the use of animal

and plant wastes products, animal by-products and liquid organic fertilizers. Results have not

been consistent, and in some cases, the addition of organic materials to potting media has

increased both electrical conductivity (EC) and pH to levels not suitable for transplant growth.










Since plant nutrition in certified organic production is based mainly on the decomposition

of organic materials by microorganisms, abiotic factors that affect microbial activity are of vital

importance in determining nutrient release. These factors include pH and EC, temperature and

moisture. Because both mineralization and nitriaication are microbial-mediated processes,

conditions that affect microbial activity in the media will directly affect the release patterns of

organic fertilizers. Research to improve management of organic fertilizers for organic transplant

production has increased over the past years. Studies have focused on optimizing the use of

compost and animal and plant-based resources as nutrient suppliers. Although some studies have

demonstrated that organic amendments and fertilizers may be used successfully in organic

transplant production, it is hard to generalize the results to other crops and potting media, mainly

due to the high variability on the composition and nature of these materials and the specific

management used in each study.

Although more information has recently become available, future research should attempt

to understand how environmental factors such as temperature and moisture and chemical factors

such as pH and EC affect the availability of nutrients. In turn, this will provide tools to better

synchronize release from organic materials with plant nutrient demand and will allow for the

development of nutrient management recommendations with organic amendments and similar

resources.

The purpose of this research was to determine the type and rate of nutrient sources needed

to produce certified organic transplants with two temperature regimes. The specifies obj ectives

were to:

*Determine the effect of temperature when the moisture level of potting media is held
constant on the nutrient release rates from fiye different organic amendments approved for
organic transplant production (Chapter 3).










* Determine the effect of temperature when the moisture level of potting media is held
constant on the nutrient release rates from four custom blends made from five different
organic amendments (Chapter 4).

* Determine the effects of application rates of custom blends made from different organic
amendments as well as the effect of nutrient form on the growth and nutrient content of
basil transplants (Chapter 5).









CHAPTER 2
LITERATURE REVIEW

Overview of the Organic Industry

Organic agriculture is practiced in more than 120 countries, with almost 31 million ha of

farmland under certified organic management worldwide representing 0.7% of the worlds'

agricultural land. Currently, the countries with the greatest organic areas are Australia (11.8

million hectares), Argentina (3.1 million hectares), China (2.3 million hectares) and the US (1.6

million hectares) (Willer and Yussefi, 2007). Compared to other continents, North America had

the highest growth of organic land, cropland, pasture and range land; 500,000 ha more compared

to the end of 2004 (Willer and Yussefi, 2007). According to the Economic Research Service of

the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA, 2003), organic farming became the fastest

growing segment of US agriculture during the 1990's, and has sustained an average growth rate

of 20% a year. Total organic farming area increased from 53 8,623 ha in 1997 to over 1.6 million

hectares in 2005, representing 0.5% of the total agricultural land (USDA, 2007a).

Global sales of organic food and beverages have increased by 43% from $23 billion in

2002 to $33 billion in 2005. The North American market valued at about $14.9 billion,

accounted for 45% of global revenues in 2005 (Sahota, 2007). As reported in Oberholtzer et al.

(2005), Natural Food Merchandiser estimated US retail sales of organic foods and beverages was

$3.3 billion in 1996. In 2005, sales of organic food and drink were $14.5 billion (Sahota, 2006).

Fresh market organic fruits and vegetables were the largest category of sales accounting for 39%

($5.4 billion) of the organic food sales in 2005 (Organic Trade Association, 2006).

In 2002, the NOS were officially implemented by the USDA' s National Organic Program

(USDA, 2007b). The NOS provide uniform standards for the production, handling, and labeling

of organic agricultural products. Four years after full implementation of US NOS, interest in










organic products continues to grow for the number categories of product offered and venues for

selling these products (Haumann, 2007). Consumers belief that organic products are more

healthy and nutritious than conventionally grown products combined with increasing distribution

in conventional grocery channels are the maj or drivers of market growth (Haumann, 2007).

Meanwhile, producers are turning to organic farming systems as a potential way to decrease

reliance on nonrenewable resources, capture high-value markets and premium prices and

increase farm income (USDA, 2003).

In 2007, Florida had approximately 130 organic operations certified under the NOP (D.

Treadwell, personal communication). In 2002, Florida Certified Organic Growers and

Consumers Inc. (FOG), conducted a survey of certified organic producers in Florida. With a 33%

response rate, certified operators reported cultivation of vegetables, citrus, sprouts, micro-greens,

hay, pasture, blueberries, tropical fruits, chestnuts, herbs and edible flowers. Florida's certified

organic growers reported a 21% increase in sales between 2001 ($517, 580) and 2002 ($627,

645) (Austin and Chase, 2004).

US Greenhouse and Vegetable Transplant Production

Vegetable Greenhouse Production

According to the 2002 Census of Agriculture, the greenhouse vegetable area of the US was

approximately 590 ha (National Agricultural Statistics Service; USDA, 2004). In Florida, the

greenhouse industry increased from 27 ha in 1991 to 39 ha in 2001 (Tyson et al., 2004). In 2001,

the four maj or greenhouse crops were colored peppers (15.5 ha), tomatoes (7.3 ha), herbs (6.8

ha) and European cucumber (4.8 ha) (NFREC, 2001). In 2005, the total US certified organic area

in greenhouses, including nursery crops and plant starts, was 1332 ha (USDA, 2007c).

Florida' s vegetable transplant industry was last inventoried in 1989 and 1990. During that

period, there were 34 operators producing $1.15 billion in sales of vegetable transplants. Tomato,










pepper, and cabbage transplants represented the greatest volume (> 83%) (Vavrina and

Summerhill, 1992). No recent published information is available, but according to the Southwest

Florida Research and Education Center (SWFREC), there are over 20 commercial vegetable

transplant producers in the state which produce a wide array of herbs and vegetables including:

tomato, pepper, celery, squash, eggplant, cabbage, triploid watermelon, muskmelon, broccoli,

onion, lettuce, leek and Brussels sprouts (SWFREC, 2007).

Transplant Production

Transplant production has replaced direct seeding for many vegetable crops because they

provide uniformity and consistency compared to direct-seeded crops. Farmers use transplants

because they usually want earlier production and greater early yields compared to direct seeding

(Dufault, 1998). Transplants are typically started in the greenhouse where environmental factors

such as temperature and moisture can be controlled. The goal in transplant production is to

provide healthy, sturdy and compact plants with a well-developed root system and the

appropriate level of stress tolerance to withstand environmental challenges when transplanted

into the field. Therefore, commercial growers require that all phases of transplant production be

strictly controlled, especially the growth rate. Nutritional and irrigation regimes are the most

effective way of controlling transplant growth. Considerable research on nutrition of vegetable

transplants has been conducted over the past 20 years (Dufault, 1998), but there is no generalized

fertilizer program, so growers use their own blends and schedule based on experience (Cushman,

2007).

Nutrient management in transplant production, conventional or organic, is different from

field production because there are only a few weeks (5-7 weeks) from sowing to transplanting. In

addition, roots are restricted to a relatively small amount of growth media; therefore efficient

methods of nutrient supply are very important.









Environmental Concerns

Nitrate (NO3 ) is one of the nutrients that may cause contamination of groundwater because

it moves easily through the soil and it can be carried by rain or irrigation water. Geographic

analysis has indicated that land use is a maj or factor in the distribution of total nitrogen (N) and

total phosphorus (P) concentrations and yields in streams and rivers (Mueller and Spahr, 2006).

Nitrate concentration is greater at agricultural (>50% agriculture and <5% urban) and mixed

land-use sites (>25% agriculture and >5% urban) than at urban sites (>25% urban and <25%

agriculture) (Mueller and Spahr, 2006). Nitrate leaching from agricultural land may cause algal

blooms and eutrophication of estuarine ecosystems and also pose a public health risk. For

example, a study of National Water-Quality Assessment Program of the US Geological Service

(USGS) found that more than 12% (14 of 1 15) of the agricultural sites sampled during 1992-

2001 had nitrate concentrations exceeding the US Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA)

maximum contaminant level for drinking water of 10 mg L^1 (Mueller and Spahr, 2006).

Greenhouse practices such as applying excess water and fertilizer result in nutrient

leaching and ultimately in water contamination (Greer and Adam 2005). Applying excess

irrigation water to container media is often done to prevent salt accumulation. Recent studies

have focused on increasing the efficiency of greenhouse irrigation systems to reduce the

potential of water contamination (Colangelo and Brand, 2001; Mathers et al, 2005).

Nursery operators have ranked contaminated runoff and ground water as the two top

problems facing the industry, now and in the future (Urbano, 1989). In 2002, the Florida nursery

industry made the decision to voluntarily participate in the BMP program, and created the

Interim Measures for Florida Producers of Container-Grown Plants (Yeager, 2005). In March

2006 the Florida Container Nursery BMP guide was released by the Florida Department of

Agriculture and Consumer Services (FLDACS). This guide is a dynamic document addressing










many critical areas of plant production including fertilization and irrigation management. This

comprehensive approach to nursery management allows growers to select effective Best

Management Practices (BMP's) based on site specific conditions with the obj ective of

enhancing, protecting and minimizing the potential for negative impacts to Florida' s water

resources. However, this document does not include any information on designing a nutrient

management program with organic sources of fertilizer, nor there is a BMP guide specifically for

greenhouse vegetable production.

Use of Organic Amendments in Vegetable Production

Research on the use of organic amendments in vegetable production started in the late

1970's as a mean of re-use of organic wastes with the introduction of manures as an nutrient

source for container-grown plants (Goh, 1979). Before 1998, research on the use of organic

fertilizers and amendments such as meals of blood, bone, feather, fish, and meat, fish silage, sea

weed products, compost and products derived from sewage sludge was mainly done in New

Zealand, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and Israel for field grown vegetables including

cabbage, lettuce, tomato, beans, peas, sweet corn, broccoli, brussels sprouts (Blatt, 1991; Goh

and Vityakon, 1986; Hadas and Kautsky, 1994; Montagu and Goh, 1990; Smith and Hadley,

1988; and Smith and Hadley, 1989a) and vegetable transplants of lettuce, carrot, tomato and

basil (Gagnon and Berrouard, 1994; Raviv et al., 1998; Smith and Hadley, 1989b). It was not

until the late 1990's that the number of published research on organic fertilizers increased in the

US. Compost and biosolids have been the most studied amendments for their use in field grown

vegetables (Li et al., 2000; Ozores-Hampton and Vavrina, 2002), container grown tomato (Raviv

et al., 2005; Rippy et al., 2004), and as a media constituent for transplant production of broccoli,

tomato, onion (Sanchez-Monedero et al., 2004), cauliflower (Kahn et al., 2005), and lettuce and

tatsoi (Clark and Cavigelli, 2005). Some research has been conducted to evaluate the effect of









organic fertilizers derived from animal and plant manures and by-products on growth and yield

offield-grown cantaloupe, tomato and pepper (Chellemi and Lazarovits, 2002).

Several studies have reported the beneficial effects of organic fertilizers on the yield and

quality of tomato. Rippy et al. (2004) found that yields of tomato grown organically under

greenhouse conditions were similar to those grown conventionally, although the percentage of

no. 1 fluit was greater in the organic than the conventional treatment. Research by Montagu and

Goh (1990) demonstrated that fruit yield of tomato grown under field conditions was similar

when fertilized with potassium nitrate (KNO3), ammonium nitrate (NH4NO3) and an organic

fertilizer composed of blood and bone meal at 3 rates (200, 400, 600 kg-ha-l N). Plant height of

tomato grown in different composts derived from orange peel, separated cow manure, and wheat

straw, fertilized or not with guano was higher than plants grown in compost derived from grape

marc and separated cow manure, fertilized or not with guano peat and peat fertilized with guano.

On the contrary, yield was higher in plants grown in compost derived from grape marc and

separated cow manure, than those grown using compost derived from orange peel, separated cow

manure, and wheat straw (Raviv et al., 2005).

Smith and Hadley (1988) concluded that in order to have a similar crop response of

summer cabbage using organic fertilizer (feather meal, blood meal and sewage sludge by-

product) it is necessary to increase the preplant application rate up to three times the preplant

application rate of ammonium nitrate (250 kg N ha- ). In other studies, organic fertilizers have

been phytotoxic for pepper, tomato (Chellemi and Lazarovits, 2002), and basil (Hochmuth et al,

2003).

Organic Transplant Research

The USDA NOS require organic producers to use organically produced transplants for

vegetable production. In certified organic production, there are limitations on the type of









materials that may be used as growing medium and fertilizers (Kuepper and Everret, 2004).

According to NOS, nutrient management practices should maintain or improve physical,

chemical and biological conditions of the soil; therefore nutrients should be supplied by manures

or other animal and plant material, mined substances and allowed synthetic fertilizers. No

specific information is available for transplant production, but materials that can be used must be

approved for use in organic production, in accordance with the List of Allowed and Prohibited

Substances in the NOS (USDA, 2007b).

Research on the use of organic amendments and fertilizers for transplant production has

increased over the past two decades; however, these materials have been examined primarily in

conventional production systems and not organic systems (Kahn et al., 2005; Sanchez-Monedero

et al., 2004). Studies have focused on the benefits of: 1) compost on transplant growth of tomato,

basil, lettuce (Raviv et al., 1998), lettuce and tatsoi (Clark and Cavigelli, 2005); 2) use of animal

and plant wastes products such as meals of blood, meat, feather, meat, fish, canola and alfalfa,

and dried sludge on seedling emergence and transplant growth of lettuce and carrot in the Hield

(Smith and Padley, 1989), and tomato grown in peat-compost growing medium (Gagnon and

Berrouard, 1994); 3) effect of combinations of different rates of compost, vermi-compost, and

organic fertilizers on seed germination and seedling growth of tomato (Larrea, 2005); and 4), the

use of liquid fertilizers for the production of organic transplants of basil, bell pepper, watermelon

and onion (Russo, 2005; Russo, 2006; Succop and Newman, 2004).

The influence of compost on growth and development of conventionally produced

transplants has been inconsistent in the literature. Transplant growth response is dependant on

the physical and chemical characteristics of the finished compost, type of raw materials used to

make the compost, and the proportions of compost and potting media. In many cases, seedling









emergence and transplant growth in media plus compost have decreased or been similar to those

grown with in potting media alone. For example, Kahn et al (2005) observed that when using

80% peat-lite mix composed of 60% vermiculite and 40% peat, (PL) mixed with 20% compost

medium made from 50% yard trimmings and 50% biosolids compost (by volume), cauliflower

transplant height was similar to those grown in 100% PL. Sanchez-Monedero et al. (2004) found

that replacing up to 67% of commercial substrate with two different types of compost (Compost

A -88 % sweet sorghum bagasse, 11% pine bark 1% and urea; Compost B -86% sweet sorghum

bagasse, 11% pine bark and 3% brewery sewage sludge-) resulted in similar dry weight, growth

and nutritional status of broccoli, tomato and onion transplants to those grown in commercial

potting media (control). Germination percentage of tomato seeds in media containing compost B

was the same as the control, but germination was reduced by 23% with compost A. This

reduction can be attributed to the higher EC of compost A (13.21 dS cm l) compared to compost

B (8.55 dS cm )~.

Compost used in organic transplant production can be used as partial or a complete

substitute for commercial peat-based potting media. Clark and Cavigelli (2005) found that

germination, height and marketable yield of lettuce and tatsoi grown in 100% compost derived

from pre-consumer food residuals mixed with yard waste (FR) was not significantly different

than the commercial peat-based potting media with synthetic fertilizer (control). Even though FR

had higher pH and EC than the control, pH 6.6 and 2.9 dS cml compared to pH 5.6 and 0.7 dS

cm- ; this did not affect germination, height and marketable yield of lettuce and tatsoi grown.

Transplants of cabbage and lettuce grown in 30% peat, 40% vermiculite and 30% compost made

of the coarse fraction of cow manure had greater fresh and dry weight than transplants grown in

60% peat and 40% vermiculite; and also produced higher and heavier tomato transplants (Raviv









et al., 1998). Compost has not only been proven to benefit transplant growth but also improves

structure, increases the water holding capacity and the cation exchange capacity, provides

nutrients. Also, compost may lower mortality rates caused by Pythium aphanidernzatun in

cabbage transplants (Raviv et al., 1998), and suppressed infestation ofFusariunt oxisporunt f.

ba~silici in basil (Raviv et al., 1998; Reuveni et al, 2002).

Gagnon and Berrouard (2004) evaluated the potential of several organic wastes from the

agri-food industry for growing greenhouse tomato transplants. Researchers concluded that when

using animal and/or plant wastes products mixed with peat-compost growing medium,

specifically meals from blood, feather, meat, crab shells, Eish, cotton-seed, and whey by-products

produced the best growth of tomato transplants, significantly increasing the shoot dry weight by

57% 83% compared with non-fertilized plants. Although, in some other cases, increasing

feather meal as a component of a custom organic mix composed of peat/perlite base, and vermi-

compost from 3 10 mL to 620 mL, reduced germination of tomato seedlings (Larrea, 2005).

With the increasing demand of organically produced food, new commercially available

fertilizers approved for use in organic systems have increased fertilizer options for organic

growers. Ingredients of commercial formulations are proprietary; but they are usually composed

of dehydrated and pelletized blends of animal and/or plant wastes and animal by-products

supplemented by rock phosphate, potassium magnesium sulfate and other naturally derived

components. The advantages of using these new organic fertilizer formulations include a

guaranteed analysis and complete nitrogen (N) phosphorus (P) potassium (K) formulation.

However, these new formulations require different management practices due mainly to irregular

solubility among nutrients and high levels of EC (Hochmuth et al, 2003).









Fish and seaweed emulsions, molasses, compost tea and meals are available in liquid

formulations approved for use in organic production. Fish and seaweed-based products generally

provide low concentrations of N-P-K, therefore are often applied in high rates. For example,

Russo (2005) observed that when using the recommended rate (7.5 mL L^) of a mixture of fish

and seaweed emulsion, onion and pepper transplants required to be held to an additional 34 days

before they were vigorous enough for transplanting. It was necessary to apply four times the

recommended rate (30 mL L^) in order to produce similar to those produced in conventional

sy stem s.

Although some studies have demonstrated that organic amendments and fertilizers may

be used successfully in organic transplant production, it is hard to generalize the results to other

crops and potting media. Not only because of the high variability on the composition (i.e. carbon

(C) and N ratio and lignin content) and nature of these materials, but the specific management

used in each study.

Factors Affecting Mineralization and Nitrification Process

Plant nutrition in organic production is based mainly on the decomposition of organic

materials. Nitrogen and P release rates from organic materials depend mainly on microorganisms

to transform from organic forms to mineral plant available N and P (Havlin et al, 1999; Brady

and Weil, 1999). Chemical factors such as pH and EC as well as environmental factors such as

temperature and moisture play an important role in the mineralization of N and P and the

nitrification process.

For the purpose of this study we separate mineralization in two steps: 1) mineralization as

the conversion of organic N to ammonium (NH4 ) Or organic P to orthophosphate (H2PO4 )

mediated by autotrophic bacteria, actinomycetes and fungi; and 2) nitrification as the two-step

oxidation of NH4' to nitrate (NO3-) mainly mediated by two groups of autotrophic nitrifying









bacteria, Nitrosomona~s spp. that first oxidize NH4+ to nitrite (NO2-) and Nitrobacter spp. that

oxidize NO2- to NO3- (Figure. 2-1)

Electrical Conductivity and pH

Optimum pH for vegetable transplants range from 5.5-6.8 and adequate EC for vegetable

transplants grown in soilless potting media crops is between 1.00-1.76 dS ml (Maynard and

Hochmuth, 1997). Application of animal-based fertilizers to planting media can increase EC up

to 13 dS m-l and pH up to 8.8; both levels greater than with application of conventional

fertilizers, and inadequate for transplant growth (Chellemi and Lazarovits, 2002; Clark and

Cavigelli, 2005; Kahn et al., 2005; Larrea,2005; Sanchez-Monedero et al, 2004; Raviv et al.,

1998; Rippy et al., 2004).

The pH of container root media influences macronutrient and micronutrient solubility and

uptake. Soil pH mediates the microbial community composition because different types of

microorganisms have a different optimum pH. Because both mineralization and nitrification are

microbial-mediated processes, conditions that affect microbial activity in the media will directly

affect the release patterns of organic fertilizers. Mineralizing microbes can be found in a wide

range of pH. Nitrification can take place over a wide range of pH (4.5 to 10) (Havlin et al, 1999).

Studies have found that increasing pH above 5.5 increases NO3~ COncentration, in a pine bark

medium (Niemiera and Wright, 1986). Similar results were observed by Lang and Elliot (1991),

where nitrification in a peat-based medium was insignificant in pH of <5.6. Also, Argo and

Biembaum (1997) observed that maximum NO3--N accumulation in a peat/perlite based medium

was between 5.3 and 5.9. Minimal research has been published on reducing pH in soilless potting

media for organic production. An alternative method to reduce pH after the addition of organic

fertilizers was documented by Rippy et al. (2004) with the application of 0.3 kg m-3 Of elemental









sulfur to organic treatments for container-grown tomato. The addition of sulfur resulted in that

organic treatments remained in the recommended pH range for tomato.

Adequate EC for vegetable transplants grown in soilless potting media range from 1.00-1.76

dS ml (Maynard and Hochmuth, 1997). Electrical conductivity above 2 dS ml usually results in

osmotic stress on plants and reduced yield. High EC is more likely to affect young plants.

Studies using organic fertilizers for transplant production have identified EC as one of the main

factors limiting seed germination and seedling growth (Larrea, 2005; Sanchez-Monedero et al.,

2004). All microbial populations are adversely affected by high EC because of the osmotic stress

created by saline conditions on the microbial cell. Irshad et al. (2005) concluded that soil salinity

has more detrimental effects on the nitrification process than mineralization. For example, after

eight weeks, NO3- N release at 0.2 dS ml was 265% greater than at 11.4 dS m- Inubushi et al

(1999) concluded that EC >1 dS m-l inhibits nitrification, while critical salt level for urease

activity was about 2 dS ml

Temperature and Moisture

Temperature and moisture are the most frequently studied environmental factors that affect

microbial growth and activity and therefore the mineralization and nitrification processes. The

temperature coefficient (Qlo) of organic matter decomposition is 2 over the range 5 to 35 OC

(Kaitterer et al, 1998), meaning that for each 10 oC increase in temperature decomposition rate

doubles. Optimum soil temperature for nitrification is 25 to 35 OC, although some nitrification

will occur over a wide a temperature range. Nitrification rate is reduced in temperatures above 40

oC and below 5 OC (Havlin et al., 1999). Hartz and Johnstone (2006) studied the rate of net N

mineralization from high-N organic fertilizers (fish powder, blood meal, feather meal and sea

bird guano) commonly used in organic vegetable production over a range of soil temperatures

(10, 15, 20 and 25 OC) and found that after one week of incubation there was a significantly









lower mineralization at 10 OC for all fertilizers except for fish powder. After eight weeks all

fertilizers had equivalent N mineralization across temperature levels. In other studies it has been

found that nitrification increases linearly with temperature, were at 5 OC NH4+ is immobilized

and above 200C it is oxidized to NO3- (Hoyle et al, 2006).

The addition of green manures and organic by-products increases microbial activity and

biomass (Hadas and Kautsky, 1994; Stark et al, 2007). Therefore the increase in the net

mineralization in temperatures from 20 oC to 30 OC is likely due to microbial communities

favored at high temperature metabolizing substrates that may not be utilized at lower

temperatures (Zogg et al., 1997). Richards et al. (1985) and Carreiro and Koske (1992) found

that increases in temperature induce a shift in the composition of microbial communities. The

shift in microbial community composition was paralleled with an increase in microbial

respiration at temperatures between 5 to 25 OC; with optimal fungal and bacterial growth rates in

temperatures from 25 OC to 30 OC (Pietikainen et al, 2005).

Kraus et al. (2000), studied the N mineralization rate of three compost materials [compost

turkey litter (CLT), yard waste and municipal waste mixed with milled pine bark] under three

temperature regimes (45 OC, 25 OC and 45 oC day/25 OC night). Results show that the percentage

of organic N mineralized was greater at 45/25 (35%) and 45 OC (33%) than at 25 OC (27%). Also

more N was mineralized from CLT than from the other compost materials, regardless of

temperature regime. This fact may be attributed to the lower C:N for CLT (4:1) compared to

municipal (14: 1) and yard compost (13:1).

Maximum aerobic microbial activity occurs at soil moisture levels between 50 to 70% of

water holding capacity (WHC) (Linn and Doran, 1984). In general, maximum mineralization of

soil organic matter occurs in the same range, however some studies have suggested that the range









could be up to 100% WHC (Goncalves and Carlyle, 1994; Kabba and Aulakh, 2004). Low soil

moisture (-15 bars) inhibits activity of nitrifying bacteria by reducing substrate diffusion and

intracellular water potential. This in turn reduces hydration and activity of enzymes (Stark and

Firestone 1995) and increases N immobilization (Seneviratne et a, 1998). De Neve and Hofman,

(2002) observed that maximum mineralization in crop residue-treated soil was at 58% water

filled pore space, however at this moisture level nitrification was suboptimal.

Agehara and Warncke (2005) studied the effect of moisture (50, 70 and 90% water holding

capacity) and temperature (15/10, 20/15, 25/20 oC, day/night) on nitrogen release from different

organic sources and concluded that increasing moisture levels from 50 to 90% increased the net

N released from alfalfa pellets by 12% and chicken manure by 21%, but had no effect on net N

released from urea and blood meal. Increasing temperature increased N released from alfalfa

pellets by 25%, blood meal by 10% and chicken manure by 13%, but had no effect on urea.

Hadas and Kautsky (1994) observed that under lab conditions at temperature (30 oC) and

moisture (60% water holding capacity of the soil) optimal for this study, approximately 55% of

N content of feather meal was mineralized during the first two weeks, and a considerably slower

rate of mineralization was obtained thereafter.

Conclusions

Plant nutrition in organic production is based mainly on the decomposition of organic

materials. Synchronizing nutrient release with plant nutrient demand in organic production is

challenging due to the underlying biological processes involved in the decomposition of organic

materials. Because both mineralization and nitrification are microbial-mediated processes,

conditions that affect microbial activity in the media will directly affect the release patterns of

organic fertilizers. Research to improve management of organic fertilizers for organic transplant

production has increased over the past years. Studies have focused on optimizing the use of










compost and animal and plant-based resources as nutrient suppliers. Although some studies have

demonstrated that organic amendments and fertilizers may be used successfully in organic

transplant production, it is hard to generalize the results to other crops and potting media, mainly

due to the high variability on the composition and nature of these materials and the specific

management used in each study. For example, temperature has varied among studies; 18-34 OC

(Succop and Newman, 2004), 16-22 OC (Gagnon and Berrouard, 1994). Irrigation methods have

also varied; overhead sprinkler (Sanchez-Monedero et al., 2004), hose with nozzle (Kahn et al.,

2005), and hand watered (Gagnon and Berrouard, 1994), but there is minimal information about

the amount of water applied. Since both of temperature and moisture affect microbial growth and

activity and therefore the mineralization and nitriaication processes, results from these studies are

usual under the studied conditions. In addition, there is a lack of information on the effect of pH

and EC on nutrient availability, and in most cases these factors are only measured at the

beginning of the experiments (Kahn et al., 2005; Sanchez-Monedero et al., 2004; Russo, 2005).

Finally, although more information has recently become available, future research should

attempt to understand how environmental factors such as temperature and moisture and chemical

factors such as pH and EC affect the availability of nutrients. In turn, this will provide tools to

better synchronize release from organic materials with plant nutrient demand and will allow for

the development of nutrient management recommendations with organic amendments and

similar resources.

The purpose of this research was to determine the type and rate of nutrient sources needed

to produce certified organic transplants with two temperature regimes. The specifies obj ectives

were to:










* Determine the effect of temperature when the moisture level of potting media is held
constant on the nutrient release rates from fiye different organic amendments approved for
organic transplant production (Chapter 3).

* Determine the effect of temperature when the moisture level of potting media is held
constant on the nutrient release rates from four custom blends made from fiye different
organic amendments (Chapter 4)

* Determine the effects of application rates of custom blends made from different organic
amendments as well as the effect of nutrient form on the growth and nutrient content of
basil transplants (Chapter 5)










Mineralization

R--NH2 + H20 OH- + R--OH + NH4

Nitrification

1. NH4' + 02 -4H' + NO2

2. NO2~ +202 -NO3


Figure 2-1. Biochemical equations for mineralization and nitrification









CHAPTER 3
EFFECT OF TEMPERATURE ON NUTRIENT RELEASE RATES FROM ORGANIC
NUTRIENT SOURCES APPROVED FOR ORGANIC TRANSPLANT PRODUCTION

Abstract

The USDA National Organic Standards require that producers use certified organic

vegetable transplants for field grown vegetables. Since plant nutrition in organic production

relies mainly on the decomposition of organic materials, factors that affect microbial activity

such as pH and electrical conductivity (EC), as well as environmental factors such as

temperature and moisture are of vital importance. The obj ective of this research was to study the

effect of temperature on the release rate of ammonium nitrogen (NH4 -N), nitrate nitrogen (NO3

-N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) from nutrient sources approved for use in organic

production for five weeks under two temperature regimes (greenhouse and lab) during two

seasons (spring and summer). The five individual nutrient sources: blood meal (BLM), feather

meal (FM), bone meal (BM), rock phosphate (RP) and potassium magnesium sulfate (KMS)

were compared to a synthetic controlled-release fertilizer (CRF) and a control of potting media

with no fertilizer (NA). Nutrient sources were mixed with soilless potting media composed of

peatmoss, vermiculite, perlite, gypsum and dolomitic limestone at an fertilizer media ratio of 1:5

(by weight) and maintained at a constant moisture. The NH4 -N, NO3--N, P and K release rates

were determined on leachate samples taken weekly throughout the study. Media solution pH

remained above pH 7.5 throughout the five weeks for all organic nutrient sources. Media

solution average EC increased after one week of incubation for FM, BLM, KMS and CRF, but

remained below 2 dS cm-l for NA, BM and RP. Media solution pH and EC significantly affected

N nitrification (P < 0.01, Adj-R2 = 0.65 and P < 0.01, Adj-R2 = 0.31, respectively). Air

temperature was measured in 15 minute intervals and was used to calculate degree days (DD).

Increasing temperature, as the sum of DD, enhanced cumulative plant available nitrogen release









for all treatments (P < 0.05). Cumulative NH4 -N release rate was FM (21%), BLM (20%)

followed by CRF (19%). Overall N nitrification was low (< 9%) compared to N mineralization,

except for CRF (30%). The low NO3--N release rate may be attributed to high EC; and although

not studied in this research, by the volatilization ofNH3 denitrification and scarce presence of

nitrifying bacteria in peat. Cumulative PAN was CRF (75 to 95 g kg-l fertilizer) followed by FM

and BLM (20 to 40 g kg-l fertilizer in spring to over 40 g kg-l fertilizer in summer). The CRF

was the only treatment that had detectable available P, 4 5 g kg-l fertilizer. In the case of K,

CRF had a release rate of 17% to 26%, representing 17 to 26 g kgl fertilizer. Meanwhile, KMS

released from 40% to 62% of K, representing 79 to 127 g kg-l fertilizer.

Introduction

According to the USDA National Organic Standards (NOS) producers are required to use

certified organic vegetable transplants for field grown vegetables (USDA, 2007b). After the

implementation of NOS, considerable research has been done on the use of organic nutrient

sources and commercially available fertilizers for transplant production. Research has focused on

evaluating compost and vermicompost as potting media constituents (Clark and Cavigelli, 2005,

Larrea, 2005; Raviv et al., 1998; Sanchez-Monedero et al., 2004), the use of plant and animal-

based wastes and by-products (Gagnon and Berrouard, 1994; Smith and Padley, 1989b), and

liquid organic fertilizers (Russo, 2005; Succop and Newman, 2004).

Nutrient management in organic systems is dependant mainly on the microbial

transformation of materials to soluble inorganic nutrients. Most of the organic fertilizers have a

low fraction of soluble inorganic forms of nitrogen (N); therefore, they have to go through a

decomposition process before becoming plant available. The first step of this process is

mineralization, which is the conversion of organic N to ammonium (NH4 ) and is mediated by

autotrophic bacteria, actinomycetes and fungi. The second process is nitrification, which is the









oxidation of NH4+ to nitrate (NO3-) and is mainly mediated by two groups of autotrophic

nitrifying bacteria, Nitrosomonas spp. that first oxidize NH4' to nitrite (NO2-), and Nitrobacter

spp. that oxidize NO2- to NO3-. Since plant nutrition in organic production relies mainly on

microbial transformation, factors that affect microbial activity such as pH and electrical

conductivity (EC), as well as environmental factors such as temperature and moisture are of vital

importance.

The pH is one of the factors that mediate microbial community composition. Microbial

functional groups that mineralize N can be found in a wide range of pH, but at pH > 7.5, NH4

can lost by volatilization of ammonia (NH3 ). Nitrification also takes place over a wide range of

pH (4.5 to 10) (Havlin et al., 1999). Studies have found that increasing pH above 5.5 in a pine

bark medium increased NO3~ COncentration (Niemiera and Wright, 1986). Similar results were

observed by Lang and Elliot (1991), where NH4' Oxidation in a peat-based medium was

insignificant in pH <5.6; and Argo and Biernbaum (1997) where maximum NO3--N

accumulation in a peat/perlite based medium was between pH 5.3 to pH 5.9.

All microbial populations are adversely affected by high EC because of the osmotic stress

created by saline conditions on the microbial cell. Several studies have reported that the

application of animal-based fertilizers to planting media may increase EC up to 13 dS m-l and

pH up to 8.8 (Chellemi and Lazarovits, 2002; Clark and Cavigelli, 2005; Kahn et al., 2005;

Rippy et al., 2004; Larrea, 2005; Sanchez-Monedero et al., 2004; Raviv et al., 1998). Adequate

EC for vegetable transplants grown in soilless potting media range from 1.0-1.76 dS m-l and

optimum pH range 5.5-6.5 (Maynard and Hochmuth, 1997).

Temperature and moisture are the most frequently studied environmental factors that affect

microbial growth and activity, and therefore the mineralization and nitrification processes. Hartz









and Johnstone (2006) studied the rate of net N mineralization from high-N organic fertilizers

(fish powder, blood meal, feather meal and sea bird guano) commonly used in organic vegetable

production over a range of soil temperatures (10, 15, 20 and 25 OC) and found that after one

week of incubation, there was a significantly lower mineralization at lower temperatures (10 oC)

for all fertilizers except for fish powder. All fertilizers had equivalent N mineralization across

temperature levels after eight weeks. Other studies have been found that nitrification increases

linearly with temperature, where at 50C NH4 'IS immobilized and above 200C it is oxidized to

NO3- (Hoyle et al., 2006).

Soilless media substrates can reach much higher temperatures than soils. Kraus et al.

(2000) studied the N mineralization rate of three compost materials: compost turkey litter (CLT),

yard waste and municipal waste, under three temperature regimes (45, 25 and 45 oC day/25 OC

night) mixed with milled pine bark to achieve an equal N content. Results show that the

percentage of organic N mineralized was greater at 45/25 and 450C than at 250C. Also more N

was mineralized from CLT than from, regardless of temperature regime. This fact may be

attributed to the lower carbon (C) to N ratio (C:N) for CLT (4:1) compared to municipal (14:1)

and yard compost (13:1), although equal N content was added for each treatment.

Maximum aerobic microbial activity occurs at soil moisture levels between 50 to 70% of

water holding capacity (WHC) (Linn and Doran, 1984). In general, maximum mineralization of

soil organic matter occurs in the same range, however some studies have suggested that the range

could be up to 100% WHC (Goncalves and Carlyle, 1994; Kabba and Aulakh, 2004). Agehara

and Warncke (2005) studied the effect of moisture (50%, 70% and 90% water holding capacity)

and temperature (15/10 oC, 20/15 OC, 25/20 oC; day/night) on nitrogen release from different

organic sources and concluded that increasing moisture levels from 50% to 90% increased net N









released from alfalfa pellets by 12% and chicken manure by 21%, but had no effect in net N

released from urea and blood meal. Increasing temperature from 15/10 oC to 25/200C increased

net N mineralized from alfalfa pellets by 25%, blood meal by 10% and chicken manure by 13%,

but had no effect on urea. Hadas and Kautsky (1994) observed that under lab conditions at

optimal temperature (30 oC) and moisture (60% WHC of the soil) for this study, approximately

55% of N content of feather meal was mineralized during the first two weeks, and a considerably

slower rate of mineralization was obtained thereafter.

As the organic industry continues to grow, the need for research related to the management

and improvement of organically grown vegetable transplants will continue to increase.

Understanding how temperature affect nutrient release rates will contribute to the development

of recommendations for the efficient use of organic nutrient sources. Therefore, the obj ective of

this study is to address research needs for organic transplant growers by studying the effect of

two temperature regimes on the nutrient release rates from five organic fertilizers approved for

use in organic transplant production.

Materials and Methods

Media Characteristics and Organic Nutrient Sources

The potting media used in the study was Fafard Organic Formulation #20 (Fafard

Industries, Agawam, MA) composed of peat moss (70%), perlite, vermiculite, gypsum and

dolomitic limestone all ingredients approved for use in organic production. The same potting

media lot was used for all the experiments to reduce variability.

For the purpose of this study nutrient sources are either animal-based fertilizers or mined

natural minerals approved for use in certified organic production and will be referred as organic

nutrient sources (OG). Five OG were used: 1) feather meal (FM; Griffin Industries, Cold Spring,

KY); 2) blood meal (BLM; Griffin Industries, Cold Spring, KY); 3) bone meal (BM; North









Pacific Group, Inc., Portland, Oregon); 4) rock phosphate (RP; North Country Organics,

Bradford, VT); and 5) potassium-magnesium-sulfate (KMS; Diamond R Fertilizer, Winter

Garden, FL). The OG were compared to two controls: potting media with no fertilizer (NA), and

an inorganic polymer-coated controlled-released fertilizer (CRF) with an analysis of 19N-2.6P-

9.9K, 10% of the N as NH4 -N and 9% as NO3--N, derived from ammonium nitrate, ammonium

sulfate, calcium phosphate and potassium sulfate (The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company, Marysville,

OH). Organic nutrient sources used for the study were selected because they are the most

common ingredients in commercially available organic fertilizers and because they supply

necessary macronutrients. Feather meal and BLM where selected as N sources, BM and RP as P

sources and KMS as K source. The OG and the CRF were mixed thoroughly with the potting

media at a ratio of 1:5 and then into a 0.037 m3 plastic pot.

Prior to trial initiation, potting media and OG were analyzed for total C and N using a C

and N combustion analyzer (Leco, St. Joseph, MI). In addition, water extractable NO3- N, NH4+

- N, P, K, magnesium (Mg), calcium (Ca), sulfur (S) and micronutrients, and pH and EC were

determined by Waters Agricultural Laboratories (Camilla, GA). Potting media and OG analyses

are shown in Table 3-1.

Cultural Practices

Experiments were conducted for five weeks under two temperature regimes defined by two

physical locations, the greenhouse (GH) and laboratory (Lab), at the Horticultural Sciences

Department, at the University of Florida, Gainesville. Expt. 1 was conducted from 10 Mar. to 7

Apr. 2006 (spring) and Expt. 2 was conducted from 29 May to 26 June, 2006 (summer).

Initially the WHC of the potting media alone or mixed with the OG was determined by the

method described by Styer and Koranski (1997). A 100 g sample of each mix was saturated and

then left to drain for 24 h. The water content retained at the end of this period was considered









100% WHC. Throughout the experiment, pots were weighed and irrigated daily with municipal

tap water to maintain 100% WHC. This was done to reduce the potential of salt accumulation

(Poole and Conover, 1982). Values for constituents of the irrigation water used in the GH and

Lab are shown in table 3-2.

Air temperature was monitored daily in 15-minute intervals using a data logger (Hobo"

U10, Onset Computer Corporation, Bourne, MA). Temperature in the GH ranged from 7 to 40

oC in Expt. 1 and from 18 to 42 OC in Expt. 2, meanwhile temperature in the Lab for both

experiments ranged from 21 to 23 oC. Since temperature ranges were different between

temperature regime, temperature data in this study is reported as degree days (DD) and was

calculated using the following formula:

DD = Average daily temperature in oC 5 (3-1)
(Where 5 is the threshold of microbial activity (Havlin et al., 1999).

The use of DD was selected based on previous research that has successfully used DD to

predict cumulative N mineralization from manures and cover crops (Schomberg and Endale,

2004 ; Griffin and Honeycutt, 2000; Honeycutt and Potaro, 1990), and to be able to compare

between temperature regimes.

Leachate Collection and Analysis

Every week, tap water that was 1.5x the initial WHC (mL) was added to the top of each pot

and allowed to drain for 1 h. Total leachate volume was measured after drainage. Immediately

after leaching EC was measured with a portable conductivity meter (ECTester high, Oakton

Instruments, Vernon Hills, 1L), and pH was measured with a portable pH meter (model pHep,

Hanna Instruments, Woonsocket, RI). A 20-mL aliquot was collected and frozen until analyzed.

Leachate samples were vacuum filtrated and analyzed for concentration ofNH4' N and

NO3- N using colorimetric procedures on a rapid flow auto analyzer in the Soil and Water









Science Department of the University of Florida Analytical Laboratory (Gainesville, FL). Water

extractable P and K concentrations were determined by Waters Agricultural Laboratories. Media

solution pH was calculated and analyzed as hydrogen (H ) concentration and reported as average

media pH.

Calculation of net N mineralization and nitrification

The amounts of NH4' N and NO3- N leached every week were calculated by multiplying

leachate concentration by leachate volume. Plant available N was calculated as the sum of NH4+

- N and NO3- N recovered weekly and summed each week for five consecutive weeks. For the

purpose of this paper, we present the results in two formats. To describe the microbial efficiency,

we use the term release to describe the generation of NH4' N, NO3- N, P or K as a percentage

of mg released per mg of total applied. The second term is availability, which is the actual

amount of nutrient available per kg of fertilizer.

Nitrogen mineralization (Nmin) was calculated as a percentage of mg of NH4+ N released

per mg of total N applied using the following formula:

Nmin (as % of mg of NH4+ N released mg-l of total N applied)
S[(NH4+ N)RL N4' N)mw (NH4+ N)xi] / Total N applied x 100 (3 -2)
Where (NH4' N)RL is the NH4' N recovered in the leachate, (NH4' N)Iw is the NH4' N in
irrigation water, and (NH4' N)xt is the NH4' N recovered from the media.


Nitrogen nitrification (Nnit) was calculated as a percentage of mg of NO3- N released per

mg of total N applied using the following formula:

Nnit (as % of mg of NO3- N released mg-l of total N applied)
S[(NO3- N)RL (NO3- N)Iw (NO3- N)xi] / Total N applied x 100 [Eq. 3-3]
Where (NO3- N)RL is the NO3- N recovered in the leachate, (NO3- N)Iw is the NH4+ N in
irrigation water, and (NO3- N)xt is the NO3- N recovered from the media.


Phosphorus and K release as a percentage of mg of P or K released per mg of total P or K

applied was similarly as Nmin and Nnit.










Experimental design and statistical analysis

The treatments were arranged in a completely randomized design within each temperature

regime defined by two physical locations (GH and Lab) replicated four times during two seasons

(spring and summer). Data were subj ected to analysis of variance (ANOVA) using SAS (SAS

V8, Cary, NC) to determine significance of main and interaction effects. Means were separated

using Duncan's multiple range test at alpha 0.05. Effect of pH, EC and DD on N release was

subj ect to regression analysis.

Results and Discussion

Media Solution pH

Media solution pH for the summer season is shown in Figure 3-1. Based on ANOVA, the

media solution pH was affected by the interaction of treatment, temperature regime and week (P

<0.01, data not shown). Therefore, media solution pH was analyzed by treatment and

temperature regime. Initial pH of the media before addition of treatments and irrigation water

was 7.6. Media solution average pH throughout the Hyve weeks for the GH was pH 7.7and for the

Lab was pH 6.9.

Optimal pH for vegetable transplant production is 5.5-6.8 (Maynard and Hochmuth, 1997).

In both temperature regimes, after one week of incubation the addition of OG resulted in an

increase of pH above optimal level. All OG remained above pH 7.5 for each of the Hyve weeks,

with the exception of FM in the GH which decreased from pH 8.8 in week two to pH 6.7 in week

Hyve. Media solution pH for NA also resulted in an increase of pH in leachate. This increase is

attributed to the high pH (8.6) of irrigation water. The CRF was the only treatment that remained

in the optimal pH range for transplant production.

Similar trends were found by Rippy et al. (2004), where media solution pH for production

of container grown tomatoes was higher in organic treatments (pH 6.9 7.3) than conventional









treatments (pH 5.5 6.7). The application of organic treatments increased pH and remained

above optimal levels for 12 weeks. On the contrary, Larrea (2005) found that pH from custom-

made organic substrates for organic tomato transplant production, was below 6.9. An alternative

method to reduce pH on organic nutrient sources was studied by Rippy et al. (2004) with the

application of 0.3 kg m-3 Of elemental sulfur to organic treatments. This resulted in that organic

treatments remained in the optimal pH range.

Based on regression analysis, media solution pH significantly affected Noit (P < 0.01, Adj-

R2 = 0.65) and PAN (P < 0.01, Adj-R2 = 0.09) but had no effect on Nmin (Table 3-3). This result

was considered usual since mineralization is done by a wide array of heterotrophic bacteria; on

the contrary nitrifieation is executed by only two genera of nitrifying bacteria (Nitrosomona~s

spp. and Nitrobacter spp.). Other research has demonstrated that pH affects nitrifieation. For

example, Lang and Elliot (1991) observed that NH4' Oxidation in a peat-based medium was

insignificant in pH of <5.6, meanwhile, Argo and Biernbaum (1997) found that maximum NO3 -

N accumulation in a peat/perlite based medium was between 5.3 and 5.9.

Media Solution EC

Media solution average EC for the summer season is shown in Figure 3-2. Media EC was

affected by the interaction of treatment, temperature regime and week based on ANOVA (P <

0.01, data not shown). Initial EC of the media before addition of nutrient sources and irrigation

water was 0.36 dS cm l. Media solution average EC throughout the five weeks for the GH was

4.06 dS cm-l and for the Lab was 3.46 dS cml

Media solution EC in both temperature regimes increased after one week of incubation for

FM, BLM, KMS and CRF, but remained below 2 dS cm-l for NA, BM and RP. The increase was

greater in the GH compared to the Lab. For example, EC for FM and BLM in the GH reached up

to 8 dS cm-l after one week. Meanwhile, in the Lab it increased only up to 5 dS cm-l after two









weeks. Although at the end of week five, both temperature regimes had similar EC (2.5 dS cm )~.

Highest EC was observed in KMS (- 18 dS cm- ). Optimal media EC for vegetable transplant

production is in the range of 1.00-1.76 dS cml (Maynard and Hochmuth, 1997). From the results

obtained from this study, we conclude that the EC on the OG was too high and will likely reduce

transplant germination and growth. Although, it is important to consider that the amounts of

fertilizer used in each pot were much higher than a producer will use. Other research has shown

that initial EC levels for organic treatments was higher than conventional treatments, but

decreased to optimal levels after two weeks (Larrea, 2005) or four weeks (Rippy et al., 2004). So

far, EC has been identified as one of the main factors limiting seed germination and seedling

growth (Larrea, 2005; Sanchez-Monedero et al., 2004).

Based on regression analysis, media solution EC significantly affected Noit (P < 0.01, Adj-

R2 = 0.31) and PAN (P < 0.01, Adj-R2 = 0.08), but did not affect Nmin (Table 3-3). This result

was considered usual since nitrifying bacteria are affected by high EC. Irshad et al. (2005)

concluded that soil salinity has more detrimental effects on the nitrification process than

mineralization. Results show that NH4+ N release from manure was the same independently of

the EC level. Meanwhile, nitrification was reduced as EC increased. For example, after eight

weeks, NO3- N release at 0.2 dS ml was 265% greater than at 11.4 dS m- Similar results were

observed by Inubushi et al. (1999), where nitrification was inhibited at high salt concentrations,

while NH4+ N increased.

Ammonium Release Rates

The net cumulative NH4 -N release rates, expressed as Nmin, are shown in Table 3-4. The

net cumulative NH4 -N release rate was affected by the interaction of treatment, temperature

regime and season based on ANOVA (P <0.01, data not shown). Therefore, Nmin data were

analyzed by season and temperature regime. Over five weeks FM, BLM and CRF, cumulative









mineralized N was linearly correlated with cumulative DD (Figure 3-3). Cumulative Nmin

followed the similar trends as the first five weeks of the study by Agehara and Warncke (2005),

although the magnitude of release was lower. Increasing temperature, as the sum of DD,

enhanced NH4 -N release rate from FM, BLM, and CRF, but did not affect release from NA,

BM, RP and KMS. Similar trends were found by Agehara and Warncke (2005) where a 10 oC

increase resulted in a three-fold increase in mineralization rate from 0.54 mg N kg-l week-l in

15/10 oC (daytime temperature/night time temperature) to 1.53 mg N kg-l week-l in 25/20 oC.

The net cumulative Nmin of all treatments after five weeks of incubation in the GH was

10.03% for summer and 7.34% for spring. This increase can be attributed to the higher number

of cumulative DD in summer (794) than spring (598). Although temperature was constant in the

Lab, release in summer (11.73%) was numerically higher than in spring (7.80%); this could be

due to changes that occurred during storage of nutrient sources between experiments, because to

reduce variability we used the same batch.

Results of Nmin were not consistent among seasons. For spring season Nmin GH > Lab,

whereas in summer, Nmin Lab > GH. Although the mineralization rate was lower in the GH the

Nnit was higher in the GH. Therefore, the lower Nmin can be attributed to more NH4 -N oxidized

to NO3--N, due to the increase of DD in the GH (DD 800).

Research by Hartz and Johnstone (2006) shows that N mineralization of blood meal and

feather meal after one week of incubation in sandy loam soil at 25 OC approached 50%, where

almost all NH4 -N was oxidized to NO3--N. Similarly, Hadas and Kautsky (1994) observed that

under lab conditions, FM incubated with soil from cultivated fields at 30 OC and 60% WHC,

approximately 55% of its N content were mineralized during two week, and a considerably









slower rate of mineralization was obtained thereafter. Compared to other studies, Nmin was very

low probably because other studies have used soil, contrary we used soilless media.

Nitrate Release Rates

The net cumulative NO3--N release rates, expressed as Nnit, are shown in Table 3-4. The

NO3--N release was affected by the interaction of treatment, temperature regime and season

based on ANOVA (P < 0.01, data not shown). Therefore, data was analyzed by season and

temperature regime. Over the Hyve weeks, cumulative Nnit for all treatments except NA was

linearly correlated with cumulative DD (Figure 3-3). Similar to NH4 -N release rates, increasing

temperature increased NO3--N release rates from all treatments except NA. Overall NO3--N

release rate throughout the Hyve weeks were relatively low compared to NH4 -N release rates for

all treatments except CRF, with maximum Nnit of BLM and FM around 8%, compared to almost

30% for CRF. This is consistent with research by Bugbee and Elliott (1998), where a media

composed of compost, peat, sand and bark released most of the total N as NH4 -N in the first

four weeks and the release of NO3--N commenced six weeks into the experiment.

The low NO3--N release rate could be attributed to several factors. As discussed

previously, pH and EC have a more detrimental effect on nitrifying bacteria than mineralizing

organisms. The increase in media pH following the application of organic nutrient sources may

increase loss of NH4 -N by volatilization of NH3 Other possible causes for low nitrifieation

may be 1) the temporary decrease in Ol COncentration of the media as a result of the rapid

oxidation of organic material; 2) saturated conditions after leaching the media may favor

denitrification; and 3) the scarce presence of nitrifying bacteria in peat.

Maximum aerobic activity and N mineralization occur between 50% to 70% water-fi11ed

pore space. Maximum nitrifieation occurs at 20% oxygen percentage (Havlin et al, 1999; Brady

and Weil, 1999). Denitrifieation occurs when the Ol Supply is too low to meet microbial activity.









When soils become saturated, some organisms obtain their Oz frOm NO2- and NO3 CauSing loss

of NO3- by denitrification (Havlin et al, 1999). The addition of green manures and organic by-

products improves soil biology by increasing microbial biomass and activity (Stark et al, 2007;

Hadas and Kautsky, 1994). As the microbial activity increases, microorganisms consume more

oxygen and might create temporary anaerobic conditions, resulting in a decrease in activity of

nitrifying bacteria.

Soilless media characteristically have a smaller biological population than mineral field

soils. Studies have demonstrated that nitrifying bacteria exist in low concentrations in

uncultivated peat, but may increase after cultivation and planting (Herlihy, 1972). Similarly to

Herlihy, Lang and Elliot (1991, 1997), found that populations of nitrifying bacteria in cultivated

media were 1000-fold that those in uncultivated media. The low population of microbes in peat

may be due to the low pH of peat (pH < 4.0) that is not favorable for microbial growth.

Phosphorus and Potassium Release and Availability

Net cumulative P release was affected by the interaction of treatment, temperature regime

and treatment and season based on ANOVA (P <0.01, data not shown). Temperature, as the sum

of DD, affected P release rate from all treatments, except KMS, based on regression analysis (P

> 0.01, data not shown). For NA, BM and RP, release rates were negative. This negative release

may be caused by the reaction of P with Ca from the dolomitic limestone that might have caused

the formation of calcium phosphates, which have low solubility. Only CRF had detectable

available P, 4 5 g kg-l fertilizer.

Net cumulative K release was affected by treatment, temperature regime, season and

various interactions based on ANOVA (P <0.01, data not shown). Temperature, as the sum of

DD, affected K release rate from FM, BLM, KMS, and CRF, but had no effect on NA, BM and

RP. The NA, BM and RP treatments had negative release rates. This negative release may be









caused by the fixation of K by vermiculite, which is a 2: 1 clay. Only CRF and KMS had

detectable available K. The CRF had a release rate from 17 % to 26%, representing 17 to 26 g

kg-l fertilizer. Meanwhile, KMS released from 40 % to 62%, representing 79 to 127 g kg-l

fertilizer.

Overall, available P from organic nutrient sources is not sufficient to sustain crop growth.

Additional research should be done to improve the release of these nutrient sources. The KMS,

chosen as a K source, prove to have enough release to sustain crop growth. It is important to

consider that the application of KMS can increase the EC and cause damage to the crop.

Nitrogen Availability

Cumulative PAN (NH4 -N + NO3--N) for both seasons and temperature regimes was

highest from CRF with 75 to 95 g kg-l fertilizer (Figure 3-3). Rock phosphate and KMS are not

included, because they have very small PAN, available NH4 -N or available NO3--N (<1 g kg-l

fertilizer). Plant available N from FM and BLM for spring in both temperature regimes was

lower than for summer, 20 g kg-l fertilizer for each FM and BLM to over 40 g kg-l fertilizer, in

spring and summer respectively. The PAN from BM and NA was lower than 5 g kg-l fertilizer.

Available NH4 -N from CRF had the highest for both temperature regimes and seasons

except for summer season in the Lab, where FM and BLM had the highest available NH4 -N.

(Figure 3-4). During spring, available NH4 -N from BLM (19 g kg-l fertilizer) was higher than

FM (14 g kg-l fertilizer) in the GH, but no differences were observed in the Lab (21 g kg-l

fertilizer). For summer season, available NH4 -N in the Lab was higher than the GH for both

BLM and FM. Blood meal and FM available NH4 -N in the GH had no difference, 29 g kg-l

fertilizer for both. Whereas, BLM (40 g kg-l fertilizer) in the Lab was greater than FM (35 g kgl

fertilizer). For the remaining treatments, available NH4 -N was < 2 g kg-l fertilizer.









Cumulative available NO3--N from CRF was higher than the remaining treatments, for

both temperature regimes and seasons (Figure 3-5). For FM and BLM available NO3--N for both

temperature regimes during spring was < 5 g kg-l of fertilizer, where cumulative DD reached

600. Available NO3--N during summer in the Lab (DD) was between 6 g kg-l fertilizer for FM

and 5 g kg-l fertilizer for BLM. In the GH (DD 800) FM and BLM available NO3--N was 10 g

kg- fertilizer. Available NO3--N from NA and BM was < 2 g kg-l fertilizer. Similarly to our

results, Kraus et al. (2000), observed that ammonium availability from compost turkey litter

(CLT) was greater at 45 OC/25 OC and 45 OC than at 25 oC. Although contrary to our results,

nitrate availability was greater at 25 oC.

Monitoring air temperature is an effective way to predict N mineralization and nitriaication

from organic nutrient sources. From a production perspective it will be useful to advice growers

to monitor temperature in the greenhouse to better predict availability of N. Overall, PAN from

FM and BLM, which were selected as N source, do not have as much available N as CRF, but

are potentially good N sources. Plant available nitrate from organic nutrient sources was not

enough to sustain crop growth. This low nitrifieation may be attributed to the scarce presence of

nitrifying bacteria in peat, temporary anaerobic conditions, loss by volatilization, and high EC.

Further research should be done, focusing on optimizing pH, EC and environmental factors to

increase the nitrifieation rate of these nutrient sources.










Table 3-1. Chemical properties of potting media and organic nutrient sources.
pH EC Total N NH4 -N NO3--N P K Mg Ca S
Treatmentz --dS cm '-- --%-- --------mg L^'-------- -----------------------------------mg kg- --------------------------
NA 7.6 0.36 0.26 5.25 14.52 3 17 28.59 72.68 71.61
FM 7.8 3.50 12.03 57.75 16.93 4183 1034 15.72 32.52 56.09
BLM 8.1 2.90 14.04 18.75 11.37 1433 776 15.01 42.06 23.52
BM 7.8 2.21 2.19 22.05 11.02 65750 446 7.56 21.14 12.90
RP 8.2 1.82 0.08 2.45 2.98 18500 730 7.40 25.45 22.99
KMS 7.2 43.20 1.51 46.90 57.93 100 205763 9270.41 510.72 14198.39
z NA = media with no fertilizer; FM = feather meal; BLM = blood meal; BM = bone meal; RP = rock phosphate; KMS = potassium
magnesium sulfate; CRF = controlled-release fertilizer

Table 3-2. Values for constituents of the irrigation water used in the greenhouse and laboratory used for irrigation of organic nutrient
sources.

pH _EC NH4- N NO3~--N P Kt
---dS cm~ --- ------------------------mg L^ --------------------
Greenhouse 8.6 0.30 0.40 0.10 0.87 14.48
Lab 8.6 0.22 0.15 0.04 0.59 13.19














NA NS ** NS*
FM NS ** NS **
BLM ** NS ***
BM NS NS NS NS
RP ** NS NS **
KMS NS ** NS*
CRF ** ** NS
z NA = media with no fertilizer; FM = feather meal; BLM = blood meal; BM = bone meal; RP
rock phosphate; KMS = potassium magnesium sulfate; CRF = controlled-release fertilizer
*,** Significant at P < 0.05 or 0.01, respectively.


Table 3-3. Regression analysis between media solution pH and EC and N mineralization (Nmin)
and nitrification (Nnit) of organic nutrient sources for the summer season.
pH EC
Treatmentz Nmin Nnit Nmin Nnit










Table 3-4. Net cumulative release as mineralized (Nmin) and nitrified (Nnit) N from three organic nutrient sources, a controlled-
release fertilizer and potting media with no fertilizer, as influenced by temperature regime, season and time of incubation.
Nitrogen release as % (mg released mg' applied x 100)
Time of
IncubtionSpring Lab Spring Greenhouse Summer Lab Summer Greenhouse
(weeks) Treatmentz Nmin Nmt Nmin Nmt Nmin Nmt Nmin Nmt
NA 0.0 eY 0.1 c 0.0 f 0.1 d 0.2 c 0.3 b 0.1 d 0.6 b
FM 0.6 cd 0.0 c 0.8 d 0.0 d 4.1 a 0.0 b 8.4 a 0.0 b
BLM 0.3 de 0.0 c 0.4 e 0.0 d 4.9 a 0.0 b 3.1 bc 0.0 b
1 BM 0.1 e 0.0 c 0.1 f 0.0 d 0.7 c 0.0 b 0.8 cd 0.5 b
RP 0.9 c 0.2 c 1.0 c 0.4 c 0.4 c 0.9 b 0.1 d 0.4 b
KMS 1.6 b 1.1 b 1.8 b 1.5 b 1.0 c 1.0 b 0.9 cd 0.9 b
CRF 3.2 a 4.7 a 4.2 a 5.7 a 3.2 b 4.8 a 4.4 b 6.4a

NA 0.1 f 2.5 c 0.0 e 1.9 d 0.2 c 0.9 c (0.01) x d 1.1c
FM 8.3 b 0.2 e 7.5 b 0.1 e 21.4 a 0.6 c 23.1 a 3.3c
BLM 7.1 c 0.4 e 7.3 b 0.0 e 21.4 a 0.2 c 17.0 b 3.1c
3 BM 1.4 e 0.8 d 0.4 e 2.2 cd 2.1 c 1.1 c 0.8 d 8.4 b
RP 1.0 e 3.8 b 1.0 d 3.3 b 0.4 c 3.3 b 0.1 d 2.0c
KMS 3.2 d 2.3 c 3.1 c 2.6 c 1.6 c 2.3 b 1.2 d 2.0c
CRF 10.9 a 14.1 a 12.2 a 15.1 a 10.8 b 15.1 a 12.6 c 18.1a

NA 0.1 e 2.7 c (0.01)x f 1.9 d 0.3 c 1.3 d (0.1) x c 1.1c
FM 18.0 a 2.6 c 13.3 c 2.8 c 30.2 a 4.9 b 25.8 a 8.2 b
BLM 15.9 b 2.6 c 15.0 b 1.9 d 29.9 a 3.6 bc 22.5 ab 7.3 b
5 BM 1.5 d 1.2 d 0.4 ef 5.1 b 2.3 c 1.6 d 0.8 c 8.6 b
RP 1.1 de 4.0 b 1.0 e 3.3 c 0.4 c 3.7 bc 0.1 c 2.1c
KMS 3.4 c 2.8 c 3.1 d 2.9 c 1.7 c 2.9 c 1.1 c 2.3c
CRF 18.1 a 21.1 a 18.7 a 21.2 a 17.3 b 25.6 a 20.0 b 29.8a


z NA = media with no fertilizer; FM = feather meal; BLM = blood meal; BM = bone meal; RP = rock phosphate; KMS
magnesium sulfate; CRF controlled-release fertilizer.
YMeans within columns within incubation times separated using Duncan' s multiple range test, P<0.05.
x Immobilization of NH4


- potassium














































z Calculated and analyzed as hydrogen concentration.
SIdeal pH for vegetable transplants
NA = media with no fertilizer; FM = feather meal; BLM
magnesium sulfate; CRF = controlled-release fertilizer.


Average pH Labz


Average pH Greenhousez


0 1 2 3

Weeks


4 5


0 1 2 3 4 5


Weeks


- a- NA
- e- RP


-B-FM +- BLM
+ KMS A- CRF


-*-BM


- 5- NA
- *- RP


+ FM +- BLM
-8-KMS A- CRF


blood meal; BM = bone meal; RP = rock phosphate; KMS = potassium


Figure 3-1. Average media solution pH measured by pour-through media extraction procedure for summer season from five organic
nutrient sources, a controlled-released fertilizer and potting media with no amendment.












Average EC Lab


Average EC Greenhouse


20




15


20




15


0 1 2 3 4 5


0 1 2 3 4 5

Weeks


Weeks


- 5- NA
- *- RP


-B-M +- BLM
+KMS A- CRF


- 5- NA
- *- RP


+FM +- BLM
-9-MS A- CRF


z Ideal EC for vegetable transplants
NA = media with no fertilizer; FM = feather meal; BLM
magnesium sulfate; CRF = controlled-release fertilizer


blood meal; BM


=bone meal; RP = rock phosphate; KMS = potassium


Figure 3-2. Average media solution EC measured by pour-through media extraction procedure for summer season from five organic
nutrient sources, a controlled-released fertilizer and potting media with no amendment.





0 100 200 300 400 500 600 700 800 900


Cumulative Degree Days


-[] FM Y = -2.44 + 0.011CDD R2 = 0.77
- 4- BLM Y =0008CDDR2 = 0.66
SBM Y = 0.012CDD R2 = 0.59
- RP Y = 0.005CDD R2 = 0.43
--KMS Y = 1.29 + 0.003CDD R2 = 0.45
- A CRF Y =0.038CDD R2 =0.97









0 10 20 300 400 500 00 00 80 9


Pa
d

U
L,
g 30


-J


9
~ 20
r,

+'



~ io


1
E
1
U


-E] FM Y = 0.033CDD R2 = 0.51
- BLM Y = .041CUDD R =.61
. A CRF Y =0.028CDD R2 =0.96


O

r' C
r


40


pa

o
g 30
r,

v,

-J
~ 20
m
d
9
r,


'n 10
O




0
1
E
1
U

-10


Cumulative Degree Days


FM = feather meal; BLM = blood meal; BM = bone meal; RP = rock phosphate; KMS =

potassium magnesium sulfate; CRF = controlled-release fertilizer





Figure 3-3. Regression analysis between net cumulative release of NH4+ N and NO3- N from

five organic nutrient sources, a controlled-release fertilizer and potting media with no

fertilizer as affected by cumulative degree days.










Cumulative Degree Days


0 200 400 600 0 200 400 600 0 200 400 600 0 200 400 600 800


0 2 4 0 2 4 0 2 4 0 2 4 6
Week
a = Spring Lab; b = Spring Greenhouse; c = Summer Lab; d = Summer Greenhouse; NA = media with no fertilizer; FM = feather
meal; BLM = blood meal; BM = bone meal; RP = rock phosphate; KMS = potassium magnesium sulfate; CRF = controlled-release
fertilizer


Figure 3-4. Net cumulative plant available nitrogen (PAN) from three organic nutrient sources, a controlled-release fertilizer and
potting media with no fertilizer under two temperature regimes during two seasons.

































Week
a = Spring Lab; b = Spring Greenhouse; c = Summer Lab; d = Summer Greenhouse; NA = media with no fertilizer; FM = feather
meal; BLM = blood meal; BM = bone meal; RP = rock phosphate; KMS = potassium magnesium sulfate; CRF = controlled-release
fertilizer


Figure 3-5. Net cumulative available ammonium (NH4 -N) from three organic nutrient sources, a controlled-release fertilizer and
potting media with no fertilizer under two temperature regimes during two seasons.


Cumulative Degree Days
0 200 400 600 0 200 400 600 0 200


400 600 0 200 400 600 800 1000


S60


S50


S40


+, 30







a


0 2 4 0 2 4 0 2 4 0 2 4 6










Cumulative Degree Days
0 200 400 600 0 200 400 600 0 200


400 600 0 200 400 600 800 1000


Week
a = Spring Lab; b = Spring Greenhouse; c = Summer Lab; d = Summer Greenhouse; NA = media with no fertilizer; FM = feather
meal; BLM = blood meal; BM = bone meal; RP = rock phosphate; KMS = potassium magnesium sulfate; CRF = controlled-release
fertilizer.


Figure 3-6. Net cumulative available nitrate (NO3--N) from three organic nutrient sources, a controlled-release fertilizer and potting
media with no fertilizer under two temperature regimes during two seasons.









CHAPTER 4
EFFECT OF TEMPERATURE ON NUTRIENT RELEASE RATES FROM CUSTOM
ORGANIC BLENDS FOR ORGANIC TRANSPLANT PRODUCTION

Abstract

Organic materials are transformed to plant available nutrients through biological processes

that are influenced by temperature, moisture, pH and electrical conductivity (EC) of the plant

growing medium. To improve fertility management in organic vegetable transplant systems, this

research was conducted to study the effect of temperature on the release rates of ammonium

nitrogen (NH4 -N), nitrate nitrogen (NO3--N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) from four

custom blends derived from nutrient sources approved for use in organic production.

Experiments were performed for five weeks under two temperature regimes greenhouse during

two seasons (summer and fall). Five nutrient sources including: 1) blood meal (BLM); 2) feather

meal (FM); 3) bone meal (BM); 4) rock phosphate (RP); and 5) potassium magnesium sulfate

(KMS) were used to create four custom blends: 1) FM + BM + KMS (FBK); 2) FM + RP +KMS

(FRK); 3) BLM + BM + KMS (BBK); and 4) BLM + RP + KMS (BTK). Blends were compared

to a controlled-release synthetic fertilizer (CRF) and a control of potting media with no fertilizer

(NA). Each blend had an analysis of 19N-2.6P-9.9K equal to CRF. The NH4 -N, NO3--N, P and

K release rates were determined on leachate samples taken weekly throughout the study.

Increasing air temperature, as the sum of degree days (DD), enhanced NH4 -N release rate from

all treatments except NA. The cumulative NO3--N release rates from organic blends were low (<

3%) except during summer in the GH, which ranged from 6%-8%. Cumulative plant available

nitrogen during summer from all organic blends in the GH was 59 to 74 g kg-l blend and in the

Lab, 50 to 64 g kg-l blend. Mineralization of P was detectable only in CRF (< 5g kg- ). BTK

blend had the highest net cumulative K release rate, 45% equivalent to 44 g kg-l blend, followed

by BBK and FBK (39% and 38%), representing 38 g kg-l blend of available K. Media solution










pH significantly affected nitrification. EC affected mineralization and nitrification for specific

seasons and treatments

Introduction

Nutrients in organic production systems are supplied by plant and animal-based materials

or with commercial organic fertilizers. After the implementation of the USDA' s National

Organic Standards (USDA, 2007b), considerable research has been done on the use of organic

materials for transplant production. Research has focused on evaluating compost and vermi-

compost as potting media constituents (Clark and Cavigelli, 2005, Larrea, 2005; Raviv et al.,

1998; Sanchez-Monedero et al., 2004) and the use of plant and animal-based wastes and by-

products (Gagnon and Berrouard, 1994; Smith and Hadley, 1989b) to satisfy partial or complete

transplant nutrient requirements.

With the increasing demand of organic fruits and vegetables, new commercially available

fertilizers approved for use in organic systems have increased fertilizer options for organic

growers. Ingredients and manufacturing process of commercial formulations are proprietary; but

they are usually composed of dehydrated and palletized blends of animal and/or plant wastes and

animal by-products supplemented by rock phosphate, potassium magnesium sulfate and other

naturally derived components. The advantages of using these new organic fertilizer formulations

include a guaranteed analysis and complete nitrogen (N) phosphorus (P) potassium (K)

formulation. However, these new formulations require different management practices due

mainly to differences between formulations and high levels of electrical conductivity (EC)

(Hochmuth et al, 2003).

Synchronizing nutrient release with plant nutrient demand in organic production is

challenging due to the underlying biological processes involved in the decomposition of organic

materials. Since most of the organic fertilizers have a low fraction of soluble inorganic forms of









nitrogen (N), they have to go through a mineralization and nitrification process before becoming

plant available. The mineralization process is the conversion of organic N to ammonium (NH4 )

and is mediated by autotrophic bacteria, actinomycetes and fungi. The nitrification process is the

oxidation of NH4' to nitrate (NO3-) and is mainly mediated primarily by two genera of

autotrophic nitrifying bacteria, Nitrosomona~s spp. and Nitrobacter spp. Since plant nutrition in

organic production relies mainly on microbial transformation of organic materials, factors that

affect microbial activity such as pH and EC, as well as environmental factors such as

temperature are of vital importance.

The optimum pH range is 5.5-6.8 for horticultural crops (Maynard and Hochmuth, 1997)

because it correlates with optimum availability of crop macronutrients and micronutrients.

Growing media pH mediates microbial community composition as different types of

microorganisms have different optimum pH. For example, mineralizing microbes can be found

in a wide range of pH, but at pH > 7.5, NH4+ Can l0st by volatilization of ammonia (NH3 ).

Nitrification also takes place over a wide range of pH (4.5 to 10) (Havlin et al, 1999). Studies

have found that NH4+ Oxidation in a peat-based medium was insignificant in pH <5.6 (Argo and

Biernbaum, 1997). Similar results were observed by Lang and Elliot (1991) where maximum

NO3--N accumulation in a peat/perlite based medium was between pH 5.3 to pH 5.9.

Adequate EC for vegetable transplants grown in soilless potting media range from 1.00-

1.76 dS ml (Maynard and Hochmuth, 1997). Electrical conductivity above this range can result

in osmotic stress on plants. Similarly, microbial populations are adversely affected by high EC

because of the osmotic stress created by saline conditions on the microbial cell. Several studies

have reported that the application of animal-based fertilizers to planting media may increase EC

up to 13 dS m-l (Chellemi and Lazarovits, 2002; Clark and Cavigelli, 2005; Kahn et al., 2005;









Larrea, 2005; Rippy et al., 2004; Sanchez-Monedero et al., 2004; Raviv et al., 1998). Studies

using organic fertilizers for transplant production have identified EC as one of the main factors

limiting seed germination and seedling growth (Larrea, 2005; Sanchez-Monedero et al., 2004).

Temperature and moisture are the most frequently studied environmental factors that affect

microbial growth and activity and therefore the mineralization and nitrification processes. The

temperature coefficient (Qlo) of organic matter decomposition is 2 in the range of 5 to 35 OC

(Kaitterer et al., 1998), meaning that for every 10 degree increase in temperature between 5 and

35C the rate of decomposition doubles. Optimum soil temperature for nitrification is 25 OC to 35

oC and nitrification rate is reduced in temperatures above 40 oC and below 50C (Havlin et al.,

1999). This is consistent with research by Hoyle et al. (2006) where nitrification increased

linearly with temperature; at 5 OC NH4 'IS immobilized and above 20 oC it is oxidized to NO3 -

The addition of green manures and organic by-products improves soil biology by

increasing microbial biomass and activity (Stark et al., 2007; Hadas and Kautsky, 1994). In

addition increases in temperature induce a shift in the composition of microbial communities

(Richards et al., 1985; Carreiro and Koske, 1992).Therefore the increase in the net mineralized N

in temperatures from 20 oC to 30 OC is likely due to microbial communities favored at high

temperature metabolizing substrates that may not utilized at lower temperatures (Zogg et al.,

1997).

Research on the effect of temperature on nutrient release from organic fertilizers using

soilless media is limited. Results from research using soils cannot always be applied to soilless

media. One reason for this is that substrates reach higher temperatures than soils. Kraus et al.

(2000) studied the N mineralization rate of three compost materials: compost turkey litter (CLT),

yard waste and municipal waste mixed with milled pine bark to achieve an equal N content under









three temperature regimes (45, 25 and 45 oC day/25 OC night). Results show that the percentage

of organic N mineralized was greater at 45/25 and 45 OC than at 25 OC; however, nitrate

availability was greater at 25 oC.

Due to the many interacting factors involved in the decomposition of organic materials,

nutrient release is very hard to predict. Research has focused on using growing degree days

(GDD) as a tool to better predict nutrient availability. Research indicates that GDD can

successfully be used to predict cumulative N mineralization and nitrification from manures and

cover crops in field culture (Griffin and Honeycutt, 2000; Honeycutt and Potaro, 1990;

Schomberg and Endale, 2004), but no published research has been completed on growing media

for transplant production. Schomberg and Endale (2004) concluded that soil N mineralization of

2 cover crops (cereal rye and crisom clover) correlated positively with heat units and cumulative

heat units. Net soil N mineralization rates were 0.023 kg ha-l heat unit- once net mineralization

began. Griffin and Honeycutt (2000) observed that NO3 accumulation from dairy, poultry, and

swine manures incorporated to soils, increased with temperature, and could be predicted across

temperature regimes using GDD using an exponential equation, NO3 = 54.10(1 e-0.006GDD)

As the organic industry continues to grow, the need for research related to the management

of organic fertilizers will continue to increase. Understanding how temperature affects nutrient

release rate from custom organic blends will contribute to the development of recommendations

for the efficient use of these, as well as to serve as a foundation to better predict nutrient

availability. Therefore, the obj ective of this study to determine the effect of two temperature

regimes on the nutrient release rates from four custom organic amendments for organic

transplant production.









Materials and Methods

Media Characteristics and Organic Amendments

Potting media used in the study was Fafard Organic Formulation #20 (Fafard Industries,

Agawam, MA) composed of peat moss (70%), perlite, vermiculite, gypsum and dolomitic

limestone, all ingredients approved for their use in organic production. The same potting media

lot was used for all the experiments to reduce variability.

Five organic nutrient sources approved for use in certified organic production were used:

1) feather meal (FM; Griffin Industries, Cold Spring, KY); 2) blood meal (BLM; Voluntary

Purchasing Group Inc, Bonham TX); 3) bone meal (BM; North Pacific Group, Inc., Portland,

Oregon); 4) rock phosphate (RP; Earthsafe Organics, Gladewater, TX); and 5) potassium-

magnesium-sulfate (KMS; Diamond R Fertilizer, Winter Garden, FL). The amendments were

compared to two controls: potting media with no fertility amendment (NA), and an inorganic

polymer-coated controlled-released fertilizer (CRF) with an analysis of 19N-2.6P-9.9K, 10% of

the N as NH4 -N and 9% as NO3--N, derived from ammonium nitrate, ammonium sulfate,

calcium phosphate and potassium sulfate. The nutrient sources used for this study were selected

because they are the most common component ingredients in the commercial organic fertilizers

and are frequently used by growers in custom mixes. Component nutrient sources were selected

to provide a balanced macronutrient supply. Feather meal and BM were selected as N sources,

BM and RP where selected as phosphorus (P) sources and KMS was selected as a potassium (K)

source. Each of the N sources was mixed with one of the P sources and the K source. Custom

blends were: 1) FM + BM + KMS (FBK); 2) BLM + BM + KMS (BBK); 3) FM + RP + KMS

(FRK); and 4) BLM + RP + KMS (BTK). All amendments were mixed to achieve 19N-2.6P-

9.9K. Custom blends were mixed thoroughly with the potting media and then placed into a 0.037

m3 plastic pot. Prior to trial initiation, potting media and custom blends were analyzed for total C









and N using a C and N combustion analyzer (Leco, St. Joseph, MI); water extractable NO3- N,

NH4' N, P, K, magnesium (Mg), calcium (Ca), sulfur (S) and micronutrients, and pH and EC

were determined by Waters Agricultural Laboratories (Camilla, GA). A summary of these

analyses are presented in Table 4-1.

Cultural Practices

Experiments were conducted for five weeks under two temperature regimes: the

greenhouse (GH) and laboratory (Lab) of the Horticultural Sciences Department at the

University of Florida (Gainesville, FL). Expt. 1 was conducted from 29 May to 26 June, 2006

(summer) and Expt. 2 was conducted from 20 Oct. to 24 Nov. 2006 (fall).

During the study, air temperature levels were monitored daily in 15-minute intervals using

a data logger (Hobo" U10, Onset Computer Corporation, Bourne, MA). Temperature in the GH

ranged from 18 OC to 42 OC in Expt. 1 and from 10 oC to 40 OC in Expt. 2, meanwhile

temperature in the lab for both experiments ranged from 21 OC to 23 oC. Since temperature

ranges were different between temperature regime, temperature data in this study is reported as

degree days (DD) and was calculated using the following formula:

DD = Average daily temperature in oC 5 (4-1)
Where 5 is the threshold of microbial activity (Havlin et al., 1999).


The WHC of the potting media alone or mixed with the blends was determined by the

method described by Styer and Koranski (1997). A 100 g sample of each mix was saturated and

then left to drain for 24 h. The water content retained at the end of this period was considered

100% WHC. Throughout the experiment, pots were weighed and irrigated daily with municipal

tap water to maintain 100% WHC. This was done to reduce the potential of salt accumulation

(Poole and Conover, 1982). Values for constituents of the irrigation water used in the GH and

Lab are shown in Table 4-2.









Leachate Collection and Analysis

Every week, tap water that was 1.5x the initial WHC (mL) was added to the top of each pot

and allowed to drain for 1 h. Total leachate volume was measured after drainage. Immediately

after leaching EC was measured with a portable conductivity meter (ECTester high, Oakton

Instruments, Vernon Hills, 1L), and pH was measured with a portable pH meter (model pHep,

Hanna Instruments, Woonsocket, RI). A 20-mL aliquot was collected and frozen until analyzed.

Leachate samples were submitted to the Soil and Water Science Department of the

University of Florida (Gainesville, FL) where samples were vacuum filtrated and analyzed for

concentration of NH4+ N and NO3- N using colorimetric procedures on a rapid flow auto

analyzer. Water extractable P and K concentrations for Expt. 1 were determined by Waters

Agricultural Laboratories. Media solution pH was calculated and analyzed as hydrogen

concentration and reported as average media pH.

Calculation of Net N Mineralization and Nitrification

The amounts of NH4+ N and NO3- N leached every week were calculated by multiplying

leachate concentration by leachate volume. Plant available N was calculated as the sum of NH4

- N and NO3- N recovered weekly and summed each consecutive week for five weeks. Nitrogen

mineralization (Nmin) was calculated as a percentage of mg of NH4' N released per mg of total

N applied using the following formula:

Nmin (as % of mg of NH4+ N released mg-l of total N applied)
S[(NH4+ N)RL N4' N)Iw (NH4+ N)M] / Total N applied x 100 (4-2)
Where (NH4+ N)RL is the NH4+ N recovered in the leachate, (NH4+ N)Iw is the NH4+ N in
irrigation water, and (NH4' N)M is the NH4' N recovered from the media.


Nitrogen nitrification (Nnit) as a percentage of mg of NO3- N released per mg of total N

applied was calculated using the following formula:

Nnit (as % of mg of NO3- N released mg-l of total N applied)










S[(NO3- N)RL (NO3- N)Iw (NO3- N)xi] / Total N applied x 100 (4-3)
Where (NO3- N)RL is the NO3- N recovered in the leachate, (NO3- N)Iw is the NH4' N
in irrigation water, and (NO3- N)xt is the NO3- N recovered from the media.


Phosphorus and K release as a percentage of mg of P or K released per mg of total P or K

applied was similarly as Nmin and Nnit. For the purpose of this paper, we separate the results in

two components: 1) release (units) which is the generation of NH4' N, NO3- N, P or K as a

percentage of mg released per mg of total applied; 2) availability (units) which is the actual

amount of nutrient available per kg of custom blend.

Experimental Design and Statistical Analysis

The treatments were arranged in a completely randomized design within each temperature

regime defined by two physical locations (GH and Lab) replicated four times during two seasons

(summer and fall). Data were subj ected to analysis of variance (ANOVA) using SAS (SAS V8,

Cary, NC) to determine significance of main and interaction effects. Means were separated using

Duncan's multiple range test at alpha 0.05. To describe the relationship between pH, EC and DD

on N release, SAS regression analysis was used to identify significant relationships among pairs

of response variables.

Results and Discussion

Media Solution pH

Media solution average pH for summer and fall season is shown in Figure 4-1. Based on

ANOVA, the media solution pH was affected by the interaction of treatment, temperature

regime, season and treatment, season and week (P <0.01, data not shown). Therefore, media

solution pH was analyzed by season and week. During summer, the interaction of treatment and

rate was significant on week one and two, followed by main effect of treatment on the remaining

weeks. During spring, the interaction of treatment and rate was significant on week one, two and









four. During weeks three and Hyve, media solution pH was dependant of main effect of treatment.

At the end of the experiment, no difference in pH was observed between temperature regimes,

but media solution pH of CRF was lower than the organic blends and NA.

Initial pH of the media before addition of amendments and irrigation water was 7.6. Media

solution pH for NA was variable across seasons or temperature regimes. For example, pH in the

Lab during summer increased to pH 7.9 in week two, decreased to pH 7.7 in week three and

increase to pH 8.0 in week four. Meanwhile, pH in the Lab during fall decreased from pH 7.8 in

week one to pH 7.5 in week to and increase to pH 7.7 in week three.

After one week of incubation, the addition of custom blends increased the pH to levels

greater than optimal for vegetable transplant production (Maynard and Hochmuth, 1997).

Overall, pH of custom organic blends was 8.0-8.1, and was higher than the pH of controlled-

release fertilizer (pH 6.0) (Figure 4-1). During the summer, treatments with organic blends

remained above pH 7.5 throughout the five weeks. The FRK blend was the only treatment that

decreased pH to 7.4 by the end of week Hyve. Higher pH during the summer was observed in

week three (pH 8.3) after this, pH decreased. During the fall, pH of all four organic blends

increased weekly. In the Lab pH increased from pH 7.7 in week one to pH 8.5 in week Hyve, and

in the greenhouse pH increased from pH 7.8 in week one to pH 8.6 in week Hyve.

Similar trends were found by Rippy et al. (2004), when studying organic substrates

amended with dolomitic limestone, blood meal, bone meal and potassium sulfate and fertilized

with organic or conventional liquid fertilizers for greenhouse-grown tomatoes. Researchers

observed that media solution pH was higher in organic treatments (pH 6.9 7.3) than

conventional treatments (pH 5.5 6.7). In order to reduce the pH of organic treatments to the

recommended pH range, dolomitic limestone was replaced with elemental sulfur. On the









contrary, research by Larrea (2005) on organic tomato transplant production observed that the

pH from custom organic substrates composed of vermi-compost, peat, and perlite, and amended

with feather meal and kelp meal was not affected by organic treatments and remained between

pH 5.5-6.9.

Based on regression analysis, media solution pH significantly affected Noit (P < 0.01, Adj-

R2 = 0.72) and PAN (P < 0.01, Adj-R2 = 0. 15) but had no effect on Nmin for all custom blends.

This result was usual since mineralization is done by a wide array of heterotrophic bacteria. In

contrast, nitrification is executed by only several genera of nitrifying bacteria including

Nitrosomona~s spp. and Nitrobacter spp.. Although, when analyzed by treatment (Table 4-3), no

effect of pH was observed on Nmin and Nnit in summer, except for CRF. Different results were

observed in fall, where pH affected Nmin of all blends and Nnit of the two blends containing BLM.

Media Solution EC

Media solution average EC for the summer and fall seasons is shown in Figure 4-2. The

initial EC of the media before the addition of amendments and irrigation water was 0.36 dS cml

Based on ANOVA, the media solution EC was affected by the interaction of treatment,

temperature regime, season and week (P <0.01, data not shown). Therefore, media solution EC

was analyzed by season and week. During summer, media solution EC was dependant on the

interaction of treatment and rate in weeks one and five, and main effects of treatment for week

two, three and four. In week two, organic blends containing RP as P source, FRK (13.34 dS cm

1) and BTK (13.13 dS cm- ), had higher EC than blends containing BM, BBK (11.91 dS cm l)

and FBK (10.94 dS cm- ), and all blends higher than the CRF (8.43 dS cm- ). In W4, media

solution EC in organic blends containing FM, FBK (7.26 dS cm- ) and FRK (7.18 dS cm )~, were

similar to the CRF (6.62 dS cm )~. During spring, media solution EC was dependant of main

effects of treatment and temperature regime for week one, three and four, main effect of









treatment on week two and the interaction of treatment and temperature regime on week five. In

week one, media solution EC for blends containing BM, BBK (15.28 dS cm- ) and FBK (14.82

dS cm l) were higher than blends containing RP, BTK (12.60 dS cm- ) and FRK (12.45 dS cm l)

that were similar to the CRF (12.31 dS cm- ).This was the only week in which media solution in

the Lab was higher than the GH, 11.85 dS cml compared to 10.76 dS cm- ; after that, EC in the

GH was higher than the Lab.

Media solution EC in both temperature regimes increased after one week of incubation for

all treatments except NA; but rapidly decreased in the second week. Although EC decreased

thereafter, it did not reach the ideal EC level for transplant production. During the summer, CRF

slightly increased EC after the third week. The highest EC was observed in the summer was

BTK (17.98 dS cm )~, meanwhile in the fall, the highest EC was observed in BBK and FBK

(15.29 dS cm-l and 14.83 dS cm l; respectively).

Research has shown that the application of animal-based fertilizers to planting media can

increase the EC up to 13 dS ml (Rippy et al., 2004; Larrea, Sanchez-Monedero et al, 2004;

Chellemi and Lazarovits, 2002; Kahn et al., 2005; Raviv et al., 1998; Clark and Cavigelli, 2005).

So far, EC has been identified as one of the main factors limiting seed germination and seedling

growth (Larrea, 2005; Sanchez-Monedero et al., 2004).Considering that the optimal media EC

for vegetable transplant production is between 1.00 to 1.76 dS m l, we can conclude that EC

from custom organic blends is too high and will likely limit transplant germination and growth.

Although, it is important to consider that the amounts of fertilizer used in each pot were much

higher than a producer will normally use.

Based on regression analysis, media solution EC had no effect on Nmin, Nnit or PAN. When

analyzed by treatment, EC affected Nmin of all treatments except NA, and affected Noit during









summer for all treatments except FBK (Table 4-3). This result is unusual because nitrifying

bacteria are usually affected by high EC. Irshad et al. (2005) concluded that soil salinity has

more detrimental effects on the nitrification process than mineralization. For example, after eight

weeks, NO3- N release at 0.2 dS ml was 265% greater than at 11.4 dS m- Similar results were

observed by Inubushi et al. (1999) where nitrification was inhibited at EC >1 dS m- .inhibits. In

this study, the EC levels were so high (up to 18 dS cm- ) that they probably affected mineralizing

microbes by creating osmotic stress on the microbial cell and therefore, reducing microbial

activity.

Ammonium Release Rates

The net cumulative NH4 -N release rate expressed as Nmin is shown in Table 4-4. Based on

ANOVA, the net cumulative NH4 -N release rate was affected by the interaction of treatment,

temperature regime and season (P <0.01, data not shown). Therefore, Nmin data were analyzed by

season. During summer, treatment and temperature regime interaction was significant only in

week one, followed by the main effects of treatment in weeks two to five and temperature regime

in weeks two and three. During fall, treatment and temperature regime interaction was significant

each of the five weeks. On average, net cumulative Nmin of all treatments after five weeks of

incubation was greater in the summer (23%) than for fall (15%), but due to interactions, main

effect differences among treatments between seasons could not be statistically analyzed.

During summer in the GH, Nmin from organic blends was higher than CRF, but no

difference between blends and CRF was detected in the GH during fall (Table 4-4). The net

cumulative Nmin for the GH in summer was 23%, while 17% in fall. This difference between

Nmin in this location during two seasons can be attributed to the higher number of cumulative DD

in summer (794) than spring (542). Although temperature in the lab was constant, Nmin was

higher in summer (22%) than in fall (17%). For example, cumulative Nmin of BTK during









summer was three times higher than fall, but could not be statistically analyzed due to

interactions. This difference in Nmin can be due to changes that occurred during storage of

amendments between experiments, since the same batch was used.

After Hyve weeks, cumulative mineralized N from organic blends and CRF was linearly

correlated with cumulative DD based on regression analysis (Figure 4-3). Increasing

temperature, as the sum of DD, increased the NH4 -N release rate from all treatments except NA.

Cumulative Nmin followed the similar trends as the first Hyve weeks of the study by Agehara and

Warncke (2005), although the magnitude of release was lower. In that study, researchers also

observed that a 10 oC increase in temperature resulted in a three-fold increase in mineralization

rate from 0.54 mg N kg-l week-l in 15/10 oC (daytime temperature/night time temperature) to

1.53 mg N kg-l week-l in 25/20 oC.

Minimal research has been done studying the N mineralization of custom organic blends,

but several studies have been done studying organic amendments in soils. For example, Hartz

and Johnstone (2006) studied the N mineralization of blood meal and feather meal in a sandy

loam soil under laboratory conditions. Results indicate that N mineralization from both

amendments after one week of incubation at 25 OC was 50%, with NH4 -N representing < 1%.

Similarly, Hadas and Kautsky (1994) observed that under lab conditions, N mineralization from

feather meal incubated with soil from cultivated Hields at 30 OC and 60% WHC was

approximately 55% of initial N added after two weeks, and a considerably slower rate of

mineralization was obtained thereafter. Compared to other studies, Nmin was very low probably

because other studies have used soil, while we used soilless media.

Nitrate Release Rates

The net cumulative NO3--N release rates expressed as Nnit are shown in Table 4-4. Based

on ANOVA, the net cumulative NO3--N release rate was affected by a treatment, temperature










regime and season interaction (P <0.01, data not shown). During both seasons, a main effect of

treatment was observed on week one but thereafter treatment and temperature regime interaction

was significant. Over the five weeks, cumulative Nnit from NA, BTK and CRF was linearly

correlated with cumulative DD (Figure 4-3) but no effect was detected on the remaining blends.

Overall Nnit from blends was lower than CRF and similar to NA. The NO3--N release rate

throughout the five weeks was relatively low (< 3%) except during summer in the greenhouse, in

which Nnit from organic blends ranged 6%-8%. Our results are consistent with research by

Bugbee and Elliott (1998), where NO3--N released from a media composed of compost, peat,

sand and bark commenced six weeks into the experiment.

In this study, the low NO3--N release rate may be attributed to several factors. First, the

loss of NH4 -N by volatilization of NH3+ is favored by pH > 7.5. In addition, the temporary

decrease in Ol COncentration of the media as a result of the rapid oxidation of organic material

and saturated conditions after leaching the media may favor denitrification. Maximum

nitrification occurs at 20% oxygen percentage (Havlin et al, 1999; Brady and Weil, 1999). When

the Ol Supply is too low to meet microbial activity, like in saturated soils, some organisms obtain

their Ol frOm NO2- and NO3 CauSing loss ofNO3- by denitrification. Temporary anaerobic

conditions can also limit the Ol Supply for microbial activity (Havlin et al, 1999). Anaerobic

conditions can be created after the addition of green manures and organic by-products, since

these materials increase microbial biomass and activity (Stark et al., 2007; Hadas and Kautsky,

1994). Therefore, as microbial activity increases, microorganisms consume more Oz and can

result in temporary 02 depletion. Finally, soilless media characteristically have a smaller

biological population than mineral field soils, because of the relatively sterile ingredients.

Studies have demonstrated that nitrifying bacteria exist in low concentrations in uncultivated









peat (Herlihy, 1972), but may increase 1000-fold after cultivation and planting (Lang and Elliot,

1991; Lang and Elliot, 1997). The low population of microbes in peat may be due to the low pH

of peat (pH < 4.0) that is not favorable for microbial growth.

Phosphorus and Potassium Release and Availability

Net cumulative P release was affected by treatment based on ANOVA (P <0.01, data not

shown). Phosphorus release rates from NA were negative. The loss of detectable P may have

been caused by the reaction of P with calcium present in dolomitic limestone resulting in the

formation of Ca phosphates, which have low solubility. All organic blends had low P release

rates (< 1%). Only CRF had detectable P release rates (16%), representing, 4 5 g kg-l blend of

available P.

Net cumulative K release was affected by treatment based on ANOVA (P <0.01, data not

shown). Potassium release rates from NA were negative. This negative release may be caused by

the fixation of K by vermiculite, which is a 2: 1 clay. The net cumulative release rate from

organic blends was higher than CRF. The BTK blend had the highest net cumulative K release

rate, 45% equivalent to 44 g kg-l blend (Figure 4-4). The BBK and FBK had similar release rates

(39% and 38%), representing 38 g kg-l blend of available K.

Overall, available P from custom organic blends is not sufficient to sustain transplant

growth. All organic blends prove to have enough release to sustain crop growth. It is important to

consider that the application of organic blends can increase the EC and limit crop productivity.

Nitrogen Availability

Treatment means of cumulative PAN for both seasons and temperature regimes are show

in Figure 4-5. Cumulative PAN for both seasons and temperature regimes was highest from CRF

with 90 g kg-l amendment in summer and up to 110 g kg-l amendment in fall. During the

summer, plant available N from all blends was higher in the GH than in the Lab. In the GH,









cumulative DD reached 794 and PAN ranged from 59 to 74 g kg- In the Lab, the cumulative

DD reached 592, and PAN ranged from 50 to 64 g kg-l blend in the Lab.

Treatment means of available cumulative NH4 -N for both seasons and temperature

regimes is show in Figure 4-6. Available cumulative NH4 -N from all organic blends was higher

than CRF during summer, under both temperature regimes. In the fall, organic blends and CRF

had similar available NH4 -N (Figure 4-6). The CRF was the only treatment with enough

cumulative available NO3 -N able to provide enough N for crop growth, 55 to 56 g kg-l blend.

During the fall, the available NO3--N from organic blends was < 2 g kg-l blend. Highest

cumulative available NO3--N was observed during summer in the GH, where cumulative DD

reached 794. Blends containing BLM had 13 g kg-l blend at the end of the five weeks.

Meanwhile, FRK had 16 g kg-l blend of available NO3--N and FBK 11 g kg-l blend of available

NO3--N. Similarly to our results, Kraus et al. (2000), observed that NH4' availability from

compost turkey litter (CLT) was greater at 45 OC/25 OC and 45 OC than at 25 oC. Contrary to our

results, NO3- availability from CLT was greater at 25 oC.

Monitoring air temperature is an effective way to predict N mineralization and nitrification

from organic amendments. Overall, PAN from all organic blends are potentially good N sources.

Plant available nitrate from organic blends was minimal and not enough to sustain crop growth.

This low nitrification may be attributed to the scarce presence of nitrifying bacteria in peat,

temporary anaerobic conditions, loss by volatilization. Further research should be done, focusing

on optimizing pH, EC and environmental factors to increase the nitrification rate of these

amendments ..










Table 4-1. Chemical properties of potting media and custom organic blends.
Treatments pH EC Total N NH4 -N NO3--N P K Mg Ca S

NA 7.6 0.36 0.26 5.25 14.52 3.01 17.09 26.20 58.01 76.14
FBK 8.2 4.16 19.00 78.75 2.80 4750.00 12781.00 171.70 153.59 567.36
FRK 7.9 3.51 19.00 56.75 2.80 4316.00 12731.00 125.10 142.29 408.86
BBK 8.1 4.31 19.00 60.75 2.25 5402.00 12988.00 119.40 105.19 365.64
BTK 8.0 3.15 19.00 57.75 2.45 4946.00 12935.00 81.80 78.29 311.76
z NA = media with no application; FBK= feather meal + blood meal + potassium magnesium sulfate; FRK = feather meal + rock
phosphate + potassium magnesium sulfate; BBK = blood meal + bone meal + potassium magnesium sulfate; BTK = blood meal +
rock phosphate + potassium magnesium sulfate; CRF = controlled-released fertilizer.

Table 4-2. Values for constituents of the irrigation water used in the greenhouse and laboratory used for irrigation of custom organic
blends.
pH _EC NH4- N NO3~--N P Kt
---dS cm~ --- --------------------------mg L^ ---------------------
Greenhouse 8.6 0.30 0.33 0.09 0.87 14.48
Lab 8.6 0.22 0.28 0.05 0.59 9.71










Table 4-3. Regression analysis between media solution pH and EC and N mineralization (Nmin)
and nitrification (Nnit) of custom organic blends.
pH EC
Summer Fall Summer Fall
Treatmentz Nmin Nnit Nmin Nnit Nmin Nnit Nmin Nnit
NA NS NS NS NS NS NS NS
FBK NS NS ** NS ** NS ** NS
FRK NS NS ** NS ** ** NS
BBK NS NS ** ** ** NS
BTK NS NS ** ** ** NS
CRF NS ** ** ** *
z NA = media with no application; FBK= feather meal + blood meal + potassium magnesium
sulfate; FRK = feather meal + rock phosphate + potassium magnesium sulfate; BBK = blood
meal + bone meal + potassium magnesium sulfate; BTK = blood meal + rock phosphate +
potassium magnesium sulfate; CRF = controlled-released fertilizer.
*,** Significant at P < 0.05 or 0.01, respectively.










Table 4-4. Net release as mineralized (Nmin) and nitrified (Noit) N from four custom organic blends, a controlled-released fertilizer and
potting media with no amendment, as influenced by temperature regime, season and time of incubation.
Nitrogen release as % (mg released/mg applied x 100)
Time of Summer Lab Summer Greenhouse Fall Lab Fall Greenhouse
Incubation as NH4 aS NO3 aS NH4 aS NO3 aS NH4 aS NO3 aS NH4 -N as NO3 -
(weeks) Treatmentz N N N N N N N
NA 0.13 cY 0.45 b 0.33 c 0.52 b (0.02)x d 0.22 b 0.10 e 0.28 b
FBK 4.17 ab 0.00 b 7.60 a 0.00 c 7.04 a 0.00 b 3.92 ab 0.00 b
FRK 4.93 a 0.00 b 8.19 a 0.00 c 4.95 a 0.00 b 3.10 bc 0.00 b
BBK 3.62 ab 0.00 b 7.42 a 0.00 c 4.18 a 0.00 b 2.75 cd 0.00 b
BTK 3.41 ab 0.01 b 7.08 a 0.00 c 1.94 b 0.01 b 1.79 d 0.00 b
CRF 3.13 b 5.53 a 2.84 b 4.03 a 5.16 a 8.25 a 4.47 a 7.44 a

NA 0.23 c 1.76 b 0.21 d 1.44 cd 0.05 c 0.67 b (19.85)x d 1.12 b
FBK 17.66 a 0.01 b 20.23 b 2.18 c 16.45 a 0.00 c 16.09 a 0.06 b
FRK 19.19 a 0.05 b 25.55 a 4.15 b 14.76 a 0.00 c 11.65 b 0.00 b
BBK 16.57 a 0.00 b 24.47 ab 2.51 c 15.30 a 0.00 c 14.82 a 0.26 b
BTK 21.67 a 0.07 b 25.07 ab 2.51 c 6.70 b 0.02 c 6.51 c 0.08 b
CRF 10.92 b 16.87 a 12.25 c 16.70 a 14.85 a 20.09 a 13.50 ab 23.65 a

NA 0.29 d 2.41 b 0.28 d 1.68 d 0.07 c 1.14 b (19.80)x c 1.64 b
FBK 29.09 ab 1.93 b 25.26 b 5.74 c 24.29 a 0.05 b 23.71 a 0.21 b
FRK 28.95 ab 2.04 b 30.60 a 8.34 b 22.28 a 0.00 b 21.16 a 0.23 b
BBK 25.74 b 0.78 b 29.40 ab 6.70 c 23.79 a 0.44 b 23.60 a 0.90 b
BTK 32.26 a 1.63 b 31.25 a 6.88 c 9.88 b 1.12 b 11.69 b 1.06 b
CRF 17.62 c 29.35 a 18.64 c 28.69 a 22.92 a 29.57 a 21.85 a 36.41 a


z NA = media with no application; FBK= feather meal + blood meal + potassium magnesium sulfate; FRK


feather meal + rock


phosphate + potassium magnesium sulfate; BBK = blood meal + bone meal + potassium magnesium sulfate; BTK = blood meal +
rock phosphate + potassium magnesium sulfate; CRF controlled-released fertilizer.
YMeans within columns within incubation times separated using Duncan' s multiple range test, P<0.05.
x Immobilization of NH4 -






















.' `m


|- NA +FBK *-FRK -9-BBK ** BRK A- CRF |




Average pH Fall Labs


|- NA + FBK +- FRK -9-BBK ** BRK I- CRF|




Average pH Fall Greenhouse"


. -*


A


Average pH Summer Labs


Average pH Summer Greenhouse"


9

8.5

8


_~
'-----.


m
P,

6.5

6


0 1 23
Weeks


4 5


0 1 23
Weeks


4 5


8.5

8









6


0123
Weeks


4 5


012345
Weeks


- NA +FBK ~-FRK -9-BK ** BRK A- CRFI


- NA +FBK +- FRK -9-BK ** BRK A- CRF


NA = media with no application; FBK= feather meal + blood meal + potassium magnesium

sulfate; FRK = feather meal + rock phosphate + potassium magnesium sulfate; BBK = blood

meal + bone meal + potassium magnesium sulfate; BTK blood meal + rock phosphate +

potassium magnesium sulfate; CRF = controlled-released fertilizer. z Calculated and analyzed as

Hydrogen concentration.


Figure 4-1. Average media solution pH measured by pour-through media extraction procedure
from four custom organic blends, a controlled-released fertilizer and potting media

with no amendment, as influenced by temperature regime, season and time of
incubation.



































012345
Weeks

- NA -*FBK ** FRK -9BBK ** BRK I- CR@



Average EC Fall Lab


012345
Weeks

- NA -*FBK +- FRK -9BBK ** BRK I- CRF



Average EC Fall Greenhouse


Average EC Summer Lab


Average EC Summer Greenhouse


2 3
Weeks


4 5


2 3
Weeks


4 5


- NA -*-BK *- FRK -9-BK BRK A- CRF


- NA -0-FK 4- FRK -9-BK BRK A- CRF


NA = media with no application; FBK= feather meal + blood meal + potassium magnesium
sulfate; FRK = feather meal + rock phosphate + potassium magnesium sulfate; BBK = blood
meal + bone meal + potassium magnesium sulfate; BTK = blood meal + rock phosphate +

potassium magnesium sulfate; CRF = controlled-released fertilizer.


Figure 4-2. Average media solution EC measured by pour-through media extraction procedure
from four custom organic blends, a controlled-released fertilizer and potting media
with no amendment, as influenced by temperature regime, season and time of
incubation.














































40

pa


8 30
r,

v,
-J
S 20
9
r,

n 10
O


P
0
1
E
1
U

-10


Cumulative Degree Days


NA = media with no application; FBK= feather meal + blood meal + potassium magnesium
sulfate; FRK = feather meal + rock phosphate + potassium magnesium sulfate; BBK = blood
meal + bone meal + potassium magnesium sulfate; BTK = blood meal + rock phosphate +

potassium magnesium sulfate; CRF = controlled-released fertilizer.


Figure 4-3. Regression analysis between net cumulative release of NH4+ N and NO3- N from
custom organic blends, a controlled-release fertilizer and potting media with no
amendment as affected by cumulative degree days.


I


40





30





S20






10



00


SFBK Y = 0.041CDD Z =
- 4- FRK Y =.045CDD 0
BBK Y = 0.044CDD Z
-g- BRK Y= 0.042CDD P
. A .CRF = 0029CDD W


* o


t +


* *


*


0 100 200 300 400 500 600

Cumulative Degree Days


700 800 900


10


-[- NA Y = 0.003CDD RZ = 0.55
- g- BRK Y= 0.005CDD = 0.44
- A CRF Y = 0.040CDD RZ = 0.70

















II100 200 300 400 500 600 700 800 9(











SFBK
--+--FRK

--4--BRK .*
--A--CRF
S40-













b 0


1 2 34
Wee
a~ = umrLb umrGenos;c=Fl a;d=Fl rehue A=mdawt
noapiain B=fahrmel+bodma oasu ageimslae R ete







poassiume magne summere sulfatoe; BT = blodmal Lb + roc phspate + potassiumNA magesiumi


sulfate; CRF = controlled-released fertilizer.

Figure 4-4. Net cumulative available potassium from four custom organic blends, and
controlled-release fertilizer under two temperature regimes during two seasons.











Cumulative Degree Days


() 2()( 4()( 6()( () 2()( 4()( 6()( 8()( ()

S-- ~--NA --I0--NA b
FBK FBK
100 -- -FRK ~- -FRK
SBBK BBK
- BRK A -BRK L
ed-- --CRF -- --CRF
80





2 0


2()( 4()( 6()( () 2()( 4()( 6()(


0 2 4 0 2 4 0 2 4 0 2 4 6

Week
a = Summer Lab; b = Summer Greenhouse; c = Fall Lab; d = Fall Greenhouse; NA = media with no application; FBK= feather meal +
blood meal + potassium magnesium sulfate; FRK = feather meal + rock phosphate + potassium magnesium sulfate; BBK = blood
meal + bone meal + potassium magnesium sulfate; BTK = blood meal + rock phosphate + potassium magnesium sulfate; CRF =
controlled-released fertilizer.


Figure 4-5. Net cumulative plant available nitrogen (PAN) from four custom organic blends, a controlled-release fertilizer and potting
media with no amendment under two temperature regimes during two seasons.

















--o~--NA a --I0--NA b -- ~--NA C -- ~--NA d
SFBK FBK -I ~ FBK -I ~ FBK
-- --FRK -- --FRK -- --FRK -- --FRK
SBBK BBK rrBBK I -~BBK
-- --BRK --4--BRK .$ -- --BRK -- --BRK
--A--CRF --A--CRF ,#O -- --CRF -- --CRF


Cumulative Degree Days


60 -

50
+



40









Do -


0 200 400 600 0 200 400 600 800


0 200 400 600


...
.~'
-'


'


2 4


Week

a = Summer Lab; b = Summer Greenhouse; c = Fall Lab; d = Fall Greenhouse; NA = media with no application; FBK= feather meal +
blood meal + potassium magnesium sulfate; FRK = feather meal + rock phosphate + potassium magnesium sulfate; BBK = blood
meal + bone meal + potassium magnesium sulfate; BTK = blood meal + rock phosphate + potassium magnesium sulfate; CRF =
controlled-released fertilizer.


Figure 4-6. Net cumulative available NH4 -N from four custom organic blends, a controlled-release fertilizer and potting media with
no amendment under two temperature regimes during two seasons.









CHAPTER 5
ORGANIC CUSTOM BLENDS AFFECT GROWTH AND NUTRIENT CONTENT OF BASIL
(Ocinsun ba~silica~n L.) TRANSPLANTS

Abstract

Nutrients in USDA certified organic production systems are supplied by plant and animal-

based fertilizers. Minimal research has been done on the use of custom organic blends for

transplant production despite the widespread use by growers. The obj ective of this research was

to study the effect of custom organic fertilizer blends applied at 2 rates of nitrogen (N) (252 or

505 g N m-3 Of N) on germination, growth and nutritional status of basil transplants. The blends

were derived from five nutrient sources approved for use in organic production: 1) blood meal

(BLM); 2) feather meal (FM); 3) bone meal (BM); 4) rock phosphate (RP); and 5) potassium

magnesium sulfate (KMS). The four custom blends: 1) FM + BM + KMS (FBK); 2) FM + RP

+KMS (FRK); 3) BLM + BM + KMS (BBK); and 4) BLM + RP + KMS (BRK). Blends were

compared to a controlled-released synthetic fertilizer (CRF) and a control of potting media with

no fertilizer (NA). The effect of treatment on media leachate EC and pH varied by season, week,

and N rate. The percent of basil germination and mean days to emergence were similar among all

treatments except in one case, the BBK, where reduction was attributed to high EC levels. Basil

transplants grown in blends containing FM (FBK and FRK) were taller to those grown on blends

containing BLM. Basil transplant dry weight was influenced by a treatment and season as well as

a treatment and rate interaction. During spring, transplants grown with custom blends containing

FM (FBK and FRK) had more dry weight than those grown with custom blends containing BLM

(BBK and BRK). During summer, dry weight was dependant on the main effect of treatment;

CRF 0.94 g > FRK 0.62 g = FBK 0.53 g = BRK 0.39 g = BBK 0.25 g, and > NA 0.04 g. All

fertilized transplants had sufficient tissue N concentration; however transplants produced in NA

were N deficient.









Introduction

Florida greenhouse herb production has increased from near zero ha in 1990 to 6.8 ha in

2001, with basil (Ocinsun ba~silicunt L.) been the primary herb grown (Hochmuth et al, 2003;

Tyson et al., 2004). In addition, increasing consumer demand for fresh market organic produce

indicates a potential for expansion of the organic herb market. Barriers to organic herb

greenhouse production are high due to lack of available technical information especially on the

management of organic soil and fertilizer amendments (D. Treadwell, personal communication).

The USDA National Organic Standards require organic producers to use organically

produced transplants for vegetable production (USDA, 2007b). Research on the use of organic

amendments and fertilizers for transplant production has increased over the past two decades.

Studies have focused mainly on the use of compost and vermicompost as media constituent and

nutrient source, and a minimal research has focused on other nutrient sources such animal and

plant wastes products and liquid fertilizers (Clark and Cavigelli, 2005; Gagnon and Berrouard,

1994; Larrea, 2005; Raviv et al., 1998; Russo, 2005; Russo, 2006; Succop and Newman, 2004).

Research results have not been consistent, because transplant response is in part dependant

on the physical and chemical characteristics of the fertilizer used. In the case of compost,

research results indicate that it can be used as partial or a complete substitute for commercial

peat-based potting media. For example, Kahn et al (2005) observed that when using 80% media

composed of 60% vermiculite and 40% peat, (VP) mixed with 20% compost medium made from

50% yard trimmings and 50% biosolids compost, cauliflower transplant height was similar to

those grown in 100% VP. Sanchez-Monedero et al (2004) found that replacing up to 67% of

commercial substrate with two different types of compost (Compost A -88 % sweet sorghum

bagasse, 11% pine bark 1% and urea Compost B -86% sweet sorghum bagasse, 11% pine bark

and 3% brewery sewage sludge-) resulted in similar dry weight, growth and nutritional status of









broccoli, tomato and onion transplants to those grown in commercial potting media (control).

Germination percentage of tomato seeds in media containing compost B was the same as the

control, but germination was reduced by 23% with compost A. This reduction was attributed to

the higher EC of compost A (13.21 dS cm l) compared to compost B (8.55 dS cm- ). Clark and

Cavigelli (2005) found that germination, height and marketable yield of lettuce and tatsoi grown

in 100% compost derived from pre-consumer food residuals mixed with yard waste (FR) (pH 6.6

and an EC of 2.9 dS cm- ) was not different than the commercial peat-based potting media with

synthetic fertilizer (pH 5.6 and an EC of 0.7 dS cm )~, even though FR had higher pH and EC

than the synthetic fertilizer. Compost has not only been proven to benefit transplant growth but

also improves structure, increases the water holding capacity and the cation exchange capacityof

media, provides a slow release nutrients and can lower mortality rates caused by Pythium

aphanidernzatun in cabbage transplants (Raviv et al., 1998), and suppressed infestation of

Fusariunt oxisporunt f. ba~silici in basil (Raviv et al., 1998; Reuveni et al., 2002).

Gagnon and Berrouard (2004) evaluated the potential of several organic wastes from the

agri-food industry for growing greenhouse tomato transplants. They concluded that when using

animal and/or plant wastes products mixed with peat-compost growing medium, specifically

meals from blood, feather, meat, crab shells, fish, cotton-seed, and whey by-products, produced

the best growth of tomato transplants and significantly increased the shoot dry weight by 57 -

83% compared with non-fertilized plants. In other studies, increasing feather meal as a

component of a custom organic mix composed of peat/perlite base, and vermi-compost from 3 10

mL to 620 mL, reduced germination of tomato seedlings (Larrea, 2005).the pink polka dots was

rather cute. In this case, the sentence is stronger as a statement without the "although."









With the increasing demand of organically produced food, new commercially available

fertilizers approved for use in organic systems have increased fertilizer options for organic

growers. Ingredients and manufacturing process of commercial formulations are proprietary; but

they are usually composed of dehydrated and pelletized blends of animal and/or plant wastes and

animal by-products supplemented by rock phosphate, potassium magnesium sulfate and other

naturally derived components. The advantages of using these commercial formulations include a

guaranteed analysis and complete nitrogen (N) phosphorus (P) potassium (K) formulation.

On occasion, these formulations have been phytotoxic for pepper, tomatoes (Chellemi and

Lazarovits, 2002), and basil (Hochmuth et al., 2003) due to high levels of electrical conductivity

(EC) when recommended fertility rates are used.

Additional research on the effect of organic fertility sources on transplant quality is

needed. Although some studies have demonstrated that organic amendments and fertilizers can

be used successfully in organic transplant production, it is hard to generalize the results to other

crops and potting media. Not only because of the high variability on the composition (i.e. carbon

(C) and N ratio and lignin content) and nature of these materials, but the specific management

received in each study. Therefore, the objective of this was to evaluate the effect of custom

organic blends with 2 N rates on germination, growth and nutritional status of basil (Ocimum

ba~silicum var. Nufar) transplants.

Materials and Methods

Media Characteristics and Organic Blends

Five organic nutrient sources were used to make the custom blends: 1) feather meal (FM;

Griffin Industries, Cold Spring, KY); 2) blood meal (BLM; Voluntary Purchasing Group Inc,

Bonham TX); 3) bone meal (BM; North Pacific Group, Inc., Portland, Oregon); 4) rock

phosphate (RP; Earthsafe Organics, Gladewater, TX); and 5) potassium-magnesium-sulfate









(KMS; Diamond R Fertilizer, Winter Garden, FL). The blends were compared to two controls:

potting media with no fertilizer (NA). and an inorganic polymer-coated controlled-released

fertilizer (CRF) derived from ammonium nitrate, ammonium sulfate, calcium phosphate and

potassium sulfate with an analysis of 19N-2.6P-9.9K; 10% of the N as NH4 -N and 9% as NO3 -

N (The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company, Marysville, OH). The nutrient sources used for this study

were selected because they are the most common basic ingredients in the commercial organic

fertilizers. Nutrient sources were selected to provide a complete macronutrient source. Feather

meal and BM where selected as N sources, BM and RP where selected as phosphorus (P) sources

and KMS was selected as a potassium (K) source. Each of the N sources was mixed with one of

the P sources and the K source. Custom blends were: 1) FM + BM + KMS (FBK); 2) FM + RP +

KMS (FRK); 3) BLM + BM + KMS (BBK); and 4) BLM + RP + KMS (BRK). All nutrient

sources were mixed to achieve 252 or 505 g N m-3, (rate lx and 2x; respectively), 32 g P m-3 and

132 g K m-3. Theses rates were selected based on previous research for organic greenhouse basil

production (Migliaccio et al., 2007). The treatments were arranged in a completely randomized

design with two N rates and replicated four times each during two seasons (spring and summer).

Potting media was a commercial propriety blend of peat moss (70%), perlite, vermiculite

and gypsum (Fafard Organic Formulation #20, Fafard Industries, Agawam, MA), and was

approved for use in organic production. The media was amended with 6.5 lbs m-3 Of approved

dolomitic limestone to raise media from pH 3.5 to pH 6.0.

Prior to trial initiation, potting media and custom blends were analyzed for total C and N

using a C and N combustion analyzer (Leco, St. Joseph, MI); water extractable NO3- N, NH4+ -

N, P, K, magnesium (Mg), calcium (Ca), sulfur (S) and micronutrients, and pH and EC were









determined by Waters Agricultural Laboratories (Camilla, GA). A summary of these analyses are

presented in Table 5-1.

Cultural Practices

This study was conducted at the teaching greenhouse of the Horticultural Science

Department at the University of Florida (Gainesville, FL). Expt. 1 was conducted from 13 Apr.

to 18 May, 2007 (spring) and Expt. 2 was conducted from 9 May to 13 June 2007 (summer). The

greenhouse temperature was maintained with pad and evaporative cooling and gas heat. Heating,

cooling and venting were controlled with a Wadsworth Control System (Control Systems Inc,

Arvada, CO). The heating/cooling set points were: heat when nighttime temperature was <16 OC;

vents low speed when daytime temperature reached 25 OC and high speed when daytime

temperature reached 28 OC ; and cooling pads when daytime reached 30 oC. During the study, air

temperature levels were monitored daily in 15 minute intervals using a data logger. Temperature

ranged from 14 OC to 33 OC in Expt. 1 and 14 OC to 36 OC in Expt, 2. Although temperature in

both experiments was similar, temperature data in this study is reported as degree days (DD) and

was calculated using the following formula:

DD = Average daily temperature in oC 5 (5-1)
(Where 5 is the threshold of microbial activity (Havlin et al., 1999)


Media amended with custom blends was placed into a 32-cell transplant tray with cell

volume of 94 cm-3 (T.O. Plastics Inc, Clearwater, MN). One seed of 'Nufar' organic sweet basil

(Johnny's Selected Seeds, Maine, NE) was sown in 5 mm deep holes and then covered with the

media. Trays were irrigated 3 times a day (9AM, 12M and 5PM) at 4-min duration using a

misting system. Emitters delivered 51 mL min' (providing 612 mL daily per emitter) in a fine

mist. Each cell received 96 mL of water daily, with =: 1.8 mL of flow-through water per cell in

each irrigation event. Values for constituents of the irrigation water are shown in Table 5-2.









Studies have demonstrated that nitrifying bacteria exist in low concentrations in

uncultivated peat (Herlihy, 1972), and in peat containing media (Lang and Elliot, 1991; Lang and

Elliot, 1997). In previous research custom blends had low nitriaication and a pretrial comparing

media plus custom blends with and without inoculation of nitrifying bacteria revealed

nitrifieation earlier an improvement on nitrifieation after the inoculation with nitrifying bacteria

(data not shown). Therefore, media was inoculated with pure cultures of autotrophic nitrifying

bacteria, Nitrosomona~s spp. and Nitrobacter spp (Proline nitrifying bacteria, Aquatic Eco-

Systems, Apopka, FL) at a rate of 2.7 CIL cm-3. The nitrifying bacteria were applied to each cell

that was previously filled with moist media mixed with the blend.

Data Collection

Germination data was collected daily for the first 12 d of each experiment. pH and EC

were measured weekly from the flow-through water from irrigation collected over a 24h period

of the 32-cell tray using a portable pH and conductivity meter (model Combo, Hanna

Instruments, Woonsocket, RI). Heights from the surface to the most recently mature leaf of six

plants, chosen at random in each tray were taken five weeks after sowing. Above ground

material of these plants were placed in paper envelopes and oven dried at 60 OC for 72 h and

analyzed for total N using a C and N combustion analyzer (Leco, St. Joseph, MI).

Statistical Analysis

The treatments were arranged in a completely randomized design with two N rates and

replicated four times each during two seasons (spring and summer). Data were subj ected to

analysis of variance (ANOVA) using SAS (SAS V8, Cary, NC) to determine significance of

main and interaction effects. Means were separated using Duncan's multiple range test at alpha =

0.05. To describe the relationship between pH, EC and DD on seedling germination, SAS










regression analysis was used to identify significant relationships among pairs of response

variables.

Results and Discussion

Media Solution pH

Media solution pH for spring and summer season is shown in Figure 5-1. Various

interactions among treatment, season, week, and rate significantly affected media pH based on

ANOVA (P < 0.01, data not shown). Therefore, media solution pH was analyzed by season and

week, or season, week and rate when appropriate. During spring, a treatment by rate interaction

was significant for weeks one, two and four. During week three, media solution pH was

dependant of main effect of treatment and no differences in pH were observed in week five.

During summer, only main effects of treatment and rate influenced pH in weeks one and four; by

week five, pH was influenced only by treatment. pH was dependant on a treatment and rate

interaction in weeks two and three, Media solution pH in week one was higher in the 2x rate (pH

6.5) than the lx rate (pH 6.2). The NA treatment had pH 6.3, meanwhile, CRF had the lower pH

(pH 5.9) than all four organic blends that ranged from 6.4 to 6.8. In week five, all four organic

blends FRK (pH 5.5) = FBK (pH 5.6) > BBK (pH 5.7) = BRK (pH 5.8) had lower pH than CRF

(pH 6. 1) and NA (pH 6.7).

Media solution pH from all treatments was variable across seasons and rates. For example,

highest pH observed for the lx rate during summer was on week two (pH = 6.9), after this, the

four organic blends decreased to pH 5.7 for BBK and BRK, and pH 5.5 for FBK and FRK.

Media solution pH from the lx rate in spring had a different pattern, where highest observed pH

was pH 7.1 on week two for FRK and BRK and on week three for BBK. The FBK, BBK and

BRK blends increased pH from week four to five.










Optimum pH for vegetable transplants range 5.5-6.8 (Maynard and Hochmuth, 1997). This

pH range is where macronutrient and micronutrient are available. Media pH also mediates

microbial community composition as different types of microorganisms have different optimum

pH. For example, at at pH > 7.5, NH4' Can l0st by volatilization of ammonia (NH3 ), and NO3-

is more likely to be denitrified (Havlin et al, 1999). Studies generally analyze initial pH, and only

a few studies collect data of pH throughout the experiment. Several studies have reported that the

application of animal-based fertilizers to planting media may increase pH up to 8.8 (Clark and

Cavigelli, 2005; Kahn et al., 2005; Rippy et al., 2004). For example, Rippy et al. (2004), studied

different organic substrates amended with dolomitic limestone, blood meal, bone meal and

potassium sulfate and fertilized with organic or conventional liquid fertilizers for greenhouse-

grown tomatoes. Researchers observed that media solution pH was higher in organic treatments

(pH 6.9 7.3) than conventional treatments (pH 5.5 6.7) throughout the 12 week study. In order

to reduce the pH of organic treatments to the recommended pH range, dolomitic limestone was

replaced with 0.3 kg m-3 Of elemental sulfur. On the contrary, research by Larrea (2005) on

organic tomato transplant production observed that the pH from custom organic substrates

composed of vermicompost, peat, and perlite, and amended with feather meal and kelp meal was

not affected by organic treatments and remained between pH 5.5-6.9.

Media Solution EC

Media solution EC for spring and summer season is shown in Figure 5-2. Based on

ANOVA, the media solution EC was affected by an interaction of treatment, rate, and season (P

<0.01, data not shown). Therefore, media solution EC was analyzed by season and week. During

spring, media solution EC was dependant of main effects of treatment for weeks one and two,

and no effect of treatment or rate were observed thereafter. Media solution EC for the 2x rate

was higher than the lx rate for the first three weeks, but no differences were detected in weeks









four and five. Media solution EC also increased after one week. During the first week, the FBK

treatment had the highest EC (4.67 dS cm- ), that was similar to the other BBK (3.98 dS cm l)

and BRK (3.84 dS cm- ), but higher than FRK (3.54 dS cm )~, followed by CRF (1.99 dS cm l)

and NA (1.12 dS cm )~. By the end of the experiment, EC of all treatments decreased to < 1.00

dS cml

During summer, media solution EC was dependant of main effects of treatment for each

week except week three, and main effect of rate in weeks two and three. During this season,

media solution EC was higher in the 2x rate than the lx rate for the first three weeks, but no

differences were detected in weeks four and five. Media solution EC increased after one week.

During week one, the FRK treatment had the highest EC (1.89 dS cm- ) and was similar to the

other three organic blends, but higher than CRF (0.81 dS cm- ) and NA (0.43 dS cm )~. By the

end of the experiment, the EC of all treatments decreased to < 0.50 dS cml

Adequate EC for vegetable transplants grown in soilless potting media range from 1.00-

1.76 dS ml (Maynard and Hochmuth, 1997). Research has shown that the application of animal-

based fertilizers to planting media can increase the EC up to 13 dS m-l (Chellemi and Lazarovits,

2002; Clark and Cavigelli, 2005; Kahn et al., 2005; Larrea, 2005; Raviv et al., 1998; Rippy et al.,

2004; Sanchez-Monedero et al, 2004). So far, EC has been identified as one of the main factors

limiting seed germination and seedling growth (Larrea, 2005; Sanchez-Monedero et al., 2004).

The effects of EC on germination and transplant growth in this study will be discussed in the

next section.

Seedling Germination

Based on ANOVA, germination as a percentage of emerged cotyledons was only

influenced by the main effects of rate and season (P < 0.01, data not shown). Overall, the lx rate

(93.7%) had higher germination than the 2x rate (89.5%) and during summer germination was









higher (94.2%) than in spring (89.5%). These results were considered acceptable considering that

the manufacturer guaranteed germination is 90%. When analyzed by year and rate, the BBK

treatment reduced germination of basil during spring in the 2x rate (Table 5.3). This reduction is

attributed to the effect of EC, based on regression analysis (P > 0.05, R2 = 0.94, data not shown).

Sanchez-Monedero et al. (2004) found that replacing up to 67% of commercial substrate

with compost composed of 88 % sweet sorghum bagasse, 11% pine bark 1% and urea reduced

germination percentage of tomato seeds by 23%. This reduction was attributed to the high EC of

the compost (13.21 dS cm )~. Larrea (2005) observed that increasing feather meal as a

component of a custom organic mix composed of peat/perlite base, and vermicompost from 3 10

mL to 620 mL, reduced germination of tomato seedlings. Even though EC levels in our study are

higher than the adequate EC for vegetable transplants grown in soilless potting media, no

reduction on germination was observed. Similar to our results, Clark and Cavigelli (2005) found

that germination of lettuce and tatsoi grown in 100% compost derived from pre-consumer food

residuals mixed with yard waste (FR) was not different than the commercial peat-based potting

media with synthetic fertilizer.

Mean days to emergence (MDE) of both seasons and temperature regimes are shown in

Table 5-3. Based on ANOVA, MDE was affected by the interaction of treatment, rate and season

(P > 0.01, data not shown); therefore, data was analyzed by season. Mean days to emergence for

summer was 3.5 and for spring was 5.3, but no conclusions can be drawn due to the interaction.

MDE may have been enhanced by the higher number of DD observed in summer during week

one (247) compared to spring (202). During spring, MDE was not affected by either treatment or

rate. Mean days to germination was the same for both rates, 5.3 d. During summer, MDE was

dependant on treatment and rate interaction, therefore data was analyzed by season and rate. A









main effect of treatment was only observed in the 2x rate, where FRK and BRK increased days

to emergence. The delay from FRK is attributed to the effect of EC, based on regression analysis

(P > 0.05, R2 = 0.98, data not shown). Similarly, Kahn et al (2005) observed a delay in

germination on media amended with compost that had EC above 4 dS cml

Seedling Growth

Based on ANOVA, seedling height was affected by the interaction of treatment, rate and

season (P <0.01, data not shown); therefore, seedling height was analyzed by season and rate.

During both seasons, height was affected by treatment (Table 5-4). During both seasons,

transplants grown in CRF in both rates were higher than those grown using organic blends. For

example, in transplants grown in summer using lx rate in media fertilized in CRF were 24.8 cm

tall, followed by transplants grown in media amended with FRK (21.4 cm), and then FBK (19. 1).

In the same season, when using the 2x rate, CRF was 10 cm taller than those grown using the lx

rate, although they were not statistically analyzed due to interactions. No specific trend was

observed during this season, but in some cases plants grown with 2x tend to taller than those

grown with lx rate, in this case, BBK and BRK. During spring, transplants tend to be smaller

than those grown in summer, in some cases like with BBK at lx 2-fold taller, and at 2x, 5-fold

taller. This difference among seasons can be attributed to higher EC for spring than summer

season, and higher number of DD in summer (1279) compared to spring (1064), that might

affected release rate from organic blends.

Seedling dry weight (DW) was affected by the interaction of treatment and rate, and

treatment and season, based on ANOVA (P <0.01, data not shown); therefore data was analyzed

by season. During spring, DW was dependant on the interaction of treatment and rate. In this

season, transplant dry weight was greatest in CRF, at both rates, than those grown with organic

blends (Table 5-4). In both rates, transplants grown with custom blends containing FM (FBK and










FRK) had more dry weight than those grown with custom blends containing BLM (BBK and

BRK). During summer, DW was dependant on the main effect of treatment. Transplants grown

with CRF had greater DW than those grown with organic blends, and all fertilized treatments

were higher than NA: CRF 0.94 g > FRK 0.62 g = FBK 0.53 g = BRK 0.39 g = BBK 0.25 g, and

> NA 0.04 g.

Research results of organic fertilizers for transplant production have not been consistent.

Transplant growth response is dependant on the physical and chemical characteristics of the

materials used and the rate and crop type. In many cases, seedling emergence and transplant

growth in media plus compost have decreased or been similar to those grown with in potting

media alone. For example, Kahn et al. (2005) observed that when using 80% media composed

of 60% vermiculite and 40% peat, mixed with 20% compost medium made from 50% yard

trimmings and 50% biosolids compost, cauliflower transplant height was similar to those grown

in 100% PL, but increasing compost rate decreased height. Gagnon and Berrouard (2004)

evaluated the potential of several organic wastes from the agri-food industry for growing

greenhouse tomato transplants. Researchers concluded that when using compost made from

meals from blood, feather, meat, crab shells, fish, cotton-seed, and whey by-products mixed with

peat, tomato transplant shoot dry weight increased 57-83% compared with non-fertilized plants.

Response to compost treatments differs by crop. Sanchez-Monedero et al. (2004) found

that replacing up to 67% of a commercial potting media with compost composed of 88 % sweet

sorghum bagasse, 11% pine bark 1% and urea resulted in taller broccoli transplants with similar

DW of those grown in commercial substrates with inorganic fertilizer. However, in the same

study, tomato transplants were shorter, but had similar DW of those grown in commercial









substrates, and onion transplant height was similar to those grown in commercial substrate, but

had lower DW.

Nutritional Status

Results of total N percentage per g of dry matter for both seasons are shown on Table 5-5.

Total N percentage was dependant on the interaction of treatment and season based on ANOVA

(P <0.01, data not shown); therefore data was analyzed by season. During both seasons, total N

was dependant on the main effect of T and S. During summer, transplants grown using BBK had

higher N content than transplants grown in the other treatments. Transplants grown in NA were

the only treatment with lower N than the average N content for vegetable crops, (Taiz and

Zeiger, 2002) to be 1.5% gl of DW. During spring, transplants grown in blends containing BLM

(BBK and BRK) had higher N content than transplants grown in the remaining treatments.

In conclusion, there was no significant reduction of seed germination or means days to

emergence from treatments with organic blends compared to the controlled-release fertilizer and

the potting media with no fertilizer, except in one case, where reduction was attributed to high

EC levels. In specific cases, media germination and mean days to emergence were linearly

correlated to EC. Although EC levels were above adequate EC levels for transplant production,

no significant reduction in germination and mean days to emergence was observed. Transplants

grown in blends containing feather meal (FBK and FRK) were generally taller to those grown on

blends containing blood meal. Differences in transplant dry weight were dependant on the

season, but within each season, dry weights were similar among organic treatments. Although

transplants grown in BBK and BRK had higher N content than the remaining treatments, only

basil grown without fertilizer (NA) was deficient in N. Overall, seedling growth and dry weight

was higher in conventional system than organic treatments, which in some cases were higher or

similar to those grown in media with no fertility. Finally synchronizing nutrient availability with









crop demand using organic fertilizers can be difficult due to the high variable nature of these

materials. Future research should focus on finding methods to optimize synchrony between

nutrient release taking into account the chemical (pH and EC) and environmental factors

(temperature and moisture) that affect nutrient release and plant growth.










Table 5-1. Chemical properties of potting media and custom organic blends used for basil transplant production.
Treatmentz pH EC_ NH4 -N _NO3--N P K Mg_ Ca S
--dS cm '-- --------mg L^'-------- -----------------------------------------m kg- --------------------------------
NA 6.0 0.36 5.25 14.52 3.01 17.09 26.20 58.01 76.14
FBK 8.2 4.16 78.75 2.80 4750.00 12781.00 171.70 153.59 567.36
FRK 7.9 3.51 56.75 2.80 4316.00 12731.00 125.10 142.29 408.86
BBK 8.1 4.31 60.75 2.25 5402.00 12988.00 119.40 105.19 365.64
BRK 8.0 3.15 57.75 2.45 4946.00 12935.00 81.80 78.29 311.76
z NA = media with no application; FBK= feather meal + blood meal + potassium magnesium sulfate; FRK = feather meal + rock
phosphate + potassium magnesium sulfate; BBK = blood meal + bone meal + potassium magnesium sulfate; BRK = blood meal ~
rock phosphate + potassium magnesium sulfate; CRF = controlled-released fertilizer.


Table 5-2. Values for constituents of the irrigation water used in the greenhouse.
pH _EC NH4' N NO3 N P K
---dS cm~ --- --------------------------mg L^ ---------------------
8.6 0.30 0.33 0.09 0.87 14.48










Table 5-3. Analysis of variance on the effect of four custom organic blends, a controlled-released fertilizer and media with no
fertilizer on germination and mean days to emergence of basil transplants.
Treatment Spring Summer
lx 2x lx 2x
--------------------------------Germinatio(%)--------------------------
NAz 93.7 94.5
FBK 89.8 90.6 ab 97.7 90.6
FRK 89.1 84.4 bc 97.7 91.4
BBK 92.2 82.8 c 94.5 89.8
BRK 92.2 85.9 abc 97.7 93.7
CRF 91.4 92.2 a 94.5 93.7
ANOVA
Source df F P F P F P F P
T 5 0.34 0.8780 3.86 0.0305 0.86 0.5318 0.69 0.6143
R2 0.21 0.74 0.31 0.40
CV 6.38 4.72 3.85 4.72
-------------------------Mean days to emergence-----------------------
NA 5.1 3.4
FBK 5.6 5.6 3.4 3.3 b
FRK 5.8 5.1 3.4 4.0 a
BBK 5.2 5.6 3.4 4.0 a
BRK 5.3 4.9 3.3 3.5 b
CRF 5.0 5.2 3.6 3.6 b
ANOVA
Source df F P F P F P F P
T 5 2.68 0.0635 1.63 0.2294 19.24 0.1156 6.89 0.0040
R2 0.57 0.51 0.48 0.72
CV 6.5 8.77 3.98 6.34
z NA = media with no application; FBK= feather meal + blood meal + potassium magnesium sulfate; FRK = feather meal + rock
phosphate + potassium magnesium sulfate; BBK = blood meal + bone meal + potassium magnesium sulfate; BRK = blood meal ~
rock phosphate + potassium magnesium sulfate; CRF controlled-released fertilizer.
* Means within columns separated using Duncan's multiple range test, P < 0.05.










Table 5-4. Analysis of variance on the effect of four custom organic blends, a controlled-released fertilizer and media with no
fertilizer on height and dry weight of basil transplants.
Treatment Spring Summer
lx 2x lx 2x
-----------------------------------Height-cm)-------------------------------------
NAz 4.6 d 3.7 f'
FBK 11.8 b 8.4 c 19.1 c 19.8 b
FRK 11.7 b 11.7 b 21.4 b 15.4 c
BBK 4.6 d 2.8 d 10.7 e 15.0 c
BRK 9.8 c 3.9 d 13.0 d 16.8 bc
CRF 19.3 a 22.0 a 24.8 a 34.2 a
ANOVA
Source df F P F P F P F P
T 5 92.10 <0.0001 154.14 <0.0001 177.53 <0.0001 30.44 <0.0001
R2 0.78 0.85 0.87 0.55
CV 25.81 31.28 18.55 35.31
----------------------------------Dry Weight (g)-----------------------------------
NA 0.17 c 0.04 e
FBK 0.35 b 0.22 b 0.58 bc 0.47 b
FRK 0.43 b 0.22 b 0.76 ab 0.49 b
BBK 0.14 c 0.02 c 0.23 de 0.28 b
BRK 0.21 c 0.04 c 0.42 cd 0.37 b
CRF 1.022 a 1.46 a 0.86 a 1.04 a
ANOVA
Source df F P F P F P F P
T 5 60.83 <0.0001 100.33 <0.0001 19.24 <0.0001 11.72 0.0004
R2 0.95 0.97 0.87 0.81
CV 21.87 30.57 29.72 32.63
z NA = media with no application; FBK= feather meal + blood meal + potassium magnesium sulfate; FRK = feather meal + rock
phosphate + potassium magnesium sulfate; BBK = blood meal + bone meal + potassium magnesium sulfate; BRK = blood meal ~
rock phosphate + potassium magnesium sulfate; CRF controlled-released fertilizer.
YMeans within columns separated using Duncan's multiple range test, P < 0.05.










Table 5-5. Analysis of variance on the effect of four custom organic blends, a controlled-
released fertilizer and media with no fertilizer on total nitrogen per gram of dry
weight of basil transplants.
Treatment Spring Summer
NAz 1.06 d 0.85 cY
FBK 2.97 bc 1.55 b
FRK 2.33 c 1.93 b
BBK 4.38 a 3.36 a
BRK 4.09 a 2.77 a
CRF 3.07 b 2.77 a
ANOVA
Source df F P F P
T 5 20.89 <0.0001 13.21 <0.0001
R 1 10.50 0.0029 26.29 <0.0001
Tx R 4 1.49 0.2304 0.95 0.4470
R2 0.82 0.79
CV 30.86 24.44
z NA = media with no application; FBK= feather meal + blood meal + potassium magnesium
sulfate; FRK = feather meal + rock phosphate + potassium magnesium sulfate; BBK = blood
meal + bone meal + potassium magnesium sulfate; BRK = blood meal + rock phosphate +
potassium magnesium sulfate; CRF controlled-released fertilizer.
YMeans within columns separated using Duncan's multiple range test, P < 0.05.






































|- NA +FBK ** FRK -9-BBK ** BRK -A-CRF |



Average pH Summer 2xz


| +FBK ** FRK -9BBK ** BRK -A-CRF|



Average pH Summer 1x"


Average pH Spring 1xz


Average pH Spring 2x"


2 3 4
Weeks


0 1 23
Weeks


4 5


23 4 5
Weeks


2 3 4
Weeks


I+FBK 4- FRK +BBK ** BRK -A-CRF


- NA + FBK 4- FRK -9- BK ** BRK -A- RF


NA = media with no application; FBK= feather meal + blood meal + potassium magnesium
sulfate; FRK = feather meal + rock phosphate + potassium magnesium sulfate; BBK = blood
meal + bone meal + potassium magnesium sulfate; BRK blood meal + rock phosphate +

potassium magnesium sulfate; CRF = controlled-released fertilizer. z Calculated and analyzed as
Hydrogen concentration.


Figure 5-1. Average media solution pH measured by pour-through media extraction procedure
from four custom organic blends, a controlled-released fertilizer and potting media
with no amendment used for basil transplant production.







































- NA -*-FBK *- FRK -9-BBK *- BRK --CRF



Average EC Summer 1x


012345
Weeks


+FBK ** FRK -9-BBK ** BRK -A-CRF



Average EC Summer 2x


- NA -*- BK ** FRK -9- BK ** BRK -- RF


-*- BK +- FRK -9- BK ** BRK -A- RF


Average EC Spring 1x


Average EC Spring 2x


0123
Weeks


4 5


.' ~aLL~i


0123
Weeks


4 5


0123
Weeks


4 5


NA = media with no application; FBK= feather meal + blood meal + potassium magnesium
sulfate; FRK = feather meal + rock phosphate + potassium magnesium sulfate; BBK = blood
meal + bone meal + potassium magnesium sulfate; BRK = blood meal + rock phosphate +

potassium magnesium sulfate; CRF = controlled-released fertilizer.


Figure 5-2. Average media solution EC measured by pour-through media extraction procedure
from four custom organic blends, a controlled-released fertilizer and potting media
with no amendment used for basil transplant production.















Reference

Raviv et
l1., 2005


APPENDIX A
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES


fertilizer for organic vegetable

Results


a


A-1. Research on the use of compost and other organic
production in greenhouse
Crop Media Nutrient Source and
rates
Tomato Composts derived Sea-bird guano (G)
from separated cow containing 14N-
manure (SCM), 4.3P-2.5K. Half of
mixed with orange the media volume
peel (OP), wheat (peat or compost)
straw (WS) or grape
marc (GM).
Peat


N release from OP-SCM
and WS-SCM with or
without G was higher than
GM-SCM and peat. Plant
height was the same for
OP-SCM, OP-SCM+G,
WS-SCM and WS-
SCM+G, which were
higher than the other
treatments .
The pH of all organic
treatment was higher than
the ideal pH. After
addition of elemental
sulfur, pH reached the
ideal range. Electrical
conductivity reached up to
10 dS cm-3, but decreased
to optimal levels after 4
weeks. Harvest yields
grown organically were
similar to those grown
conventionally, although
the percentage of No. 1
fruit was much lower in
the conventional than the
orgamic
Total yield for plants
grown in PL, in both years,
was higher in organic than
conventional. For RW and
PPC conventional was
higher than organic.


Tomato Peat /pine bark
commercial mix,
coconut coir / pine
bark media with the
addition of
vermicompost;
amended with
BLM, bone meal
(BM) and potassium
sulfate.








Basil Rockwool (RW)
Perlite (PL)
Sphagnum peat /
perlite / compost
media (PPC)


Two liquid organic
fertilizers and one
liquid conventional
fertilizer Stage 1:
90N-45P-195K,
stage 2: 125N-45P-
195K, stage 3:
165N-45P-310K










Conventional liquid
fertilizer and
organic liquid
fertilizer consisting
of fermented
poultry compost,
hydrolyzed fish
emulsion, kelps
extracts, and soft
rock phosphate. 520
mL solution daily


Rippy et
al., 2004

















Succop
and
Newman,
2004










A-2. Research on the use of compost and other organic fertilizer for organic vegetable and transplant production in greenhouse


Crop
Tomato,
cabbage and
lettuce



Basil





Lettuce and
tatsoi





Tomato






Bell pepper,
watermelon
and onion


Media
Control: vermiculite and fine
Finnish peat 4:6 (PV)
Test medium: vermiculite, fine
Finnish peat, and compost made
of coarse fraction of cow manure
4:3:3. (CPV)
Pure grade peat or compost
prepared from coarse fraction of
cow manure, wheat straw and
chicken manure 6.5:2:1.5.
Inoculation with Fusarium
Commercial substrate bark, peat
and fine sand (Filler).
Commercial peat based media
with added synthetic fertilizer.


Commercial conventional media
Commercial organic mixes
Custom organic mixes



Two soilless media
One soil media
Conventional media


Nutrient Source and rates
Lettuce was fertilized with
water extract of fish meal.
Cabbage and tomato were
fertilized with water extract
of guano.
@ 40 mg N L-'
None





Compost derived from
preconsumer food residuals
mixed with yard waste (FR)
and straw horse bedding
(HB).
@ 0, 50 and 100%
Custom organic mixes
composed of peat / perlite and
mixed with vermicompost (@
10, 20%), kelp meal (@ 0,
133 mL), and feather meal
(@ 0, 310, 465 and 620 mL)
Liquid organic fertilizer 7.5
mL L-' (2. 1N 3.3P 2.2K)
Water soluble synthetic
fertilizers (20N 20P 20K)


Results
Fresh weight and dry weight of lettuce and
cabbage grown in CPV were higher than plants
grown PV. For tomato, plants grown in CPV,
transplant weight, height and total yield were
higher when compared to PV.

Plants inoculated and non-inoculated grown in
compost accumulated more fresh weight than
peat-grown. Compost-grown plants were less
affected by inoculation.

FR effect on germination, height and
marketable yield for lettuce and tatsoi was not
different from the commercial peat-based
potting media. HB at all rates was unacceptable
for commercial production.

Seed germination was higher in the
conventional and organic commercial
formulations. No consistent relationship was
found between media pH, salt levels or physical
properties and germination rates.

Watermelons were sufficiently vigorous for
transplanting regardless of the media and
fertilizer used. Bell pepper and onion seedlings
were required to be held up to 34 additional
days before being vigorous enough for
transplanting. Adjustments were made and It
was necessary to apply 4x the recommended
rate (30 mL L-') in order to produce peppers
similar to those produced in conventional
systems .


Reference
Raviv et
al., 1998




Raviv et
al., 1998



Clark and
Cavigelli,
2005



Larrea and
Peet, 2004




Russo,
2005









A-3. Volume of custom blends and controlled-release fertilizer added to each pot
Treatment FM BLM BM RP KMS CRF

FBK 150 43 55
FRK 157 300 55
BBK 135 43 55
BBK 140 300 55
CRF 100
















Cumulative 1 Cumulative 2 Cumulative 3 Cumulative 4 Cumulative 5
Source df F P F P F P F P F P
S 1 63.52 <0.0001 276.32 <0.0001 225.04 <0.0001 166.07 <0.0001 121.23 <0.0001
T 6 64.90 <0.0001 202.36 <0.0001 539.97 <0.0001 802.94 <0.0001 947.37 <0.0001
TR 1 6.48 0.0123 1.27 0.2624 1.61 0.2066 18.00 <0.0001 26.75 <0.0001
Tx S 6 42.80 <0.0001 153.72 <0.0001 136.74 <0.0001 102.29 <0.0001 76.95 <0.0001
TR x S 1 0.76 0.3865 0.05 0.8298 0.69 0.4089 1.82 0. 1797 2.13 0.1477
Tx TR 6 7.64 <0.0001 6.04 <0.0001 3.94 0.0014 6.53 <0.0001 11.02 <0.0001
T x TR x S 6 6.32 <0.0001 3.90 0.0015 3.35 0.0046 2.38 0.0338 3.99 0.0012
R2 0.87 0.95 0.97 0.98 0.98
CV 51.81 32.09 21.16 17.73 16.5
z S = Season; T = Treatment; TR = Temperature regime.

B-2. Analysis of variance of cumulative nitrogen nitrification from five organic nutrient sources, a controlled-released fertilizer and
nittio medlia with no fertilizerf


pVC'llVI gCII .VCIYI
Cumulative 1 Cumulative 2 Cumulative 3 Cumulative 4 Cumulative 5
Sources df F PF PF PF PF P
S 1 2.34 0.1291 0.22 0.6369 9.40 0.0027 23.68 <0.0001 42.45 <0.0001
T 6 371.26 <0.0001 997.15 <0.0001 251.87 <0.0001 375.77 <0.0001 536.71 <0.0001
TR 1 9.70 0.0024 28.39 <0.0001 19.72 <0.0001 18.97 <0.0001 23.30 <0.0001
Tx S 6 1.87 0.0919 9.42 <0.0001 6.42 <0.0001 9.46 <0.0001 16.41 <0.0001
TR x S 1 0.00 0.9929 3.35 0.0699 14.31 0.0003 15.55 0.0001 13.75 0.0003
Tx TR 6 5.80 <0.0001 10.36 <0.0001 6.98 <0.0001 8.36 <0.0001 10.53 <0.0001
T x TR x S 6 1.39 0.2267 3.52 0.0032 3.29 0.0053 2.83 0.0135 2.73 0.0167
R2 0.96 0.98 0.94 0.96 0.97
CV 42.14 21.07 37.14 29.75 24.26
z S = Season; T = Treatment; TR = Temperature regime.


APPENDIX B
ANALYSIS OF VARIANCE


B-1. Analysis of variance of cumulative nitrogen mineralization from five
nitto media with no fertilizer


organic nutrient sources, a controlled-released fertilizer and











B-3. Analysis of variance of cumulative nitrogen mineralization from four custom organic blends, a controlled-released fertilizer and
potting media with no fertilizer.
Cumulative 1 Cumulative 2 Cumulative 3 Cumulative 4 Cumulative 5
Source df F P F P F P F P F P
S 1 32.76 <0.0001 86.37 <0.0001 159.87 <0.0001 141.24 <0.0001 129.13 <0.0001
T 5 68.44 <0.0001 77.72 <0.0001 169.80 <0.0001 193.36 <0.0001 241.09 <0.0001
TR 1 8.67 0.0044 11.02 0.0015 0.57 0.4547 3.25 0.3268 7.88 0.0065
Tx S 5 15.67 <0.0001 20.26 <0.0001 24.00 <0.0001 25.60 <0.0001 29.81 <0.0001
TR x S 1 81.10 <0.0001 27.89 <0.0001 49.95 <0.0001 25.41 <0.0001 9.10 0.0036
Tx TR 5 2.83 0.0221 2.15 0.0696 12.96 <0.0001 8.95 <0.0001 7.78 <0.0001
T x TR x S 5 7.86 <0.0001 2.38 0.0471 5.93 0.0001 5.52 0.0003 7.60 <0.0001
R2 0.89 0.90 0.94 0.95 0.96
CV 25.02 22.75 21.32 18.68 16.17
z S = Season; T = Treatment; TR = Temperature regime.


B-4. Analysis of variance of cumulative nitrogen nitrification from four custom organic blends, a controlled-released fertilizer and
potting media with no fertilizer.
Cumulative 1 Cumulative 2 Cumulative 3 Cumulative 4 Cumulative 5
Sources df F P F P F P F P F P
S 1 18.97 <0.0001 8.62 0.0045 0.95 0.3323 24.88 <0.0001 67.31 <0.0001
T 5 359.95 <0.0001 709.24 <0.0001 1006.48 <0.0001 1441.23 <0.0001 1668.22 <0.0001
TR 1 2.84 0.0968 14.66 0.0003 40.45 <0.0001 80.27 <0.0001 97.13 <0.0001
Tx S 5 22.50 <0.0001 37.50 <0.0001 30.43 <0.0001 31.82 <0.0001 31.65 <0.0001
TR x S 1 0.27 0.6034 0.47 0.4938 7.24 0.0090 18.57 <0.0001 17.02 0.0001
Tx TR 5 3.14 0.0132 1.59 0. 1760 2.03 0.0850 3.94 0.0035 5.10 0.0005
T x TR x S 5 0.27 0.9257 3.57 0.0063 8.78 <0.0001 16.31 <0.0001 21.44 <0.0001
R2 0.97 0.98 0.99 0.99 0.96
CV 47.15 30.73 23.86 18.76 16.15
z S = Season; T = Treatment; TR = Temperature regime.










B-5. Analysis of variance of total nitrogen content in basil transplants grown using four custom
organic blends, a controlled-released fertilizer and potting media with no amendment.
Source df F P
T 5 32.38 <0.0001
R 1 36.12 <0.0001
S 1 41.39 <0.0001
Tx RxS 4 2.33 0.0658
Tx R 4 0.24 0.9174
Tx S 5 3.40 0.0087
Rx S 1 1.56 0.2166
R2 20.71
CV 0.83

B-6. Analysis of variance of dry weight of basil transplants grown using four custom organic
blends, a controlled-released fertilizer and potting media with no amendment.
Source df F P
T 5 110.36 <0.0001
R 1 1.63 0.2060
S 1 13.25 0.0006
Tx RxS 4 1.63 0.1784
Tx R 4 9.95 <0.0001
Tx S 5 12.64 <0.0001
Rx S 1 0.00 0.9792
R2 0.92
CV 29.35

B-7. Analysis of variance of height of basil transplants grown using four custom organic blends,
a controlled-released fertilizer and potting media with no amendment.
Source df F P
T 5 221.80 <0.0001
R 1 0.97 0.3243
S 1 386.22 <0.0001
Tx RxS 4 12.09 <0.0001
Tx R 4 16.74 <0.0001
Tx S 5 9.11 <0.0001
Rx S 1 28.16 <0.0001
R2 0.78
CV 30.40










B-8. Analysis of variance of mean days to emergence of basil transplants grown using four
custom organic blends, a controlled-released fertilizer and potting media with no
amendment.
Source df F P
T 5 2.45 0.0430
R 1 1.77 0.1882
S 1 638.99 <0.0001
Tx RxS 4 3.64 0.0099
Tx R 4 1.93 0.1168
Tx S 5 2.34 0.0518
Rx S 1 6.08 0.0164
R2 0.92
CV 7.22

B-9. Analysis of variance of emergence (%) of basil transplants grown using four custom
organic blends, a controlled-released fertilizer and potting media with no amendment.
Source df F P
T 5 0.95 0.4546
R 1 14.65 0.0003
S 1 18.50 <0.0001
Tx RxS 4 0.96 0.4332
Tx R 4 1.25 0.3007
Tx S 5 0.96 0.4494
Rx S 1 0.13 0.7200
R2 0.50
CV 5.26










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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

Alej andra was born in Honduras, Central America. She is mom to beautiful 5 year-old boy

named Ricardo Andree. She earned her Bachelor of Science at Zamorano Agriculture University

in Honduras, where she pursued an agriculture degree with a minor in Natural Resources and

Biological Conservation. Before starting her Master' s in University of Florida she worked with

the National Direction of Agricultural Science and Technology of the Ministry of Agriculture

and Livestock of Honduras. Her main responsibilities were to promote organic agriculture

among farmers and consumers, and provide technical assistance to organic farmers.





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NUTRIENT RELEASE AND AV AILABILITY FROM IN DIVIDUAL AND BLENDED NUTRIENT SOURCES FOR ORGANIC TRANSPLANT PRODUCTION By IDALIA ALEJANDRA SI ERRA AUGUSTINUS A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLOR IDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF SCIENCE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2007 1

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2007 Idalia Alejandra Sierra Augustinus 2

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To my son Andre this is for you 3

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Many people supported me during this life experien ce. First and foremost I want to thank God for his immense love, help, and fidelity. I give him the honor and glory of this journey. I would l like to thank my supervisory committee members (Dr. Danielle Treadwell, Dr. Eric Simonne, and Dr. Donald Graetz) for giving me the opportunity to work with them, and for their great contributions to my personal and professional development. I am especially grateful to Dr. Danielle Treadwell. Without her guidan ce, perseverance, and patience this would have not been possible. I will always admire her personally and pr ofessionally. I also want express my gratitude to the Fulbright-OAS Ecology Prog ram for enabling me to pursue my graduate studies. I extend my thanks to all the Horticultu ral Sciences Department staff for their help; and especially Mike Alligood, I exte nd to him my deepest gratitude. I thank all of my friends (Gina Canales, P ili Paz, Elena and Dilcia Toro, Elena Sierra, Byron Reyes and Aparna Gazula) for their friendship and fun and happy memories. I would like to thank my son, my parents, brothers, family, a nd friends for all of their love and support from the distance. Finally, I would lik e to extend my deepest gratitude to Jorge Abastida for all his support and love during this time. 4

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TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ...............................................................................................................4 LIST OF TABLES ...........................................................................................................................7 LIST OF FIGURES .........................................................................................................................9 ABSTRACT ...................................................................................................................................11 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION................................................................................................................. .13 2 LITERATURE REVIEW.......................................................................................................16 Overview of the Organic Industry..........................................................................................16 US Greenhouse and Vegetable Transplant Production ..........................................................17 Vegetable Greenhouse Production ..................................................................................17 Transplant Production .....................................................................................................18 Environmental Concerns .................................................................................................19 Use of Organic Amendments in Vegetable Production ..........................................................20 Organic Transplant Research ..................................................................................................21 Factors Affecting Mineralizati on and Nitrific ation Process ...................................................25 Electrical Conductivity and pH .......................................................................................26 Temperature and Moisture ..............................................................................................27 Conclusions .............................................................................................................................29 3 EFFECT OF TEMPERATURE ON NUTRIENT RELEASE RATES FROM ORGANIC NUTRIENT SOURCES A PPROVED FOR ORGANIC TRANSPLANT PRODUCTION..................................................................................................................... ..33 Abstract ...................................................................................................................................33 Introduction .............................................................................................................................34 Materials and Methods ...........................................................................................................37 Media Characteristics and Organic Nutrient Sources .....................................................37 Cultural Practices .............................................................................................................38 Leachate Collection and Analysis ...................................................................................39 Calculation of net N minera lization and nitrification ......................................................40 Experimental design and statistical analysis ...................................................................41 Results and Discussion ...........................................................................................................41 Media Solution pH ..........................................................................................................41 Media Solution EC..........................................................................................................42 Ammonium Release Rates ..............................................................................................43 Nitrate Release Rates .......................................................................................................45 Phosphorus and Potassium Release and Availability ......................................................46 5

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Nitrogen Availability .......................................................................................................47 4 EFFECT OF TEMPERATURE ON NUTRI ENT RELEASE RATES FROM CUSTOM ORGANIC BLENDS FOR ORGANI C TRANSPLANT PRODUCTION............................58 Abstract ...................................................................................................................................58 Introduction .............................................................................................................................59 Materials and Methods ...........................................................................................................63 Media Characteristics and Organic Amendments ...........................................................63 Cultural Practices .............................................................................................................64 Leachate Collection and Analysis ...................................................................................65 Calculation of Net N Mineralization and Nitrification ....................................................65 Experimental Design an d Statistical Analysis .................................................................66 Results and Discussion ...........................................................................................................66 Media Solution pH ..........................................................................................................66 Media Solution EC..........................................................................................................68 Ammonium Release Rates ..............................................................................................70 Nitrate Release Rates .......................................................................................................71 Phosphorus and Potassium Release and Availability ......................................................73 Nitrogen Availability .......................................................................................................73 5 ORGANIC CUSTOM BLENDS AFFECT GROWTH AND NUTRIENT CONTENT OF BASIL ( Ocimum basilicam L.) TRANSPLANTS...........................................................84 Abstract ...................................................................................................................................84 Introduction .............................................................................................................................85 Materials and Methods ...........................................................................................................87 Media Characteristics and Organic Blends .....................................................................87 Cultural Practices .............................................................................................................89 Data Collection ................................................................................................................90 Statistical Analysis ..........................................................................................................90 Results and Discussion ...........................................................................................................91 Media Solution pH ..........................................................................................................91 Media Solution EC..........................................................................................................92 Seedling Germination ......................................................................................................93 Seedling Growth ..............................................................................................................95 Nutritional Status .............................................................................................................97 APPENDIX A ADDITIONAL RESOURCES.............................................................................................105 B ANALYSIS OF VARIANCE...............................................................................................108 LIST OF REFERENCES .............................................................................................................112 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH .......................................................................................................119 6

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LIST OF TABLES Table page 3-1. Chemical properties of potting media and organic nutrient sources. .................................49 3-2. Values for constituents of the irrigation water used in the greenhouse and laboratory used for irrigation of organic nutrient sources. ..................................................................49 3-3. Regression analysis between media so lution pH and EC and N mineralization (Nmin) and nitrification (Nnit) of orga nic nutrient sources for the summer season. ........50 3-4. Net cumulative release as mineralized (N min) and nitrified (Nnit) N from three organic nutrient sources, a controlled-release fertilizer and potting media with no fertilizer, as influenced by temperatur e regime, season and time of incubation. ...............51 4-1. Chemical properties of potting media and custom organic blends. ...................................75 4-2. Values for constituents of the irrigation water used in the greenhouse and laboratory used for irrigation of custom organic blends. ....................................................................75 4-3. Regression analysis between media so lution pH and EC and N mineralization (Nmin) and nitrification (Nnit) of custom organic blends. ..............................................................76 4-4. Net release as mineralized (Nmin) and nitrified (Nnit) N from four custom organic blends, a controlled-released fertilizer and potting media with no amendment, as influenced by temperature regime, season and time of incubation. ...................................77 5-1. Chemical properties of potting media a nd custom organic blends used for basil transplant production. ........................................................................................................99 5-2. Values for constituents of the irrigation water used in the greenhouse. ............................99 5-3. Analysis of variance on the effect of four custom organic blends, a controlledreleased fertilizer and media with no fertilizer on germination and mean days to emergence of basil transplants. ........................................................................................100 5-4. Analysis of variance on the effect of four custom organic blends, a controlledreleased fertilizer and media with no fertil izer on height and dry weight of basil transplants. .......................................................................................................................101 5-5. Analysis of variance on the effect of four custom organic blends, a controlledreleased fertilizer and media with no fer tilizer on total nitrogen per gram of dry weight of basil transplants. ..............................................................................................102 A-1. Research on the use of compost and othe r organic fertilizer for organic vegetable production in greenhouse.................................................................................................105 7

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A-2. Research on the use of compost and other organic fertilizer for organic vegetable and transplant production in greenhouse ................................................................................106 A-3. Volume of custom blends and contro lled-release fertilizer added to each pot ................107 B-1. Analysis of variance of cumulative n itrogen mineralization from five organic nutrient sources, a controlled-released fer tilizer and potting media with no fertilizer. ...108 B-2. Analysis of variance of cumulative nitrog en nitrification from five organic nutrient sources, a controlled-released fertilizer and potting media w ith no fertilizer. .................108 B-3. Analysis of variance of cumulative nitrog en mineralization from four custom organic blends, a controlled-released fertilizer and potting media with no fertilizer. ..................109 B-4. Analysis of variance of cumulative nitrog en nitrification from four custom organic blends, a controlled-released fertilizer and potting media with no fertilizer. ..................109 B-5. Analysis of variance of to tal nitrogen content in basil transplants grown using four custom organic blends, a controlled-released fertilizer and potting media with no amendment. ......................................................................................................................110 B-6. Analysis of variance of dry weight of basil transplants grown using four custom organic blends, a controlled-released fertilizer and potting media with no amendment. ......................................................................................................................110 B-7. Analysis of variance of height of basil transplants grown using four custom organic blends, a controlled-released fertilizer and potting media with no amendment. .............110 B-8. Analysis of variance of mean days to emergence of basil transplants grown using four custom organic blends, a controlled-r eleased fertilizer and potting media with no amendment. .................................................................................................................111 B-9. Analysis of variance of emergence (%) of basil transplants grown using four custom organic blends, a controlled-released fertilizer and potting media with no amendment. ......................................................................................................................111 8

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LIST OF FIGURES Figure page 2-1. Biochemical equations for mineralization and nitrification ...............................................32 3-1. Average media solution pH measured by pour-through media extraction procedure for summer season from five organic nutrient sources, a controlled-released fertilizer and potting media with no amendment. .............................................................................52 3-2. Average media solution EC measured by pour-through media extraction procedure for summer season from five organic nutrient sources, a controlled-released fertilizer and potting media with no amendment. .............................................................................53 3-3. Regression analysis between net cumulative release of NH4 + N and NO3 N from five organic nutrient sources, a controlled -release fertilizer and potting media with no fertilizer as affected by cumulative degree days. ..........................................................54 3-4. Net cumulative plant available nitrogen (PAN) from three organic nutrient sources, a controlled-release fertilizer and potting media with no fertilizer under two temperature regimes during two seasons. ..........................................................................55 3-5. Net cumulative available ammonium (NH4 +-N) from three organic nutrient sources, a controlled-release fertilizer and potting media with no fertilizer under two temperature regimes during two seasons. ..........................................................................56 3-6. Net cumulative available nitrate (NO3 --N) from three organic nutrient sources, a controlled-release fertilizer and potting media with no fertilizer under two temperature regimes during two seasons. ..........................................................................57 4-1. Average media solution pH measured by pour-through media extraction procedure from four custom organic blends, a contro lled-released fertilizer and potting media with no amendment, as influenced by temperature regime, season and time of incubation. ..........................................................................................................................78 4-2. Average media solution EC measured by pour-through media extraction procedure from four custom organic blends, a contro lled-released fertilizer and potting media with no amendment, as influenced by temperature regime, season and time of incubation. ..........................................................................................................................79 4-3. Regression analysis between net cumulative release of NH4 + N and NO3 N from custom organic blends, a controlled-release fertilizer and potting media with no amendment as affected by cumulative degree days. ..........................................................80 4-4. Net cumulative available potassium from four custom organic blends, and controlled-release fertilizer under two temperature regimes during two seasons. .............81 9

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4-5. Net cumulative plant available nitrogen (PAN) from four custom organic blends, a controlled-release fertilizer and po tting media with no amendment under two temperature regimes during two seasons. ..........................................................................82 4-6. Net cumulative available NH4 +-N from four custom organic blends, a controlledrelease fertilizer and potting media w ith no amendment under two temperature regimes during two seasons. ..............................................................................................83 5-1. Average media solution pH measured by pour-through media extraction procedure from four custom organic blends, a contro lled-released fertilizer and potting media with no amendment used for basil transplant production. ...............................................103 5-2. Average media solution EC measured by pour-through media extraction procedure from four custom organic blends, a contro lled-released fertilizer and potting media with no amendment used for basil transplant production. ...............................................104 10

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Abstract of Thesis Presen ted to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Master of Science NUTRIENT RELEASE AND AV AILABILITY FROM IN DIVIDUAL AND BLENDED NUTRIENT SOURCES FOR ORGANIC TRANSPLANT PRODUCTION By Idalia Alejandra Sierra Augustinus August 2007 Chair: Danielle Treadwell Major: Horticultural Science Plant available nutrients are released from organic nutrient sources through biological processes that are influenced by temperature, mo isture, pH and electri cal conductivity (EC) of the plant growing medium. To improve fertility ma nagement in organic vegetable systems, this research was conducted to study the effect of temperature on the release rates of ammonium nitrogen (NH 4 + -N), nitrate nitrogen (NO 3 -N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) from individual and blended organic nu trient sources. The objective of this research was to study the effect of temperature on the releas e rate of ammonium nitrogen (NH 4 + -N), nitrate nitrogen (NO 3 -N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) from nut rient sources and blends for five weeks under two temperature regimes during two seasons (spri ng and summer) and the effect of these blends on growth and nutrient content of basil ( Ocimum basilicum ) transplants. Five individual nutrient sources approved for use in organic production we re used, and included two N sources: 1) blood meal (BLM); 2) feather meal (FM); two P sour ces: 3) bone meal (BM); 4) rock phosphate (RP); and one K source: 5) potassium magnesium sulfat e (KMS). In addition, four custom blends: 1) FM + BM + KMS (FBK); 2) FM + RP +KMS (FRK); 3) BLM + BM + KMS (BBK); and 4) BLM + RP + KMS (BTK) were compared to a cont rolled-release synthetic fertilizer (CRF) and a control of potting media with no amendment (NA). Media was composed of peat, vermiculite, 11

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perlite, gypsum and dolomitic limestone. Individual nutrient sources were mixed with media at a 1:5, while blends were applied at a rate to provide 16N-2.6P-9.9K. Medi a solution pH and EC significantly affected N nitrificat ion from individual amendments. Increasing temperature, as the sum of degree days, enhanced cumulative plant available nitrogen release for all treatments. In both experiments, nitrification was low, and wa s attributed to high EC; and although not studied in this research, by the volatilization of NH 3 + denitrification and scar ce presence of nitrifying bacteria in peat. Water extractabl e P was detected only in CRF (< 5g kg -1 ). The BRK blend had the highest net cumulative K release rate, 45% equivalent to 44 g kg -1 blend, followed by BBK and FBK (39% and 38%), representing 38 g kg -1 blend of available K. In the basil experiment, the percent of basil germination and mean days to emergence were similar among all treatments except in one case the BBK, where reduction was attr ibuted to high EC levels. Basil transplants grown during spring in blends containing FM (F BK and FRK) were taller and had more dry weight than those in blends containing BLM. During summer, CRF 0.94 g > FRK 0.62 g = FBK 0.53 g = BRK 0.39 g = BBK 0.25 g, and > NA 0.04 g All fertilized transplants had sufficient tissue N concentration; however transplants produced in NA were deficient in N. 12

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CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION The National Organic Program (NOP) is a marke ting program that is housed in the United States Department of Agricultu re (USDA) and the Agricultural Marketing Service designed to provide uniform, national standards for agricult ural products. After full implementation of NOP in October 2002, US interest in organic products continues to grow in both number of product categories and sales outlets. The increasing cons umer demand for healthy and nutritious foods and increasing distribution in c onventional grocery cha nnels are the major drivers of market growth. Fresh fruits and vegetables are the largest ca tegory of sales of orga nic food, therefore, research on nutrient management of organic produc tion of vegetables has in creased over the past two decades. In organic systems, plant nutrition is based mainly on the transformation of organic materials into plant available form s of nutrients by microorganisms. Nutrients are supplied either by plant and animal-based amendments or mined natural products and are sometimes available as commercial formulations. This has stimulated interest in meeting crop nutrient requirements using manures, compost and other organic materials. According to the new National Organic Sta ndards (NOS), producers are required to use certified organic vegetable transplants for fiel d grown vegetables. Considerable research has been done on the use of organic nutrient sources for transplant production. Research has focused on evaluating compost and vermi-compost as potti ng media constituents, and the use of animal and plant wastes products, animal by-products an d liquid organic fertilizers. Results have not been consistent, and in some cases, the addi tion of organic material s to potting media has increased both electrical conductiv ity (EC) and pH to levels not suitable for transplant growth. 13

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Since plant nutrition in certifi ed organic production is based mainly on the decomposition of organic materials by microorgani sms, abiotic factors that affect microbial activity are of vital importance in determining nutrient release. Thes e factors include pH and EC, temperature and moisture. Because both mineralization and nitr ification are microbial -mediated processes, conditions that affect microbial ac tivity in the media will directly affect the release patterns of organic fertilizers. Research to improve manageme nt of organic fertilizers for organic transplant production has increased over the past years. St udies have focused on optimizing the use of compost and animal and plant-based resources as nutrient suppliers. Although some studies have demonstrated that organic amendments and fert ilizers may be used successfully in organic transplant production, it is hard to generalize the results to other crops and potting media, mainly due to the high variability on th e composition and nature of th ese materials and the specific management used in each study. Although more information has recently become available, future research should attempt to understand how environmental f actors such as temperature and moisture and chemical factors such as pH and EC affect the availability of nutri ents. In turn, this will provide tools to better synchronize release from organic materials with plant nutrient demand and will allow for the development of nutrient management recommenda tions with organic amendments and similar resources. The purpose of this research was to determine the type and rate of nutrient sources needed to produce certified organic transp lants with two temperature regimes. The specifics objectives were to: Determine the effect of temperature when th e moisture level of potting media is held constant on the nutrient release rates from fi ve different organic amendments approved for organic transplant production (Chapter 3). 14

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Determine the effect of temperature when th e moisture level of potting media is held constant on the nutrient release rates from four custom blends made from five different organic amendments (Chapter 4). Determine the effects of application rates of custom blends made from different organic amendments as well as the effect of nutrien t form on the growth and nutrient content of basil transplants (Chapter 5). 15

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CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE REVIEW Overview of the Organic Industry Organic agriculture is practiced in more than 120 countries, with almost 31 million ha of farmland under certified organic management worldwide representing 0.7% of the worlds agricultural land. Currentl y, the countries with th e greatest organic ar eas are Australia (11.8 million hectares), Argentina (3.1 million hectares), China (2.3 million hectares) and the US (1.6 million hectares) (Willer and Yussefi, 2007). Compar ed to other continents, North America had the highest growth of organic land, cropland, pa sture and range land; 500,000 ha more compared to the end of 2004 (Willer and Yussefi, 2007). Acco rding to the Economic Research Service of the United States Department of Agriculture (U SDA, 2003), organic farming became the fastest growing segment of US ag riculture during the 1990's, and has sustained an average growth rate of 20% a year. Total organic farming area increased from 538,623 ha in 1997 to over 1.6 million hectares in 2005, representing 0.5% of the total agricultural land (USDA, 2007a). Global sales of organic food and beverages ha ve increased by 43% from $23 billion in 2002 to $33 billion in 2005. The North American market valued at about $14.9 billion, accounted for 45% of global revenues in 2005 (Sahot a, 2007). As reported in Oberholtzer et al. (2005), Natural Food Merchandiser estimated US re tail sales of organic foods and beverages was $3.3 billion in 1996. In 2005, sales of organic fo od and drink were $14.5 billion (Sahota, 2006). Fresh market organic fruits and vegetables were the largest cate gory of sales accounting for 39% ($5.4 billion) of the organic food sales in 2005 (Organic Trade Association, 2006). In 2002, the NOS were officially implemen ted by the USDAs National Organic Program (USDA, 2007b). The NOS provide uniform standards for the production, handling, and labeling of organic agricultural products. Four years afte r full implementation of US NOS, interest in 16

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organic products continues to grow for the num ber categories of product offered and venues for selling these products (Haumann, 2007). Consum ers belief that organic products are more healthy and nutritious than conve ntionally grown products combined with increasing distribution in conventional grocery channels are the ma jor drivers of market growth (Haumann, 2007). Meanwhile, producers are turning to organic farm ing systems as a potential way to decrease reliance on nonrenewable resource s, capture high-value markets and premium prices and increase farm income (USDA, 2003). In 2007, Florida had approximately 130 organi c operations certifie d under the NOP (D. Treadwell, personal communication). In 2002, Florida Certified Or ganic Growers and Consumers Inc. (FOG), conducted a survey of certi fied organic producers in Florida. With a 33% response rate, certified operators reported cultivation of vegetables, citrus, sprouts, micro-greens, hay, pasture, blueberries, tropical fruits, chestnuts, herbs and edible flowers. Floridas certified organic growers reported a 21% increase in sales between 2001 ($517, 580) and 2002 ($627, 645) (Austin and Chase, 2004). US Greenhouse and Vegetable Transplant Production Vegetable Greenhouse Production According to the 2002 Census of Agriculture, the greenhouse vegetable area of the US was approximately 590 ha (National Ag ricultural Statistics Service; USDA, 2004). In Florida, the greenhouse industry increased from 27 ha in 199 1 to 39 ha in 2001 (Tyson et al., 2004). In 2001, the four major greenhouse crops were colored pe ppers (15.5 ha), tomatoes (7.3 ha), herbs (6.8 ha) and European cucumber (4.8 ha) (NFREC, 2001). In 2005, the to tal US certified organic area in greenhouses, including nursery crops a nd plant starts, was 1332 ha (USDA, 2007c). Floridas vegetable transplant industry was last inventoried in 1989 and 1990. During that period, there were 34 operators pr oducing $1.15 billion in sales of vegetable transplants. Tomato, 17

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pepper, and cabbage transplants represente d the greatest volume (> 83%) (Vavrina and Summerhill, 1992). No recent published information is available, but accord ing to the Southwest Florida Research and Education Center (SWF REC), there are over 20 commercial vegetable transplant producers in the state which produce a wide array of herbs and vegetables including: tomato, pepper, celery, squash, eggplant, cabba ge, triploid watermelon, muskmelon, broccoli, onion, lettuce, leek and Brussels sprouts (SWFREC, 2007). Transplant Production Transplant production has replaced direct s eeding for many vegetabl e crops because they provide uniformity and consistency compared to direct-seeded crops. Farmers use transplants because they usually want earlier production and greater early yields compared to direct seeding (Dufault, 1998). Transplants are typically starte d in the greenhouse where environmental factors such as temperature and moisture can be cont rolled. The goal in transplant production is to provide healthy, sturdy and compact plants wi th a well-developed root system and the appropriate level of stress tolerance to withstand environmental challenges when transplanted into the field. Therefore, commercial growers requ ire that all phases of transplant production be strictly controlled, especially th e growth rate. Nutritional and irrigation regimes are the most effective way of controlling transplant growth. Considerable research on nutrition of vegetable transplants has been conducted over the past 20 years (Dufault, 1998), but there is no generalized fertilizer program, so growers use their own bl ends and schedule based on experience (Cushman, 2007). Nutrient management in transplant production, conventional or organi c, is different from field production because there are on ly a few weeks (5-7 weeks) from sowing to transplanting. In addition, roots are restricted to a relatively small amount of grow th media; therefore efficient methods of nutrient supply are very important. 18

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Environmental Concerns Nitrate (NO 3 ) is one of the nutrients that may cause contamination of groundwater because it moves easily through the soil and it can be carried by rain or irriga tion water. Geographic analysis has indicated that land use is a major f actor in the distribution of total nitrogen (N) and total phosphorus (P) concentrations and yields in streams and ri vers (Mueller and Spahr, 2006). Nitrate concentration is greater at agricultural (>50% agricult ure and <5% urban) and mixed land-use sites (>25% agriculture and >5% urban) than at urba n sites (>25% urban and <25% agriculture) (Mueller an d Spahr, 2006). Nitrate leaching from agricultural land may cause algal blooms and eutrophication of estuarine ecosyst ems and also pose a public health risk. For example, a study of National Water-Quality Assessment Program of the US Geological Service (USGS) found that more than 12% (14 of 115) of the agricultural sites sampled during 19922001 had nitrate concentrations exceeding the US Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) maximum contaminant level for drinking water of 10 mg L -1 (Mueller and Spahr, 2006). Greenhouse practices such as applying excess water and fertilizer result in nutrient leaching and ultimately in water contamination (Greer and Adam 2005) Applying excess irrigation water to container media is often done to prevent salt accumulation. Recent studies have focused on increasing the efficiency of greenhouse irrigation systems to reduce the potential of water contamination (Colange lo and Brand, 2001; Math ers et al, 2005). Nursery operators have ranked contaminated runoff and ground water as the two top problems facing the industry, now and in the futu re (Urbano, 1989). In 2002, the Florida nursery industry made the decision to voluntarily par ticipate in the BMP program, and created the Interim Measures for Florida Producers of Cont ainer-Grown Plants (Yeager, 2005). In March 2006 the Florida Container Nursery BMP guide wa s released by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FLDACS) This guide is a dynamic document addressing 19

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many critical areas of plant production including fertilization and irrigation management. This comprehensive approach to nursery management allows growers to select effective Best Management Practices (BMPs) based on site specific conditions with the objective of enhancing, protecting and minimizing the potenti al for negative impacts to Floridas water resources. However, this document does not include any information on designing a nutrient management program with organic sources of fer tilizer, nor there is a BMP guide specifically for greenhouse vegetable production. Use of Organic Amendments in Vegetable Production Research on the use of organic amendments in vegetable production started in the late 1970s as a mean of re-use of organic wastes wi th the introduction of manures as an nutrient source for container-grown plants (Goh, 1979). Be fore 1998, research on the use of organic fertilizers and amendments such as meals of blood, bone, feather, fish, and meat, fish silage, sea weed products, compost and products derived fr om sewage sludge was mainly done in New Zealand, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and Israel for field grown vegetables including cabbage, lettuce, tomato, beans, peas, sweet corn, broccoli, brussels sprouts (Blatt, 1991; Goh and Vityakon, 1986; Hadas and Kautsky, 1994; Montagu and Goh, 1990; Smith and Hadley, 1988; and Smith and Hadley, 1989a) and vegetable transplants of lettuce, carrot, tomato and basil (Gagnon and Berrouard, 1994; Raviv et al ., 1998; Smith and Hadley, 1989b). It was not until the late 1990s that the number of published re search on organic fertilizers increased in the US. Compost and biosolids have been the most st udied amendments for their use in field grown vegetables (Li et al., 2000; Ozores-Hampton and Vavrina, 2002), container grown tomato (Raviv et al., 2005; Rippy et al., 2004), and as a media c onstituent for transplant production of broccoli, tomato, onion (Snchez-Monedero et al., 2004), ca uliflower (Kahn et al., 2005), and lettuce and tatsoi (Clark and Cavigelli, 2005). Some research has been conducted to ev aluate the effect of 20

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organic fertilizers derived from animal and pl ant manures and by-products on growth and yield of field-grown cantaloupe, tomato and pepper (Chellemi and Lazarovits, 2002). Several studies have reported the beneficial effects of orga nic fertilizers on the yield and quality of tomato. Rippy et al. (2004) found that yields of tomato grown organically under greenhouse conditions were simila r to those grown conventionally, although the percentage of no.1 fruit was greater in the orga nic than the conventional treatm ent. Research by Montagu and Goh (1990) demonstrated that fruit yield of tomato grown under field conditions was similar when fertilized with potassium nitrate (KNO 3 ), ammonium nitrate (NH 4 NO 3 ) and an organic fertilizer composed of blood and bo ne meal at 3 rates (200, 400, 600 kgha -1 N). Plant height of tomato grown in different composts derived from orange peel, separate d cow manure, and wheat straw, fertilized or not with guano was higher th an plants grown in compost derived from grape marc and separated cow manure, fertilized or not with guano peat and peat fertilized with guano. On the contrary, yield was highe r in plants grown in compost derived from grape marc and separated cow manure, than those grown using co mpost derived from orange peel, separated cow manure, and wheat straw (Raviv et al., 2005). Smith and Hadley (1988) concluded that in order to have a similar crop response of summer cabbage using organic fertilizer (fea ther meal, blood meal and sewage sludge byproduct) it is necessary to increase the preplant application rate up to th ree times the preplant application rate of ammo nium nitrate (250 kg N ha -1 ). In other studies, organic fertilizers have been phytotoxic for pepper, tomato (Chellemi and Lazarovits, 2002), and basil (Hochmuth et al, 2003). Organic Transplant Research The USDA NOS require organic producers to use organically produced transplants for vegetable production. In certified organic production, there ar e limitations on the type of 21

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materials that may be used as growing medi um and fertilizers (Kuepper and Everret, 2004). According to NOS, nutrient management prac tices should maintain or improve physical, chemical and biological conditions of the soil; therefore nutrients shoul d be supplied by manures or other animal and plant material, mined subs tances and allowed synthetic fertilizers. No specific information is available for transplant pr oduction, but materials that can be used must be approved for use in organic production, in accordan ce with the List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances in the NOS (USDA, 2007b). Research on the use of organic amendments and fertilizers for tr ansplant production has increased over the past two decades; however, these materials have been examined primarily in conventional production systems and not organic sy stems (Kahn et al., 2005; Snchez-Monedero et al., 2004). Studies have focused on the benefits of: 1) compost on transpla nt growth of tomato, basil, lettuce (Raviv et al., 1998), lettuce and tatsoi (Cla rk and Cavigelli, 2005) ; 2) use of animal and plant wastes products such as meals of blood, meat, feather, meat, fish, canola and alfalfa, and dried sludge on seedling emergence and transplant growth of lettuce and carrot in the field (Smith and Padley, 1989), and tomato grown in peat-compost growing medium (Gagnon and Berrouard, 1994); 3) effect of combinations of different rates of compost, vermi-compost, and organic fertilizers on seed germination and seedli ng growth of tomato (Larrea, 2005); and 4), the use of liquid fertilizers for the production of orga nic transplants of basil, bell pepper, watermelon and onion (Russo, 2005; Russo, 2006; Succop and Newman, 2004). The influence of compost on growth and development of conventionally produced transplants has been inconsistent in the literatu re. Transplant growth response is dependant on the physical and chemical character istics of the finished compost, type of raw materials used to make the compost, and the proportions of compost and potting media. In many cases, seedling 22

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emergence and transplant growth in media plus co mpost have decreased or been similar to those grown with in potting media alone. For example, Kahn et al (2005) observed that when using 80% peat-lite mix composed of 60% vermiculite and 40% peat, (PL) mixed with 20% compost medium made from 50% yard trimmings and 50% biosolids compost (by volume), cauliflower transplant height was similar to those grown in 100% PL. Snchez-Mone dero et al. (2004) found that replacing up to 67% of commercial substrate with two different types of compost (Compost A 88 % sweet sorghum bagasse, 11% pine bark 1% and urea; Compost B 86% sweet sorghum bagasse, 11% pine bark a nd 3% brewery sewage sludge ) resulted in similar dry weight, growth and nutritional status of broccoli, tomato and onion transplants to those grown in commercial potting media (control). Germination percentage of tomato seeds in media containing compost B was the same as the control, but germinati on was reduced by 23% with compost A. This reduction can be attributed to the higher EC of compost A (13.21 dS cm -1 ) compared to compost B (8.55 dS cm -1 ). Compost used in organic tran splant production can be used as partial or a complete substitute for commercial peat-based potting media. Clark and Cavigelli (2005) found that germination, height and marketable yield of lettuce and tatsoi grown in 100% compost derived from pre-consumer food residuals mixed with ya rd waste (FR) was not significantly different than the commercial peat-based potting media with synthetic fert ilizer (control). Even though FR had higher pH and EC than the control, pH 6.6 and 2.9 dS cm -1 compared to pH 5.6 and 0.7 dS cm -1 ; this did not affect germination, height a nd marketable yield of lettuce and tatsoi grown. Transplants of cabbage and lettuce grown in 30% peat, 40% vermiculite and 30% compost made of the coarse fraction of cow manure had greater fresh and dry weight than transplants grown in 60% peat and 40% vermiculite; a nd also produced higher and heavier tomato transplants (Raviv 23

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et al., 1998). Compost has not onl y been proven to benefit transp lant growth but also improves structure, increases the water holding capaci ty and the cation exch ange capacity, provides nutrients. Also, compost may lo wer mortality rates caused by Pythium aphanidermatum in cabbage transplants (Raviv et al., 1998), and suppressed infestation of Fusarium oxisporum f. basilici in basil (Raviv et al ., 1998; Reuveni et al, 2002). Gagnon and Berrouard (2004) evaluated the poten tial of several organic wastes from the agri-food industry for growing green house tomato transplants. Researchers concluded that when using animal and/or plant wastes products mixed with peat-compost growing medium, specifically meals from blood, feather, meat, crab shells, fish, cotton-seed, and whey by-products produced the best growth of tomato transplants, significantly increasing the shoot dry weight by 57% 83% compared with non-fertilized plan ts. Although, in some other cases, increasing feather meal as a component of a custom organic mix composed of peat/p erlite base, and vermicompost from 310 mL to 620 mL, reduced germin ation of tomato seedlings (Larrea, 2005). With the increasing demand of organically produced food, new commercially available fertilizers approved for use in organic systems have increased fertilizer options for organic growers. Ingredients of commerci al formulations are proprietary; but they are usually composed of dehydrated and pelletized blends of animal and/or plant wastes and animal by-products supplemented by rock phosphate, potassium magn esium sulfate and other naturally derived components. The advantages of using these ne w organic fertilizer fo rmulations include a guaranteed analysis and complete nitrogen (N) phosphorus (P) potassium (K) formulation. However, these new formulations require different management practices due mainly to irregular solubility among nutrients and high le vels of EC (Hochmuth et al, 2003). 24

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Fish and seaweed emulsions, molasses, com post tea and meals are available in liquid formulations approved for use in organic produc tion. Fish and seaweed-based products generally provide low concentrations of NP-K, therefore are often applie d in high rates. For example, Russo (2005) observed that when using the recommended rate (7.5 mL L -1 ) of a mixture of fish and seaweed emulsion, onion and pepper transplants re quired to be held to an additional 34 days before they were vigorous enough for transplanti ng. It was necessary to apply four times the recommended rate (30 mL L -1 ) in order to produce similar to those produced in conventional systems. Although some studies have demonstrated that organic amendments and fertilizers may be used successfully in organic transplant production, it is hard to generalize the results to other crops and potting media. Not only because of th e high variability on th e composition (i.e. carbon (C) and N ratio and lignin content) and nature of these materials, but the specific management used in each study. Factors Affecting Mineralization and Nitrification Process Plant nutrition in organic production is based mainly on the decomposition of organic materials. Nitrogen and P release rates from organic materials depend mainly on microorganisms to transform from organic forms to mineral pl ant available N and P (H avlin et al, 1999; Brady and Weil, 1999). Chemical factors such as pH a nd EC as well as environmental factors such as temperature and moisture play an important ro le in the mineralization of N and P and the nitrification process. For the purpose of this study we separate mine ralization in two steps: 1) mineralization as the conversion of organic N to ammonium (NH 4 + ) or organic P to orthophosphate (H 2 PO 4 ) mediated by autotrophic bacteria, actinomycetes a nd fungi; and 2) nitrific ation as the two-step oxidation of NH 4 + to nitrate (NO 3 ) mainly mediated by two gr oups of autotrophic nitrifying 25

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bacteria, Nitrosomonas spp. that first oxidize NH 4 + to nitrite (NO 2 ) and Nitrobacter spp. that oxidize NO 2 to NO 3 (Figure. 2-1) Electrical Conductivity and pH Optimum pH for vegetable transplants range from 5.5-6.8 and adequate EC for vegetable transplants grown in soilless potting media crops is between 1.00-1.76 dS m -1 (Maynard and Hochmuth, 1997). Application of animal-based fe rtilizers to planting medi a can increase EC up to 13 dS m -1 and pH up to 8.8; both levels greater than with application of conventional fertilizers, and inadequate for transplant growth (Chellemi and Lazarovits, 2002; Clark and Cavigelli, 2005; Kahn et al., 2005; Larrea,2005; Snchez-Monedero et al, 2004; Raviv et al., 1998; Rippy et al., 2004). The pH of container root media influences macronutrient and micronutrient solubility and uptake. Soil pH mediates the microbial comm unity composition because different types of microorganisms have a different optimum pH. Becau se both mineralization and nitrification are microbial-mediated processes, conditions that aff ect microbial activity in the media will directly affect the release pattern s of organic fertilizers. Mineralizi ng microbes can be found in a wide range of pH. Nitrification can ta ke place over a wide range of pH (4.5 to 10) (Havlin et al, 1999). Studies have found that increasing pH above 5.5 increases NO 3 concentration, in a pine bark medium (Niemiera and Wright, 1986). Similar re sults were observed by Lang and Elliot (1991), where nitrification in a peat-b ased medium was insignificant in pH of <5.6. Also, Argo and Biernbaum (1997) observed that maximum NO 3 -N accumulation in a peat/perlite based medium was between 5.3 and 5.9. Minimal research has been published on reducing pH in soilless potting media for organic production. An alternative method to reduce pH after the addition of organic fertilizers was documented by Rippy et al. (2004) with the app lication of 0.3 kg m -3 of elemental 26

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sulfur to organic treatments for container-grown tomato. The addition of sulfur resulted in that organic treatments remained in the recommended pH range for tomato. Adequate EC for vegetable transplants grown in soilless potting media range from 1.00-1.76 dS m -1 (Maynard and Hochmuth, 1997). Elec trical conductivity above 2 dS m -1 usually results in osmotic stress on plants and re duced yield. High EC is more likely to affect young plants. Studies using organic fertilizers for transplant pr oduction have identified EC as one of the main factors limiting seed germination and seedling gr owth (Larrea, 2005; Snchez-Monedero et al., 2004). All microbial populations ar e adversely affected by high EC because of the osmotic stress created by saline conditions on the microbial cell. Ir shad et al. (2005) conc luded that soil salinity has more detrimental effects on th e nitrification process than mi neralization. For example, after eight weeks, NO 3 N release at 0.2 dS m -1 was 265% greater than at 11.4 dS m -1 Inubushi et al (1999) concluded that EC >1 dS m -1 inhibits nitrification, while critical salt level for urease activity was about 2 dS m -1 Temperature and Moisture Temperature and moisture are the most frequent ly studied environmenta l factors that affect microbial growth and activity and therefore the mineralization and nitrif ication processes. The temperature coefficient (Q 10 ) of organic matter decomposition is 2 over the range 5 to 35 C (Ktterer et al, 1998), meaning that for each 10 C increase in temperature decomposition rate doubles. Optimum soil temperature for nitrification is 25 to 35 C, although some nitrification will occur over a wide a temperature range. Nitrifi cation rate is reduced in temperatures above 40 C and below 5 C (Havlin et al., 1999). Hartz and Johnstone (2006) studied the rate of net N mineralization from high-N organic fertilizers (fish powder, blood meal, feather meal and sea bird guano) commonly used in organic vegetabl e production over a range of soil temperatures (10, 15, 20 and 25 C) and found that after one we ek of incubation ther e was a significantly 27

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lower mineralization at 10 C for all fertilizers except for fish powder. After eight weeks all fertilizers had equivalent N mineralization across temperature levels In other studies it has been found that nitrificati on increases linearly with te mperature, were at 5 C NH 4 + is immobilized and above 20C it is oxidized to NO 3 (Hoyle et al, 2006). The addition of green manures and organic by-products increases microbial activity and biomass (Hadas and Kautsky, 1994; Stark et al 2007). Therefore the increase in the net mineralization in temperatures from 20 C to 30 C is likely due to microbial communities favored at high temperature metabolizing subs trates that may not be utilized at lower temperatures (Zogg et al., 1997). Richards et al. (1985) and Carreiro and Koske (1992) found that increases in temperature induce a shift in the composition of microbial communities. The shift in microbial community composition was paralleled with an increase in microbial respiration at temperatures between 5 to 25 C; w ith optimal fungal and bacterial growth rates in temperatures from 25 C to 30 C (Pietikinen et al, 2005). Kraus et al. (2000), studied the N mineralization rate of th ree compost materials [compost turkey litter (CLT), yard waste and municipal waste mixed with milled pine bark] under three temperature regimes (45 C, 25 C and 45 C day/25 C night). Results show that the percentage of organic N mineralized was great er at 45/25 (35%) and 45 C (33 %) than at 25 C (27%). Also more N was mineralized from CLT than from the other compost materials, regardless of temperature regime. This fact may be attributed to the lower C:N for CLT (4:1) compared to municipal (14:1) and yard compost (13:1). Maximum aerobic microbial activity occurs at soil moisture levels between 50 to 70% of water holding capacity (WHC) (Linn and Doran, 1984). In general, maximum mineralization of soil organic matter occurs in the same range, however some studies have suggested that the range 28

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could be up to 100% WHC (Goncalves and Ca rlyle, 1994; Kabba and Aulakh, 2004). Low soil moisture (-15 bars) inhibits activity of nitrif ying bacteria by reducing substrate diffusion and intracellular water potential. This in turn reduc es hydration and activity of enzymes (Stark and Firestone 1995) and increases N immobilization (Seneviratne et a, 1998). De Neve and Hofman, (2002) observed that maximum mineralization in crop residue-treated soil was at 58% water filled pore space, however at this moistu re level nitrification was suboptimal. Agehara and Warncke (2005) studied the effect of moisture (50, 70 and 90% water holding capacity) and temperature (15/10, 20 /15, 25/20 C, day/night) on nitr ogen release from different organic sources and concluded that increasing mois ture levels from 50 to 90% increased the net N released from alfalfa pelle ts by 12% and chicken manure by 21%, but had no effect on net N released from urea and blood meal Increasing temperature increas ed N released from alfalfa pellets by 25%, blood meal by 10% and chicke n manure by 13%, but had no effect on urea. Hadas and Kautsky (1994) observed that under lab conditions at temperature (30 C) and moisture (60% water holding capacity of the so il) optimal for this study, approximately 55% of N content of feather meal was mineralized during the first two weeks, and a considerably slower rate of mineralization was obtained thereafter. Conclusions Plant nutrition in organic production is based mainly on the decomposition of organic materials. Synchronizing nutrient release with plant nutrient demand in organic production is challenging due to the underlying biological pro cesses involved in the decomposition of organic materials. Because both mineralization and ni trification are microbial -mediated processes, conditions that affect microbial ac tivity in the media will directly affect the release patterns of organic fertilizers. Research to improve manageme nt of organic fertilizers for organic transplant production has increased over the past years. St udies have focused on optimizing the use of 29

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compost and animal and plant-based resources as nutrient suppliers. Although some studies have demonstrated that organic amendments and fert ilizers may be used successfully in organic transplant production, it is hard to generalize the results to other crops and potting media, mainly due to the high variability on th e composition and nature of thes e materials and the specific management used in each study. For example, temperature has varied among studies; 18-34 C (Succop and Newman, 2004), 16-22 C (Gagnon a nd Berrouard, 1994). Irrigation methods have also varied; overhead sprinkler (Snchez-Monedero et al., 2004), hose with nozzle (Kahn et al., 2005), and hand watered (Gagnon and Berrouard, 1994) but there is minimal information about the amount of water applied. Since both of temperature and moisture affect microbial growth and activity and therefore the minerali zation and nitrification processes, results from these studies are usual under the studied conditions. In addition, there is a lack of informati on on the effect of pH and EC on nutrient availability, and in most cases these factors are only measured at the beginning of the experiments (Kahn et al., 2005 ; Snchez-Monedero et al., 2004; Russo, 2005). Finally, although more information has recently become available, future research should attempt to understand how environmental factors su ch as temperature and moisture and chemical factors such as pH and EC affect the availability of nutrients. In turn, this will provide tools to better synchronize release from organic materials with plant nutrient dema nd and will allow for the development of nutrient management recommendations with organic amendments and similar resources. The purpose of this research was to determine the type and rate of nutrient sources needed to produce certified organic transp lants with two temperature regimes. The specifics objectives were to: 30

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Determine the effect of temperature when th e moisture level of potting media is held constant on the nutrient release rates from fi ve different organic amendments approved for organic transplant production (Chapter 3). Determine the effect of temperature when th e moisture level of potting media is held constant on the nutrient release rates from four custom blends made from five different organic amendments (Chapter 4) Determine the effects of application rates of custom blends made from different organic amendments as well as the effect of nutrien t form on the growth and nutrient content of basil transplants (Chapter 5) 31

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Mineralization R NH 2 + H 2 O OH + R OH + NH 4 + Nitrification 1. NH 4 + + O 2 4H + + NO 2 2. NO 2 + O 2 NO 3 Figure 2-1. Biochemical equations fo r mineralization and nitrification 32

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CHAPTER 3 EFFECT OF TEMPERATURE ON NUTRI ENT RELEASE RATES FROM ORGANIC NUTRIENT SOURCES APPROVED FOR ORGANIC TRANSPLANT PRODUCTION Abstract The USDA National Organic Standards requir e that producers use certified organic vegetable transplants for field grown vegetabl es. Since plant nutrition in organic production relies mainly on the decomposition of organic mate rials, factors that affect microbial activity such as pH and electrical conductivity (EC), as well as e nvironmental factors such as temperature and moisture are of vital importance. The objective of this research was to study the effect of temperature on the releas e rate of ammonium nitrogen (NH 4 + -N), nitrate nitrogen (NO 3 -N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) from nutrient sources approved for use in organic production for five weeks under two temperatur e regimes (greenhouse and lab) during two seasons (spring and summer). The five individua l nutrient sources: blood meal (BLM), feather meal (FM), bone meal (BM), rock phosphate (RP) and potassium magnesium sulfate (KMS) were compared to a synthetic controlled-release fertilizer (CRF) and a control of potting media with no fertilizer (NA). Nutrient sources were mixed with soilless pott ing media composed of peatmoss, vermiculite, perlite, gypsum and dolomitic limestone at an fertilizer media ratio of 1:5 (by weight) and maintained at a constant moisture. The NH 4 + -N, NO 3 -N, P and K release rates were determined on leachate samples taken weekly throughout the study. Media solution pH remained above pH 7.5 throughout the five weeks for all organic nut rient sources. Media solution average EC increased af ter one week of incubation for FM, BLM, KMS and CRF, but remained below 2 dS cm -1 for NA, BM and RP. Media solution pH and EC significantly affected N nitrification ( P < 0.01, Adj-R 2 = 0.65 and P < 0.01, Adj-R 2 = 0.31, respectively). Air temperature was measured in 15 minute intervals and was used to calculate degree days (DD). Increasing temperature, as the sum of DD, enhan ced cumulative plant available nitrogen release 33

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for all treatments (P < 0.05). Cumulative NH 4 + -N release rate was FM (21%), BLM (20%) followed by CRF (19%). Overall N nitrification was low (< 9%) compared to N mineralization, except for CRF (30%). The low NO 3 -N release rate may be attributed to high EC; and although not studied in this researc h, by the volatilization of NH 3 + denitrification and scarce presence of nitrifying bacteria in peat. Cumu lative PAN was CRF (75 to 95 g kg -1 fertilizer) followed by FM and BLM (20 to 40 g kg -1 fertilizer in spring to over 40 g kg -1 fertilizer in summer). The CRF was the only treatment that had de tectable available P, 4 5 g kg -1 fertilizer. In the case of K, CRF had a release rate of 17% to 26%, representing 17 to 26 g kg -1 fertilizer. Meanwhile, KMS released from 40% to 62% of K, representing 79 to 127 g kg -1 fertilizer. Introduction According to the USDA National Organic St andards (NOS) producers are required to use certified organic vegetable transplants for fi eld grown vegetables (USDA, 2007b). After the implementation of NOS, considerable research has been done on the use of organic nutrient sources and commercially available fertilizers fo r transplant production. Research has focused on evaluating compost and vermicompost as potting media constituents (Clark and Cavigelli, 2005, Larrea, 2005; Raviv et al., 1998; Snchez-Monedero et al., 2004), the use of plant and animalbased wastes and by-products (Gagnon and Berrouard, 1994; Smith and Padley, 1989b), and liquid organic fertilizers (Russo, 2005; Succop and Newman, 2004). Nutrient management in organic systems is dependant mainly on the microbial transformation of materials to so luble inorganic nutrients. Most of the organic fertilizers have a low fraction of soluble inorganic forms of nitr ogen (N); therefore, th ey have to go through a decomposition process before becoming plant ava ilable. The first step of this process is mineralization, which is the conversi on of organic N to ammonium (NH 4 + ) and is mediated by autotrophic bacteria, actinomycetes and fungi. The second process is nitrification, which is the 34

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oxidation of NH 4 + to nitrate (NO 3 ) and is mainly mediated by two groups of autotrophic nitrifying bacteria, Nitrosomona s spp. that first oxidize NH 4 + to nitrite (NO 2 ), and Nitrobacter spp. that oxidize NO 2 to NO 3 Since plant nutrition in organic production relies mainly on microbial transformation, factors that affect microbial activity such as pH and electrical conductivity (EC), as well as environmental factors such as temperature and moisture are of vital importance. The pH is one of the factors that mediate microbial community composition. Microbial functional groups that mineralize N can be found in a wide range of pH, but at pH > 7.5, NH 4 + can lost by volatilization of ammonia (NH 3 + ). Nitrification also takes place over a wide range of pH (4.5 to 10) (Havlin et al., 1999). Studies have found that increasing pH above 5.5 in a pine bark medium increased NO 3 concentration (Niemiera and Wright, 1986). Similar results were observed by Lang and Elliot (1991), where NH 4 + oxidation in a peat-based medium was insignificant in pH <5.6; and Argo a nd Biernbaum (1997) where maximum NO 3 -N accumulation in a peat/perlite based medium was between pH 5.3 to pH 5.9. All microbial populations are adversely affect ed by high EC because of the osmotic stress created by saline conditions on the microbial ce ll. Several studies have reported that the application of animal-based fe rtilizers to planting media ma y increase EC up to 13 dS m -1 and pH up to 8.8 (Chellemi and Lazarovits, 2002; Cl ark and Cavigelli, 2005; Kahn et al., 2005; Rippy et al., 2004; Larrea, 2005; Snchez-Monedero et al., 2004; Raviv et al., 1998). Adequate EC for vegetable transplants grown in soilless potting me dia range from 1.0-1.76 dS m -1 and optimum pH range 5.5-6.5 (Maynard and Hochmuth, 1997). Temperature and moisture are the most frequent ly studied environmenta l factors that affect microbial growth and activity, and therefore the mineraliz ation and nitrification processes. Hartz 35

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and Johnstone (2006) studied the rate of net N mineralization from highN organic fertilizers (fish powder, blood meal, feather meal and sea bi rd guano) commonly used in organic vegetable production over a range of soil temperatures (10, 15, 20 and 25 C) and found that after one week of incubation, there was a si gnificantly lower mineralization at lower temperatures (10 C) for all fertilizers except for fish powder. All fe rtilizers had equivalent N mineralization across temperature levels after eight w eeks. Other studies have been f ound that nitrification increases linearly with temperature, where at 5C NH 4 + is immobilized and above 20C it is oxidized to NO 3 (Hoyle et al., 2006). Soilless media substrates can reach much higher temperatures than soils. Kraus et al. (2000) studied the N mineralization rate of three compost materials: compost turkey litter (CLT), yard waste and municipal waste, under three temperature regi mes (45, 25 and 45 C day/25 C night) mixed with milled pine bark to achieve an equal N content. Results show that the percentage of organic N mineralized was greater at 45/25 and 45C than at 25C. Also more N was mineralized from CLT than from, regardless of temperature regime. This fact may be attributed to the lower carbon (C ) to N ratio (C:N) for CLT (4:1) compared to municipal (14:1) and yard compost (13:1), although equal N content was added for each treatment. Maximum aerobic microbial activity occurs at soil moisture levels between 50 to 70% of water holding capacity (WHC) (Linn and Doran, 1984). In general, maximum mineralization of soil organic matter occurs in the same range, however some studies have suggested that the range could be up to 100% WHC (Goncalves and Ca rlyle, 1994; Kabba and Aulakh, 2004). Agehara and Warncke (2005) studied the effect of mois ture (50%, 70% and 90% water holding capacity) and temperature (15/10 C, 20/15 C, 25/20 C; day/ night) on nitrogen re lease from different organic sources and concluded that increasing mois ture levels from 50% to 90% increased net N 36

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released from alfalfa pellets by 12% and chicken manure by 21%, but had no effect in net N released from urea and blood m eal. Increasing temperature from 15/10 C to 25/20C increased net N mineralized from alfalfa pellets by 25% blood meal by 10% and chicken manure by 13%, but had no effect on urea. Hadas and Kautsky (1994) observed that under lab conditions at optimal temperature (30 C) and moisture (60% WHC of the soil) for this study, approximately 55% of N content of feather meal was mineralized during the first two week s, and a considerably slower rate of mineralizati on was obtained thereafter. As the organic industry continue s to grow, the need for research related to the management and improvement of organically grown vegeta ble transplants will continue to increase. Understanding how temperature affect nutrient re lease rates will contribute to the development of recommendations for the efficient use of organi c nutrient sources. Therefore, the objective of this study is to address research needs for orga nic transplant growers by studying the effect of two temperature regimes on the nutrient release ra tes from five organic fertilizers approved for use in organic transplant production. Materials and Methods Media Characteristics and Organic Nutrient Sources The potting media used in the study was Fa fard Organic Formulation #20 (Fafard Industries, Agawam, MA) composed of peat mo ss (70%), perlite, vermiculite, gypsum and dolomitic limestone all ingredients approved fo r use in organic production. The same potting media lot was used for all the experiments to reduce variability. For the purpose of this study nutrient sources are either animal-based fertilizers or mined natural minerals approved for use in certified orga nic production and will be referred as organic nutrient sources (OG). Five OG were used: 1) feat her meal (FM; Griffin Industries, Cold Spring, KY); 2) blood meal (BLM; Gri ffin Industries, Cold Spring, KY) ; 3) bone meal (BM; North 37

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Pacific Group, Inc., Portland, Oregon); 4) rock phosphate (RP; North Country Organics, Bradford, VT); and 5) potassium-magnesium-s ulfate (KMS; Diamond R Fertilizer, Winter Garden, FL). The OG were compared to two cont rols: potting media with no fertilizer (NA), and an inorganic polymer-coated contro lled-released fertilizer (CRF) with an analysis of 19N-2.6P9.9K, 10% of the N as NH 4 + -N and 9% as NO 3 -N, derived from ammonium nitrate, ammonium sulfate, calcium phosphate and potassium sulfate (The Scotts Miracle-Gr o Company, Marysville, OH). Organic nutrient sources used for the study were selected because they are the most common ingredients in commercially available organic fertilizers and because they supply necessary macronutrients. Feather meal and BLM wh ere selected as N sources, BM and RP as P sources and KMS as K source. The OG and the CRF were mixed thoroughly with the potting media at a ratio of 1:5 and then into a 0.037 m 3 plastic pot. Prior to trial initiation, potting media and OG were analyzed for total C and N using a C and N combustion analyzer (Leco, St. Joseph, MI). In addition, water extractable NO 3 N, NH 4 + N, P, K, magnesium (Mg), calcium (Ca), sulfur (S) and micronutrients, and pH and EC were determined by Waters Agricultural Laboratories (Camilla, GA). Potting media and OG analyses are shown in Table 3-1. Cultural Practices Experiments were conducted for five weeks under two temperature regimes defined by two physical locations, the greenhouse (GH) and laborat ory (Lab), at the Ho rticultural Sciences Department, at the University of Florida, Gaines ville. Expt. 1 was conducted from 10 Mar. to 7 Apr. 2006 (spring) and Expt. 2 was conducted from 29 May to 26 June, 2006 (summer). Initially the WHC of the potting media alone or mixed with the OG was determined by the method described by Styer and Koranski (1997). A 100 g sample of each mix was saturated and then left to drain for 24 h. The water content retained at the en d of this period was considered 38

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100% WHC. Throughout the experiment, pots were weighed and irrigated daily with municipal tap water to maintain 100% WHC. This was don e to reduce the potential of salt accumulation (Poole and Conover, 1982). Values for constituents of the irrigation water used in the GH and Lab are shown in table 3-2. Air temperature was monitored daily in 15minute intervals using a data logger (Hobo U10, Onset Computer Corporati on, Bourne, MA). Temperature in the GH ranged from 7 to 40 C in Expt. 1 and from 18 to 42 C in Expt 2, meanwhile temperature in the Lab for both experiments ranged from 21 to 23 C. Since temperature ranges were different between temperature regime, temperature data in this st udy is reported as degree days (DD) and was calculated using the following formula: DD = Average daily temperature in C 5 (3-1) (Where 5 is the threshold of micr obial activity (Havlin et al., 1999). The use of DD was selected based on previous research that has successfully used DD to predict cumulative N mineralization from manur es and cover crops (Schomberg and Endale, 2004 ; Griffin and Honeycutt, 2000; Honeycutt and Potaro, 1990), and to be able to compare between temperature regimes. Leachate Collection and Analysis Every week, tap water that was 1.5x the initial WHC (mL) was added to the top of each pot and allowed to drain for 1 h. Total leachate volu me was measured after drainage. Immediately after leaching EC was measured with a portable conductiv ity meter (ECTester high, Oakton Instruments, Vernon Hills, IL), and pH was m easured with a portable pH meter (model pHep, Hanna Instruments, Woonsocket, RI). A 20-mL a liquot was collected and frozen until analyzed. Leachate samples were vacuum filtrated and analyzed for concentration of NH 4 + N and NO 3 N using colorimetric procedures on a rapi d flow auto analyzer in the Soil and Water 39

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Science Department of the University of Florid a Analytical Laboratory (G ainesville, FL). Water extractable P and K concentrations were determin ed by Waters Agricultural Laboratories. Media solution pH was calculated and analyzed as hydrogen (H + ) concentration and reported as average media pH. Calculation of net N mineralization and nitrification The amounts of NH 4 + N and NO 3 N leached every week we re calculated by multiplying leachate concentration by leachate volume. Plan t available N was calculated as the sum of NH 4 + N and NO 3 N recovered weekly and summed each week for five consecutive weeks. For the purpose of this paper, we present the results in tw o formats. To describe the microbial efficiency, we use the term release to describe the generation of NH 4 + N, NO 3 N, P or K as a percentage of mg released per mg of tota l applied. The second term is availability which is the actual amount of nutrient availa ble per kg of fertilizer. Nitrogen mineralization (N min ) was calculated as a pe rcentage of mg of NH 4 + N released per mg of total N applied using the following formula: N min (as % of mg of NH 4 + N released mg -1 of total N applied) = [(NH 4 + N) RL (NH 4 + N) IW (NH 4 + N) M ] / Total N applied 100 (3-2) Where (NH 4 + N) RL is the NH 4 + N recovered in the leachate, (NH 4 + N) IW is the NH 4 + N in irrigation water, and (NH 4 + N) M is the NH 4 + N recovered from the media. Nitrogen nitrification (N nit ) was calculated as a pe rcentage of mg of NO 3 N released per mg of total N applied using the following formula: N nit (as % of mg of NO 3 N released mg -1 of total N applied) = [(NO 3 N) RL (NO 3 N) IW (NO 3 N) M ] / Total N applied 100 [Eq. 3-3] Where (NO 3 N) RL is the NO 3 N recovered in the leachate, (NO 3 N) IW is the NH 4 + N in irrigation water, and (NO 3 N) M is the NO 3 N recovered from the media. Phosphorus and K release as a percentage of mg of P or K released per mg of total P or K applied was similarly as N min and N nit. 40

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Experimental design an d statistical analysis The treatments were arranged in a complete ly randomized design w ithin each temperature regime defined by two physical locations (GH and Lab) replicated four times during two seasons (spring and summer). Data were subjected to analysis of variance (ANOVA) using SAS (SAS V8, Cary, NC) to determine signif icance of main and interaction effects. Means were separated using Duncans multiple range test at alpha 0.05. Effect of pH, EC and DD on N release was subject to regression analysis. Results and Discussion Media Solution pH Media solution pH for the summer season is shown in Figure 3-1. Based on ANOVA, the media solution pH was affected by the interactio n of treatment, temperature regime and week ( P <0.01, data not shown). Therefore, media solution pH was analyzed by treatment and temperature regime. Initial pH of the media before addition of treatments and irrigation water was 7.6. Media solution average pH throughout the five weeks for the GH was pH 7.7and for the Lab was pH 6.9. Optimal pH for vegetable transplant produc tion is 5.5-6.8 (Maynard and Hochmuth, 1997). In both temperature regimes, after one week of incubation the addition of OG resulted in an increase of pH above optimal level. All OG rema ined above pH 7.5 for each of the five weeks, with the exception of FM in the GH which decrea sed from pH 8.8 in week two to pH 6.7 in week five. Media solution pH for NA also resulted in an increase of pH in leachate. This increase is attributed to the high pH (8.6) of irrigation water. The CRF was the only treatment that remained in the optimal pH range for transplant production. Similar trends were found by Rippy et al. ( 2004), where media solution pH for production of container grown tomatoes was higher in or ganic treatments (pH 6.9 7.3) than conventional 41

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treatments (pH 5.5 6.7). The application of or ganic treatments increased pH and remained above optimal levels for 12 weeks. On the cont rary, Larrea (2005) found th at pH from custommade organic substrates for organic tomato transplant production, was below 6.9. An alternative method to reduce pH on organic nutrient sources was studied by Rippy et al. (2004) with the application of 0.3 kg m -3 of elemental sulfur to organic treatm ents. This resulted in that organic treatments remained in the optimal pH range. Based on regression analysis, media solution pH significantly affected N nit ( P < 0.01, AdjR 2 = 0.65) and PAN ( P < 0.01, Adj-R 2 = 0.09) but had no effect on N min (Table 3-3). This result was considered usual since mineralization is done by a wide array of heterotrophic bacteria; on the contrary nitrification is executed by only two genera of nitrifying bacteria ( Nitrosomonas spp. and Nitrobacter spp.). Other research has demonstrat ed that pH affects nitrification. For example, Lang and Elliot (1991) observed that NH 4 + oxidation in a peat-based medium was insignificant in pH of <5.6, meanwhile, Argo and Biernbaum (1997) found that maximum NO 3 N accumulation in a peat/perlite ba sed medium was between 5.3 and 5.9. Media Solution EC Media solution average EC for the summer s eason is shown in Figure 3-2. Media EC was affected by the interaction of treatment, temperature regime and week based on ANOVA ( P < 0.01, data not shown). Initial EC of the media befo re addition of nutrien t sources and irrigation water was 0.36 dS cm -1 Media solution average EC throughout the five weeks for the GH was 4.06 dS cm -1 and for the Lab was 3.46 dS cm -1 Media solution EC in both temperature regimes increased after one w eek of incubation for FM, BLM, KMS and CRF, but remained below 2 dS cm -1 for NA, BM and RP. The increase was greater in the GH compared to the Lab. For exam ple, EC for FM and BLM in the GH reached up to 8 dS cm -1 after one week. Meanwhile, in the Lab it increased onl y up to 5 dS cm -1 after two 42

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weeks. Although at the end of w eek five, both temperature regimes had similar EC (2.5 dS cm -1 ). Highest EC was observed in KMS ( 18 dS cm -1 ). Optimal media EC for vegetable transplant production is in the range of 1.00-1.76 dS cm -1 (Maynard and Hochmuth, 1997). From the results obtained from this study, we conclude that the EC on the OG was too high and will likely reduce transplant germination and grow th. Although, it is important to c onsider that the amounts of fertilizer used in each pot were much higher th an a producer will use. Ot her research has shown that initial EC levels for organic treatments was higher than conven tional treatments, but decreased to optimal levels afte r two weeks (Larrea, 2005) or four weeks (Rippy et al., 2004). So far, EC has been identified as one of the main factors limiting seed germination and seedling growth (Larrea, 2005; Snchez-Monedero et al., 2004). Based on regression analysis, media solution EC significantly affected N nit ( P < 0.01, AdjR 2 = 0.31) and PAN ( P < 0.01, Adj-R 2 = 0.08), but did not affect N min (Table 3-3). This result was considered usual since nitrifying bacteria are affected by high EC. Irshad et al. (2005) concluded that soil salinity has more detrimen tal effects on the nitrification process than mineralization. Results show that NH 4 + N release from manure was the same independently of the EC level. Meanwhile, nitrification was reduc ed as EC increased. For example, after eight weeks, NO 3 N release at 0.2 dS m -1 was 265% greater than at 11.4 dS m -1 Similar results were observed by Inubushi et al (1999), where nitrifica tion was inhibited at high salt concentrations, while NH 4 + N increased. Ammonium Release Rates The net cumulative NH 4 + -N release rates, expressed as N min are shown in Table 3-4. The net cumulative NH 4 + -N release rate was affected by the in teraction of treatment, temperature regime and season based on ANOVA ( P <0.01, data not shown). Therefore, N min data were analyzed by season and temperature regime. Ov er five weeks FM, BLM and CRF, cumulative 43

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mineralized N was linearly correlated with cumulative DD (Figure 3-3). Cumulative N min followed the similar trends as the first five weeks of the study by Ageh ara and Warncke (2005), although the magnitude of release was lower. Increasing temperature, as the sum of DD, enhanced NH 4 + -N release rate from FM, BLM, and CRF but did not affect release from NA, BM, RP and KMS. Similar trends were found by Agehara and Warncke (2005) where a 10 C increase resulted in a three-fold increase in mineralization rate from 0.54 mg N kg -1 week -1 in 15/10 C (daytime temperature/night time temperature) to 1.53 mg N kg -1 week -1 in 25/20 C. The net cumulative N min of all treatments after five w eeks of incubation in the GH was 10.03% for summer and 7.34% for spring. This increas e can be attributed to the higher number of cumulative DD in summer (794) than spring (598). Although temp erature was constant in the Lab, release in summer (11.73%) was numerically higher than in spring (7.80%); this could be due to changes that occurred during storage of nutrient sources between experiments, because to reduce variability we used the same batch. Results of N min were not consistent among seasons. For spring season N min GH > Lab, whereas in summer, N min Lab > GH. Although the mineralization rate was lower in the GH the N nit was higher in the GH. Therefore, the lower N min can be attributed to more NH 4 + -N oxidized to NO 3 -N, due to the increase of DD in the GH (DD 800). Research by Hartz and Johnstone (2006) show s that N mineralization of blood meal and feather meal after one week of incubation in sa ndy loam soil at 25 C approached 50%, where almost all NH 4 + -N was oxidized to NO 3 -N. Similarly, Hadas and Ka utsky (1994) observed that under lab conditions, FM incubated with soil from cultivated fields at 30 C and 60% WHC, approximately 55% of its N content were mine ralized during two week, and a considerably 44

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slower rate of mineralizati on was obtained thereafter. Co mpared to other studies, N min was very low probably because other studies have used soil, contrary we used soilless media. Nitrate Release Rates The net cumulative NO 3 -N release rates, expressed as N nit are shown in Table 3-4. The NO 3 -N release was affected by the interaction of treatment, temperature regime and season based on ANOVA ( P < 0.01, data not shown). Therefore, data was analyzed by season and temperature regime. Over the five weeks, cumulative N nit for all treatments except NA was linearly correlated with cumulative DD (Figure 3-3).Similar to NH 4 + -N release rates, increasing temperature increased NO 3 -N release rates from all treatments except NA. Overall NO 3 -N release rate throughout the five weeks were relatively low compared to NH 4 + -N release rates for all treatments except CRF, with maximum N nit of BLM and FM around 8%, compared to almost 30% for CRF. This is consistent with research by Bugbee and Elliott (1998), where a media composed of compost, peat, sand and bark released most of the total N as NH 4 + -N in the first four weeks and the release of NO 3 -N commenced six weeks into the experiment. The low NO 3 -N release rate could be attributed to several factors. As discussed previously, pH and EC have a more detrimental effect on nitrifying bact eria than mineralizing organisms. The increase in media pH following the application of organic nutrient sources may increase loss of NH 4 + -N by volatilization of NH 3 + Other possible causes for low nitrification may be 1) the temporary decrease in O 2 concentration of the media as a result of the rapid oxidation of organic material; 2) saturated conditions after leaching the media may favor denitrification; and 3) the scarce presence of nitrifying bacteria in peat. Maximum aerobic activity and N mineralizati on occur between 50% to 70% water-filled pore space. Maximum nitrificati on occurs at 20% oxygen percenta ge (Havlin et al, 1999; Brady and Weil, 1999). Denitrification occurs when the O 2 supply is too low to meet microbial activity. 45

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When soils become saturated, some organisms obtain their O 2 from NO 2 and NO 3 causing loss of NO 3 by denitrification (Havlin et al, 1999). Th e addition of green manures and organic byproducts improves soil biology by increasing microbial biomass a nd activity (Stark et al, 2007; Hadas and Kautsky, 1994). As the microbial activ ity increases, microorganisms consume more oxygen and might create temporary anaerobic conditions, resulting in a decr ease in activity of nitrifying bacteria. Soilless media characteristically have a sma ller biological population than mineral field soils. Studies have demonstrated that nitrifying bacteria exist in low concentrations in uncultivated peat, but may increase after cultiv ation and planting (Her lihy, 1972). Similarly to Herlihy, Lang and Elliot (1991, 1997), found that populati ons of nitrifying bacteria in cultivated media were 1000-fold that those in uncultivated media. The low population of microbes in peat may be due to the low pH of peat (pH < 4.0) that is not favorable for microbial growth. Phosphorus and Potassium Release and Availability Net cumulative P release was affected by the in teraction of treatment, temperature regime and treatment and season based on ANOVA (P <0.01, data not shown). Temperature, as the sum of DD, affected P release rate from all treatments, except KMS, based on regression analysis ( P > 0.01, data not shown). For NA, BM and RP, releas e rates were negative. This negative release may be caused by the reaction of P with Ca from the dolomitic limestone that might have caused the formation of calcium phosphates, which ha ve low solubility. Only CRF had detectable available P, 4 5 g kg -1 fertilizer. Net cumulative K release was affected by treatment, temperature regime, season and various interactions based on ANOVA ( P <0.01, data not shown). Temp erature, as the sum of DD, affected K release rate from FM, BLM, KMS, and CRF, but had no effect on NA, BM and RP. The NA, BM and RP treatments had negative release rates. This negative release may be 46

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caused by the fixation of K by vermiculite, which is a 2:1 clay. Only CRF and KMS had detectable available K. The CRF had a release rate from 17 % to 26%, representing 17 to 26 g kg -1 fertilizer. Meanwhile, KMS released from 40 % to 62%, representing 79 to 127 g kg -1 fertilizer. Overall, available P from organi c nutrient sources is not suff icient to sustain crop growth. Additional research should be done to improve th e release of these nutrie nt sources. The KMS, chosen as a K source, prove to have enough releas e to sustain crop growth. It is important to consider that the application of KMS can in crease the EC and cause damage to the crop. Nitrogen Availability Cumulative PAN (NH 4 + -N + NO 3 -N) for both seasons and temperature regimes was highest from CRF with 75 to 95 g kg -1 fertilizer (Figure 3-3). Rock phosphate and KMS are not included, because they have very small PAN, available NH 4 + -N or available NO 3 -N (<1 g kg -1 fertilizer). Plant available N from FM and BL M for spring in both temperature regimes was lower than for summer, 20 g kg -1 fertilizer for each FM and BLM to over 40 g kg -1 fertilizer, in spring and summer respectively. The PAN from BM and NA was lower than 5 g kg -1 fertilizer. Available NH 4 + -N from CRF had the highest for bot h temperature regimes and seasons except for summer season in the Lab, where FM and BLM had the highest available NH 4 + -N. (Figure 3-4). During spring, available NH 4 + -N from BLM (19 g kg -1 fertilizer) was higher than FM (14 g kg -1 fertilizer) in the GH, but no differen ces were observed in the Lab (21 g kg -1 fertilizer). For summer season, available NH 4 + -N in the Lab was higher than the GH for both BLM and FM. Blood meal and FM available NH 4 + -N in the GH had no difference, 29 g kg -1 fertilizer for both. Whereas, BLM (40 g kg -1 fertilizer) in the Lab was greater than FM (35 g kg -1 fertilizer). For the remaining treatments, available NH 4 + -N was < 2 g kg -1 fertilizer. 47

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48 Cumulative available NO 3 -N from CRF was higher than the remaining treatments, for both temperature regimes and seasons (Fi gure 3-5). For FM and BLM available NO 3 -N for both temperature regimes during spring was < 5 g kg -1 of fertilizer, where cumulative DD reached 600. Available NO 3 -N during summer in the Lab (DD) was between 6 g kg -1 fertilizer for FM and 5 g kg -1 fertilizer for BLM. In the GH (DD 800) FM and BLM available NO 3 -N was 10 g kg fertilizer. Available NO 3 -N from NA and BM was < 2 g kg -1 fertilizer. Similarly to our results, Kraus et al. (2000), observed that ammonium availability from compost turkey litter (CLT) was greater at 45 C/25 C and 45 C than at 25 C. Although contrary to our results, nitrate availability was greater at 25 C. Monitoring air temperature is an effective way to predict N mineralization and nitrification from organic nutrient sources. From a production pe rspective it will be useful to advice growers to monitor temperature in the greenhouse to better predict availability of N. Overall, PAN from FM and BLM, which were selected as N source, do not have as much available N as CRF, but are potentially good N sources. Plant available n itrate from organic nutr ient sources was not enough to sustain crop growth. This low nitrification may be attri buted to the scarce presence of nitrifying bacteria in peat, temporary anaerob ic conditions, loss by volatilization, and high EC. Further research should be done, focusing on optim izing pH, EC and environmental factors to increase the nitrification rate of these nutrient sources.

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49 Table 3-1. Chemical properties of po tting media and organic nutrient sources. pH EC Total N NH 4 + -N NO 3 -N P K Mg Ca S Treatment z --dS cm -1 ---%---------mg L -1 -----------------------------------------mg kg -1 ------------------------NA 7.6 0.36 0.26 5.25 14.52 3 17 28.59 72.68 71.61 FM 7.8 3.50 12.03 57.75 16.93 4183 1034 15.72 32.52 56.09 BLM 8.1 2.90 14.04 18.75 11.37 1433 776 15.01 42.06 23.52 BM 7.8 2.21 2.19 22.05 11.02 65750 446 7.56 21.14 12.90 RP 8.2 1.82 0.08 2.45 2.98 18500 730 7.40 25.45 22.99 KMS 7.2 43.20 1.51 46.90 57.93 100 205763 9270.41 510.72 14198.39 z NA = media with no fertilizer; FM = feather meal; BLM = bl ood meal; BM = bone meal; RP = rock phosphate; KMS = potassium magnesium sulfate; CRF = c ontrolled-release fertilizer Table 3-2. Values for constituents of the irrigation water used in the greenhouse and laboratory used for irrigation of organi c nutrient sources. pH EC NH 4 + N NO 3 N P K ---dS cm -1 -------------------------mg L -1 ------------------Greenhouse 8.6 0.30 0.40 0.10 0.87 14.48 Lab 8.6 0.22 0.15 0.04 0.59 13.19

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50 Table 3-3. Regression analysis between media solution pH and EC and N mineralization (Nmin) and nitrification (Nnit) of organic nutrient sources for the summer season. pH EC Treatment z N min N nit N min N nit NA NS ** NS FM NS ** NS ** BLM ** NS ** BM NS NS NS NS RP ** NS NS ** KMS NS ** NS CRF ** ** NS z NA = media with no fertilizer; FM = feather meal; BLM = blood meal; BM = bone meal; RP = rock phosphate; KMS = potassium magnesium sulf ate; CRF = controlled-release fertilizer *,** Significant at P < 0.05 or 0.01, respectively.

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Table 3-4. Net cumulative release as mineralized (Nmin) and nitrified (Nnit) N from three or ganic nutrient s ources, a controll edrelease fertilizer and potting media with no fertilizer, as influenced by temperatur e regime, season and time of incubation. Nitrogen release as % (mg released mg -1 applied x 100) Spring Lab Spring Greenhouse Summer Lab Summer Greenhouse Time of Incubation (weeks) Treatment z N min N nit N N N min N nit min N nit min N nit NA 0.0 e y 0.1 c 0.0 f 0.1 d 0.2 c 0.3 b 0.1 d 0.6 b FM 0.6 cd 0.0 c 0.8 d 0.0 d 4.1 a 0.0 b 8.4 a 0.0 b BLM 0.3 de 0.0 c 0.4 e 0.0 d 4.9 a 0.0 b 3.1 bc 0.0 b BM 0.1 e 0.0 c 0.1 f 0.0 d 0.7 c 0.0 b 0.8 cd 0.5 b RP 0.9 c 0.2 c 1.0 c 0.4 c 0.4 c 0.9 b 0.1 d 0.4 b KMS 1.6 b 1.1 b 1.8 b 1.5 b 1.0 c 1.0 b 0.9 cd 0.9 b 1 CRF 3.2 a 4.7 a 4.2 a 5.7 a 3.2 b 4.8 a 4.4 b 6.4 a NA 0.1 f 2.5 c 0.0 e 1.9 d 0.2 c 0.9 c (0.01) x d 1.1 c FM 8.3 b 0.2 e 7.5 b 0.1 e 21.4 a 0.6 c 23.1 a 3.3 c BLM 7.1 c 0.4 e 7.3 b 0.0 e 21.4 a 0.2 c 17.0 b 3.1 c BM 1.4 e 0.8 d 0.4 e 2.2 cd 2.1 c 1.1 c 0.8 d 8.4 b RP 1.0 e 3.8 b 1.0 d 3.3 b 0.4 c 3.3 b 0.1 d 2.0 c KMS 3.2 d 2.3 c 3.1 c 2.6 c 1.6 c 2.3 b 1.2 d 2.0 c 3 CRF 10.9 a 14.1 a 12.2 a 15.1 a 10.8 b 15.1 a 12.6 c 18.1 a NA 0.1 e 2.7 c (0.01) x f 1.9 d 0.3 c 1.3 d (0.1) x c 1.1 c FM 18.0 a 2.6 c 13.3 c 2.8 c 30.2 a 4.9 b 25.8 a 8.2 b BLM 15.9 b 2.6 c 15.0 b 1.9 d 29.9 a 3.6 bc 22.5 ab 7.3 b BM 1.5 d 1.2 d 0.4 ef 5.1 b 2.3 c 1.6 d 0.8 c 8.6 b RP 1.1 de 4.0 b 1.0 e 3.3 c 0.4 c 3.7 bc 0.1 c 2.1 c KMS 3.4 c 2.8 c 3.1 d 2.9 c 1.7 c 2.9 c 1.1 c 2.3 c 5 CRF 18.1 a 21.1 a 18.7 a 21.2 a 17.3 b 25.6 a 20.0 b 29.8 a 51 z NA = media with no fertilizer; FM = feather meal; BLM = bl ood meal; BM = bone meal; RP = rock phosphate; KMS = potassium magnesium sulfate; CRF = c ontrolled-release fertilizer. y Means within columns within incubation times se parated using Duncans multiple range test, P<0.05. x Immobilization of NH 4 +

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52 z Calculated and analyzed as hydrogen concentration. Average pH Labz5 5.5 6 6.5 7 7.5 8 8.5 9 012345WeekspH NA FM BLM BM RP KMS CRF Ideal pHy Average pH Greenhousez5 5.5 6 6.5 7 7.5 8 8.5 9 012345WeekspH NA FM BLM BM RP KMS CRF Ideal pH y y Ideal pH for vegetable transplants NA = media with no fertilizer; FM = feathe r meal; BLM = blood meal; BM = bone meal; RP = rock phosphate; KMS = potassium magnesium sulfate; CRF = c ontrolled-release fertilizer. Figure 3-1. Average media solution pH m easured by pour-through media extraction procedure for summer season from five organic nutrient sources, a controlled-released fertil izer and potting media with no amendment.

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53 z Ideal EC for vegetable transplants NA = media with no fertilizer; FM = feathe r meal; BLM = blood meal; BM = bone meal; RP = rock phosphate; KMS = potassium magnesium sulfate; CRF = c ontrolled-release fertilizer NA = media with no fertilizer; FM = feathe r meal; BLM = blood meal; BM = bone meal; RP = rock phosphate; KMS = potassium magnesium sulfate; CRF = c ontrolled-release fertilizer Figure 3-2. Average media solution EC m easured by pour-through media extraction procedure for summer season from five organic nutrient sources, a controlled-released fer tilizer and potting media with no amendment. Figure 3-2. Average media solution EC m easured by pour-through media extraction procedure for summer season from five organic nutrient sources, a controlled-released fer tilizer and potting media with no amendment. Ideal EC for vegetable transplants Average EC Lab0 5 10 15 20 012345WeeksEC dS cm-1 NA FM BLM BM RP KMS CRF Ideal ECz Average EC Greenhouse0 5 10 15 20 012345WeeksEC dS cm-1 NA FM BLM BM RP KMS CRF Ideal EC z

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54Cumulative NH4 +-N released as percentage Figure 3-3. Regression analysis be tween net cumulative release of NH 4 + N and NO 3 N from five organic nutrient sources, a controlled-release fertilizer and potting media with no fertilizer as affected by cumulative degree days. 0 10 20 30 40 0100200300400500600700800900 Cumulative Degree Days FM Y = 0.033CDD R2= 0.51 CRF Y = 0.028CDD R2= 0.96 BLM Y = 0.041CDD R2= 0.61 Cumulative NO3 --N released as percentage -10 0 10 20 30 40 0100200300400500600700800900Cumulative Degree Days FM Y = -2.44 + 0.011CDD R2= 0.77 BM Y = 0.012CDD R2= 0.59 KMS Y = 1.29 + 0.003CDD R2= 0.45 CRF Y = 0.038CDD R2= 0.97 RP Y = 0.005CDD R2= 0.43 BLM Y = 0.008CDD R2= 0.66 Cumulative NH4 +-N released as percentage 0 10 20 30 40 0100200300400500600700800900 Cumulative Degree Days FM Y = 0.033CDD R2= 0.51 CRF Y = 0.028CDD R2= 0.96 BLM Y = 0.041CDD R2= 0.61 Cumulative NH4 +-N released as percentage 0 10 20 30 40 0100200300400500600700800900 Cumulative Degree Days FM Y = 0.033CDD R2= 0.51 CRF Y = 0.028CDD R2= 0.96 BLM Y = 0.041CDD R2= 0.61 FM Y = 0.033CDD R2= 0.51 FM Y = 0.033CDD R2= 0.51 CRF Y = 0.028CDD R2= 0.96 CRF Y = 0.028CDD R2= 0.96 BLM Y = 0.041CDD R2= 0.61 BLM Y = 0.041CDD R2= 0.61 Cumulative NO3 --N released as percentage -10 0 10 20 30 40 0100200300400500600700800900Cumulative Degree Days FM Y = -2.44 + 0.011CDD R2= 0.77 BM Y = 0.012CDD R2= 0.59 KMS Y = 1.29 + 0.003CDD R2= 0.45 CRF Y = 0.038CDD R2= 0.97 RP Y = 0.005CDD R2= 0.43 BLM Y = 0.008CDD R2= 0.66 Cumulative NO3 --N released as percentage -10 0 10 20 30 40 0100200300400500600700800900Cumulative Degree Days FM Y = -2.44 + 0.011CDD R2= 0.77 BM Y = 0.012CDD R2= 0.59 KMS Y = 1.29 + 0.003CDD R2= 0.45 CRF Y = 0.038CDD R2= 0.97 RP Y = 0.005CDD R2= 0.43 BLM Y = 0.008CDD R2= 0.66 FM Y = -2.44 + 0.011CDD R2= 0.77 FM Y = -2.44 + 0.011CDD R2= 0.77 BM Y = 0.012CDD R2= 0.59 BM Y = 0.012CDD R2= 0.59 KMS Y = 1.29 + 0.003CDD R2= 0.45 KMS Y = 1.29 + 0.003CDD R2= 0.45 CRF Y = 0.038CDD R2= 0.97 CRF Y = 0.038CDD R2= 0.97 RP Y = 0.005CDD R2= 0.43 RP Y = 0.005CDD R2= 0.43 BLM Y = 0.008CDD R2= 0.66 BLM Y = 0.008CDD R2= 0.66 FM = feather meal; BLM = blood meal; BM = bone meal; RP = rock phosphate; KMS = potassium magnesium sulfate; CRF = controlled-release fertilizer

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024Week2004006000 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90100024Cumulative PAN (g kg -1amendment)0200400600 0Cumulative Degree Daysab 0 24 2004006000 0246 200400600800 NA FM BLM BM CRF NA FM BLM BM CRF NA FM BLM BM CRF NA FM BLM BM CRFcd 024Week2004006000 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90100024Cumulative PAN (g kg -1amendment)0200400600 0Cumulative Degree Daysab 0 24 2004006000 0246 200400600800 NA FM BLM BM CRF NA NA FM FM BLM BLM BM BM CRF CRF NA FM BLM BM CRF NA NA FM FM BLM BLM BM BM CRF CRF NA FM BLM BM CRF NA NA FM FM BLM BLM BM BM CRF CRF NA FM BLM BM CRF NA NA FM FM BLM BLM BM BM CRF CRFcd 55 a = Spring Lab; b = Spring Greenhouse; c = Summer Lab; d = Summ er Greenhouse; NA = media with no fertilizer; FM = feather meal; BLM = blood meal; BM = bone meal; RP = rock phosphate; KMS = potassium magnesi um sulfate; CRF = controlled-release fertilizer Figure 3-4. Net cumulative plant available nitrogen (PAN) from three organic nutrien t sources, a controlled-release fertilizer and potting media with no fertilizer under two temperature regimes during two seasons.

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0 10 20 30 40 50 60 024Cumulative available NH4 +-N (g kg-1amendment)0200400600 024Week0200400600Cumulative Degree Days 024 0200400600 0246 02004006008001000 NA FM BLM BM CRF NA FM BLM BM CRF NA FM BLM BM CRF NA FM BLM BM CRFabcd 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 024Cumulative available NH4 +-N (g kg-1amendment)0200400600 024Week0200400600Cumulative Degree Days 024 0200400600 0246 02004006008001000 NA FM BLM BM CRF NA NA FM FM BLM BLM BM BM CRF CRF NA FM BLM BM CRF NA NA FM FM BLM BLM BM BM CRF CRF NA FM BLM BM CRF NA NA FM FM BLM BLM BM BM CRF CRF NA FM BLM BM CRF NA NA FM FM BLM BLM BM BM CRF CRFabcd 56 a = Spring Lab; b = Spring Greenhouse; c = Summer Lab; d = Summ er Greenhouse; NA = media with no fertilizer; FM = feather meal; BLM = blood meal; BM = bone meal; RP = rock phosphate; KMS = potassium magnesi um sulfate; CRF = controlled-release fertilizer Figure 3-5. Net cumulative available ammonium (NH 4 + -N) from three organic nutrient sources, a controlled-release fertilizer and potting media with no fertilizer under two temperature regimes during two seasons.

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0 10 20 30 40 50 60 024 0200400600 024Week0200400600Cumulative Degree Days 024 0200400600 0246 02004006008001000Cumulative available NO3 --N (g kg-1 amendment) NA FM BLM BM CRF NA FM BLM BM CRF NA FM BLM BM CRF NA FM BLM BM CRFabcd 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 024 0200400600 024Week0200400600Cumulative Degree Days 024 0200400600 0246 02004006008001000Cumulative available NO3 --N (g kg-1 amendment) NA FM BLM BM CRF NA NA FM FM BLM BLM BM BM CRF CRF NA FM BLM BM CRF NA NA FM FM BLM BLM BM BM CRF CRF NA FM BLM BM CRF NA NA FM FM BLM BLM BM BM CRF CRF NA FM BLM BM CRF NA NA FM FM BLM BLM BM BM CRF CRFabcd 57 a = Spring Lab; b = Spring Greenhouse; c = Summer Lab; d = Summ er Greenhouse; NA = media with no fertilizer; FM = feather meal; BLM = blood meal; BM = bone meal; RP = rock phosphate; KMS = potassium magnesi um sulfate; CRF = controlled-release fertilizer. Figure 3-6. Net cumulative available nitrate (NO 3 -N) from three organic nutrient sources, a controlled-release fertilizer and potting media with no fertilizer under two te mperature regimes during two seasons.

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CHAPTER 4 EFFECT OF TEMPERATURE ON NUTRI ENT RELEASE RATES FROM CUSTOM ORGANIC BLENDS FOR ORGA NIC TRANSPLANT PRODUCTION Abstract Organic materials are transformed to plant av ailable nutrients thr ough biological processes that are influenced by temperature, moisture, pH and electrical conductiv ity (EC) of the plant growing medium. To improve fertility management in organic vegetable transplant systems, this research was conducted to study the effect of temperature on the release rates of ammonium nitrogen (NH 4 + -N), nitrate nitrogen (NO 3 -N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) from four custom blends derived from nutrient sour ces approved for use in organic production. Experiments were performed for five weeks under two temperature regimes greenhouse during two seasons (summer and fall). Five nutrient sources including: 1) blood meal (BLM); 2) feather meal (FM); 3) bone meal (BM); 4) rock phospha te (RP); and 5) potassi um magnesium sulfate (KMS) were used to create four custom blends: 1) FM + BM + KMS (FBK); 2) FM + RP +KMS (FRK); 3) BLM + BM + KMS (BBK); and 4) BLM + RP + KMS (BTK). Blends were compared to a controlled-release synthetic fertilizer (CRF) and a control of potting medi a with no fertilizer (NA). Each blend had an analysis of 19N-2.6P-9.9K equal to CRF. The NH 4 + -N, NO 3 -N, P and K release rates were determined on leachate samples taken weekly throughout the study. Increasing air temperature, as the su m of degree days (DD), enhanced NH 4 + -N release rate from all treatments except NA. The cumulative NO 3 -N release rates from organic blends were low (< 3%) except during summer in the GH, which ra nged from 6%-8%. Cumulative plant available nitrogen during summer from all organic blends in the GH was 59 to 74 g kg -1 blend and in the Lab, 50 to 64 g kg -1 blend. Mineralization of P was detectable only in CRF (< 5g kg -1 ). BTK blend had the highest net cumulative K re lease rate, 45% equivalent to 44 g kg -1 blend, followed by BBK and FBK (39% and 38%), representing 38 g kg -1 blend of available K. Media solution 58

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pH significantly affected nitrif ication. EC affected mineraliza tion and nitrification for specific seasons and treatments Introduction Nutrients in organic producti on systems are supplied by plant and animal-based materials or with commercial organic fertilizers. After the implementation of the USDAs National Organic Standards (USDA, 2007b), considerable re search has been done on the use of organic materials for transplant production. Research has focused on evaluating compost and vermicompost as potting media constituents (Clark and Cavigelli, 2005, Larr ea, 2005; Raviv et al., 1998; Snchez-Monedero et al., 2004) and the us e of plant and animal-based wastes and byproducts (Gagnon and Berrouard, 1994; Smith and Ha dley, 1989b) to satisfy partial or complete transplant nutrient requirements. With the increasing demand of organic fruits and vegetables, new co mmercially available fertilizers approved for use in organic systems have increased fertilizer options for organic growers. Ingredients and manufacturing process of commercial formulations are proprietary; but they are usually composed of dehydrated and palle tized blends of animal and/or plant wastes and animal by-products supplemented by rock phosph ate, potassium magnesi um sulfate and other naturally derived components. The advantages of using these new organic fe rtilizer formulations include a guaranteed analysis and complete nitrogen (N) ph osphorus (P) potassium (K) formulation. However, these new formulations require different mana gement practices due mainly to differences between formulations a nd high levels of electr ical conductivity (EC) (Hochmuth et al, 2003). Synchronizing nutrient release with plant nu trient demand in organic production is challenging due to the underlying biological pro cesses involved in the decomposition of organic materials. Since most of the or ganic fertilizers have a low fracti on of soluble inorganic forms of 59

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nitrogen (N), they have to go through a mineralization and nitrification process before becoming plant available. The mineralization process is the conversion of organic N to ammonium (NH 4 + ) and is mediated by autotrophic bacteria, actinomycet es and fungi. The nitrif ication process is the oxidation of NH 4 + to nitrate (NO 3 ) and is mainly mediated primarily by two genera of autotrophic nitrifying bacteria, Nitrosomonas spp. and Nitrobacter spp. Since plant nutrition in organic production relies mainly on microbial transformation of organic materials, factors that affect microbial activity such as pH and EC as well as environmental factors such as temperature are of vital importance. The optimum pH range is 5.5-6.8 for horticult ural crops (Maynard and Hochmuth, 1997) because it correlates with optimum availabil ity of crop macronutrients and micronutrients. Growing media pH mediates microbial comm unity composition as different types of microorganisms have different optimum pH. Fo r example, mineralizing microbes can be found in a wide range of pH, but at pH > 7.5, NH 4 + can lost by volatili zation of ammonia (NH 3 + ). Nitrification also takes place over a wide range of pH (4.5 to 10) (Havlin et al, 1999). Studies have found that NH 4 + oxidation in a peat-based medium wa s insignificant in pH <5.6 (Argo and Biernbaum, 1997). Similar results were obser ved by Lang and Elliot (1991) where maximum NO 3 -N accumulation in a peat/perlite base d medium was between pH 5.3 to pH 5.9. Adequate EC for vegetable transplants grow n in soilless potting media range from 1.001.76 dS m -1 (Maynard and Hochmuth, 1997). Electrical co nductivity above this range can result in osmotic stress on plants. Similarly, microbial populations are adversel y affected by high EC because of the osmotic stress created by saline co nditions on the microbial cell. Several studies have reported that the applica tion of animal-based fertilizers to planting media may increase EC up to 13 dS m -1 (Chellemi and Lazarovits, 2002; Clark and Cavigelli, 2005; Kahn et al., 2005; 60

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Larrea, 2005; Rippy et al., 2004; Snchez-Monedero et al., 2004; Raviv et al., 1998). Studies using organic fertilizers for tran splant production have identified EC as one of the main factors limiting seed germination and seedling growth (Larrea, 2005; Snchez-Monedero et al., 2004). Temperature and moisture are the most frequent ly studied environmental factors that affect microbial growth and activity and therefore the mineralization and nitrif ication processes. The temperature coefficient (Q 10 ) of organic matter decomposition is 2 in the range of 5 to 35 C (Ktterer et al., 1998), meaning that for every 10 degree increase in temperature between 5 and 35C the rate of decomposition dou bles. Optimum soil temperature for nitrification is 25 C to 35 C and nitrification rate is re duced in temperatures above 40 C and below 5C (Havlin et al., 1999). This is consistent with research by Hoyl e et al. (2006) where ni trification increased linearly with temperature; at 5 C NH 4 + is immobilized and above 20 C it is oxidized to NO 3 The addition of green manures and or ganic by-products improves soil biology by increasing microbial biomass and activity (Sta rk et al., 2007; Hadas and Kautsky, 1994). In addition increases in temperature induce a shif t in the composition of microbial communities (Richards et al., 1985; Carreiro a nd Koske, 1992).Therefore the incr ease in the net mineralized N in temperatures from 20 C to 30 C is likel y due to microbial communities favored at high temperature metabolizing substrates that may not utilized at lower temperatures (Zogg et al., 1997). Research on the effect of temperature on nut rient release from or ganic fertilizers using soilless media is limited. Results from research using soils cannot always be applied to soilless media. One reason for this is that substrates r each higher temperatures than soils. Kraus et al. (2000) studied the N mineralization rate of three compost materials: compost turkey litter (CLT), yard waste and municipal waste mixed with milled pine bark to achieve an equal N content under 61

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three temperature regimes (45, 25 and 45 C day/25 C night). Results show that the percentage of organic N mineralized was greater at 45/25 and 45 C than at 25 C; however, nitrate availability was greater at 25 C. Due to the many interacting factors involved in the decomposition of organic materials, nutrient release is very hard to predict. Res earch has focused on using growing degree days (GDD) as a tool to better predict nutrient availability. Research indicates that GDD can successfully be used to predict cumulative N mineralization and nitrifi cation from manures and cover crops in field culture (Griffin and Honeycutt, 2000; Honeycutt and Potaro, 1990; Schomberg and Endale, 2004), but no published research has been completed on growing media for transplant production. Schomberg and Endale (2004) concluded that so il N mineralization of 2 cover crops (cereal rye and cris om clover) correlated positively with heat units and cumulative heat units. Net soil N minera lization rates were 0.023 kg ha -1 heat unit -1 once net mineralization began. Griffin and Honeycu tt (2000) observed that NO 3 accumulation from dairy, poultry, and swine manures incorporated to soils, increased with temperature, and could be predicted across temperature regimes using GDD us ing an exponential equation, NO 3 = 54.10(1 e -0.006GDD ). As the organic industry continue s to grow, the need for research related to the management of organic fertilizers will conti nue to increase. Understanding how temperature affects nutrient release rate from custom organic blends will contribute to the development of recommendations for the efficient use of these, as well as to serve as a foundation to better predict nutrient availability. Therefore, the objec tive of this study to determine the effect of two temperature regimes on the nutrient release rates from f our custom organic amendments for organic transplant production. 62

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Materials and Methods Media Characteristics and Organic Amendments Potting media used in the study was Fafard Organic Formulation #20 (Fafard Industries, Agawam, MA) composed of peat moss (70%), perlite, vermiculite, gypsum and dolomitic limestone, all ingredients approved for their use in organic production. The same potting media lot was used for all the expe riments to reduce variability. Five organic nutrient sources approved for use in certified organic production were used: 1) feather meal (FM; Griffin Industries, Co ld Spring, KY); 2) blood meal (BLM; Voluntary Purchasing Group Inc, Bonham TX); 3) bone m eal (BM; North Pacific Group, Inc., Portland, Oregon); 4) rock phosphate (RP; Earthsafe Or ganics, Gladewater, TX ); and 5) potassiummagnesium-sulfate (KMS; Diamond R Fertilizer, Winter Garden, FL). The amendments were compared to two controls: potting media with no fertility amendment (NA), and an inorganic polymer-coated controlled-released fertilizer (CRF) with an analysis of 19N-2.6P-9.9K, 10% of the N as NH 4 + -N and 9% as NO 3 -N, derived from ammonium n itrate, ammonium sulfate, calcium phosphate and potassium sulfate. The nutri ent sources used for this study were selected because they are the most common component ingr edients in the commercial organic fertilizers and are frequently used by growers in custom mi xes. Component nutrient sources were selected to provide a balanced macronutri ent supply. Feather meal and BM were selected as N sources, BM and RP where selected as phosphorus (P) so urces and KMS was selected as a potassium (K) source. Each of the N sources was mixed with one of the P sources a nd the K source. Custom blends were: 1) FM + BM + KMS (FBK); 2) BLM + BM + KMS (BBK); 3) FM + RP + KMS (FRK); and 4) BLM + RP + KMS (BTK). All amendments were mixed to achieve 19N-2.6P9.9K. Custom blends were mixed thoroughly with the potting media and then placed into a 0.037 m 3 plastic pot. Prior to trial initiation, potting medi a and custom blends were analyzed for total C 63

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and N using a C and N combustion analyzer (L eco, St. Joseph, MI); water extractable NO 3 N, NH 4 + N, P, K, magnesium (Mg), calcium (Ca), sulfur (S) and micronutrients, and pH and EC were determined by Waters Agricultural Laboratories (Camilla, GA). A summary of these analyses are presented in Table 4-1. Cultural Practices Experiments were conducted for five w eeks under two temperature regimes: the greenhouse (GH) and laboratory (Lab) of the Ho rticultural Sciences Department at the University of Florida (Gainesville, FL). E xpt. 1 was conducted from 29 May to 26 June, 2006 (summer) and Expt. 2 was conducted from 20 Oct. to 24 Nov. 2006 (fall). During the study, air temperature levels were monitored daily in 15-minute intervals using a data logger (Hobo U10, Onset Computer Corporation, Bourne, MA). Temperature in the GH ranged from 18 C to 42 C in Expt. 1 and from 10 C to 40 C in Expt. 2, meanwhile temperature in the lab for both experiments ra nged from 21 C to 23 C. Since temperature ranges were different between temp erature regime, temperature data in this study is reported as degree days (DD) and was calcula ted using the following formula: DD = Average daily temperature in C 5 (4-1) Where 5 is the threshold of micr obial activity (Havlin et al., 1999). The WHC of the potting media alone or mixed with the blends was determined by the method described by Styer and Koranski (1997). A 100 g sample of each mix was saturated and then left to drain for 24 h. The water content retained at the en d of this period was considered 100% WHC. Throughout the experiment, pots were weighed and irrigated daily with municipal tap water to maintain 100% WHC. This was don e to reduce the potential of salt accumulation (Poole and Conover, 1982). Values for constituents of the irrigation water used in the GH and Lab are shown in Table 4-2. 64

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Leachate Collection and Analysis Every week, tap water that was 1.5x the initial WHC (mL) was added to the top of each pot and allowed to drain for 1 h. Total leachate volu me was measured after drainage. Immediately after leaching EC was measured with a portable conductiv ity meter (ECTester high, Oakton Instruments, Vernon Hills, IL), and pH was m easured with a portable pH meter (model pHep, Hanna Instruments, Woonsocket, RI). A 20-mL a liquot was collected and frozen until analyzed. Leachate samples were submitted to the So il and Water Science Department of the University of Florida (Gainesville, FL) where sa mples were vacuum filtrated and analyzed for concentration of NH 4 + N and NO 3 N using colorimetric pro cedures on a rapid flow auto analyzer. Water extractable P and K concentrat ions for Expt. 1 were determined by Waters Agricultural Laboratories. Media solution pH was calculated and analyzed as hydrogen concentration and reported as average media pH. Calculation of Net N Mineralization and Nitrification The amounts of NH 4 + N and NO 3 N leached every week we re calculated by multiplying leachate concentration by leachate volume. Plan t available N was calculated as the sum of NH 4 + N and NO 3 N recovered weekly and summed each consecutive week for five weeks. Nitrogen mineralization (N min ) was calculated as a percentage of mg of NH 4 + N released per mg of total N applied using the following formula: N min (as % of mg of NH 4 + N released mg -1 of total N applied) = [(NH 4 + N) RL (NH 4 + N) IW (NH 4 + N) M ] / Total N applied 100 (4-2) Where (NH 4 + N) RL is the NH 4 + N recovered in the leachate, (NH 4 + N) IW is the NH 4 + N in irrigation water, and (NH 4 + N) M is the NH 4 + N recovered from the media. Nitrogen nitrification (N nit ) as a percentage of mg of NO 3 N released per mg of total N applied was calculated using the following formula: N nit (as % of mg of NO 3 N released mg -1 of total N applied) 65

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= [(NO 3 N) RL (NO 3 N) IW (NO 3 N) M ] / Total N applied 100 (4-3) Where (NO 3 N) RL is the NO 3 N recovered in the leachate, (NO 3 N) IW is the NH 4 + N in irrigation water, and (NO 3 N) M is the NO 3 N recovered from the media. Phosphorus and K release as a percentage of mg of P or K released per mg of total P or K applied was similarly as N min and N nit. For the purpose of this paper, we separate the results in two components: 1) release (units) which is the generation of NH 4 + N, NO 3 N, P or K as a percentage of mg released per mg of total applied; 2) availability (units) which is the actual amount of nutrient available per kg of custom blend. Experimental Design and Statistical Analysis The treatments were arranged in a complete ly randomized design w ithin each temperature regime defined by two physical locations (GH and Lab) replicated four times during two seasons (summer and fall). Data were subjected to anal ysis of variance (ANOVA) using SAS (SAS V8, Cary, NC) to determine significance of main and in teraction effects. Means were separated using Duncans multiple range test at alpha 0.05. To de scribe the relationship between pH, EC and DD on N release, SAS regression analysis was used to identify significant relationships among pairs of response variables. Results and Discussion Media Solution pH Media solution average pH for summer and fall season is shown in Figure 4-1. Based on ANOVA, the media solution pH was affected by the interaction of treatment, temperature regime, season and treatment, season and week ( P <0.01, data not shown). Therefore, media solution pH was analyzed by season and week. Du ring summer, the interac tion of treatment and rate was significant on week one and two, followe d by main effect of treatment on the remaining weeks. During spring, the interac tion of treatment and rate was significant on week one, two and 66

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four. During weeks three and five, media solution pH was dependant of main effect of treatment. At the end of the experiment, no difference in pH was observed between temperature regimes, but media solution pH of CRF was lowe r than the organic blends and NA. Initial pH of the media before addition of amendments and irrigation water was 7.6. Media solution pH for NA was variable across seasons or temperature regimes. For example, pH in the Lab during summer increased to pH 7.9 in week two, decreased to pH 7.7 in week three and increase to pH 8.0 in week four. Meanwhile, pH in the Lab during fall decreased from pH 7.8 in week one to pH 7.5 in week to a nd increase to pH 7.7 in week three. After one week of incubation, the addition of custom blends increased the pH to levels greater than optimal for vegetable transpla nt production (Maynard and Hochmuth, 1997). Overall, pH of custom organic blends was 8.08.1, and was higher than th e pH of controlledrelease fertilizer (pH 6.0) (Figure 4-1). Duri ng the summer, treatments with organic blends remained above pH 7.5 throughout the five weeks. The FRK blend was the only treatment that decreased pH to 7.4 by the end of week five. Higher pH during the summer was observed in week three (pH 8.3) af ter this, pH decreased During the fall, pH of a ll four organic blends increased weekly. In the Lab pH increased from pH 7.7 in week one to pH 8.5 in week five, and in the greenhouse pH increased from pH 7.8 in week one to pH 8.6 in week five. Similar trends were found by Rippy et al. (2004), when studying organic substrates amended with dolomitic limestone, blood meal, bone meal and potassium sulfate and fertilized with organic or conventional liquid fertilizer s for greenhouse-grown tomatoes. Researchers observed that media solution pH was higher in organic treatments (pH 6.9 7.3) than conventional treatments (pH 5.5 6.7). In order to reduce the pH of organic treatments to the recommended pH range, dolomitic limestone was replaced with elemental sulfur. On the 67

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contrary, research by Larrea (2005 ) on organic tomato transpla nt production observed that the pH from custom organic substrates composed of vermi-compost, peat, and perlite, and amended with feather meal and kelp meal was not aff ected by organic treatments and remained between pH 5.5-6.9. Based on regression analysis, media solution pH significantly affected N nit ( P < 0.01, AdjR 2 = 0.72) and PAN ( P < 0.01, Adj-R 2 = 0.15) but had no effect on N min for all custom blends. This result was usual since minera lization is done by a wide array of heterotrophic bacteria. In contrast, nitrification is executed by only se veral genera of nitrifying bacteria including Nitrosomonas spp. and Nitrobacter spp.. Although, when analyzed by treatment (Table 4-3), no effect of pH was observed on N min and N nit in summer, except for CRF. Different results were observed in fall, where pH affected N min of all blends and N nit of the two blends containing BLM. Media Solution EC Media solution average EC for the summer a nd fall seasons is shown in Figure 4-2. The initial EC of the media before the addition of amendments and irrigation water was 0.36 dS cm -1 Based on ANOVA, the media solution EC was a ffected by the interaction of treatment, temperature regime, season and week ( P <0.01, data not shown). Therefore, media solution EC was analyzed by season and week. During summer, media solution EC was dependant on the interaction of treatment and rate in weeks one an d five, and main effects of treatment for week two, three and four. In week tw o, organic blends containing RP as P source, FRK (13.34 dS cm 1 ) and BTK (13.13 dS cm -1 ), had higher EC than blends containing BM, BBK (11.91 dS cm -1 ) and FBK (10.94 dS cm -1 ), and all blends higher than the CRF (8.43 dS cm -1 ). In W4, media solution EC in organic blends containing FM, FBK (7.26 dS cm -1 ) and FRK (7.18 dS cm -1 ), were similar to the CRF (6.62 dS cm -1 ). During spring, media soluti on EC was dependant of main effects of treatment and temperature regime fo r week one, three and f our, main effect of 68

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treatment on week two and the interaction of treat ment and temperature regime on week five. In week one, media solution EC for blends containing BM, BBK (15.28 dS cm -1 ) and FBK (14.82 dS cm -1 ) were higher than blends containing RP, BTK (12.60 dS cm -1 ) and FRK (12.45 dS cm -1 ) that were similar to the CRF (12.31 dS cm -1 ).This was the only week in which media solution in the Lab was higher than the GH, 11.85 dS cm -1 compared to 10.76 dS cm -1 ; after that, EC in the GH was higher than the Lab. Media solution EC in both temperature regimes increased after one w eek of incubation for all treatments except NA; but rapidly decrease d in the second week. Although EC decreased thereafter, it did not reach the ideal EC level for transplant production. During the summer, CRF slightly increased EC after th e third week. The highest EC was observed in the summer was BTK (17.98 dS cm -1 ), meanwhile in the fall, the highe st EC was observed in BBK and FBK (15.29 dS cm -1 and 14.83 dS cm -1 ; respectively). Research has shown that the application of animal-based fertilizers to planting media can increase the EC up to 13 dS m -1 (Rippy et al., 2004; Larrea, Snchez-Monedero et al, 2004; Chellemi and Lazarovits, 2002; Kahn et al., 2005; Raviv et al., 1998; Clar k and Cavigelli, 2005). So far, EC has been identified as one of the main factors lim iting seed germination and seedling growth (Larrea, 2005; Snchez-Monedero et al ., 2004).Considering that the optimal media EC for vegetable transplant producti on is between 1.00 to 1.76 dS m -1 we can conclude that EC from custom organic blends is too high and will likely limit transplant germination and growth. Although, it is important to consider that the amo unts of fertilizer used in each pot were much higher than a producer will normally use. Based on regression analysis, medi a solution EC had no effect on N min N nit or PAN. When analyzed by treatment, EC affected N min of all treatments except NA, and affected N nit during 69

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summer for all treatments except FBK (Table 43). This result is unusual because nitrifying bacteria are usually affected by high EC. Irshad et al. (2005) c oncluded that soil salinity has more detrimental effects on the ni trification process than minerali zation. For example, after eight weeks, NO 3 N release at 0.2 dS m -1 was 265% greater than at 11.4 dS m -1 Similar results were observed by Inubushi et al. ( 1999) where nitrification was inhibited at EC >1 dS m -1 .inhibits. In this study, the EC levels were so high (up to 18 dS cm -1 ) that they probably affected mineralizing microbes by creating osmotic stress on the microbi al cell and therefore, reducing microbial activity. Ammonium Release Rates The net cumulative NH 4 + -N release rate expressed as N min is shown in Table 4-4. Based on ANOVA, the net cumulative NH 4 + -N release rate was affected by the interaction of treatment, temperature regime and season (P <0.01, data not shown). Therefore, N min data were analyzed by season. During summer, treatment and temperatur e regime interaction was significant only in week one, followed by the main effects of treatmen t in weeks two to five and temperature regime in weeks two and three. During fall, treatment a nd temperature regime interaction was significant each of the five weeks. On average, net cumulative N min of all treatments after five weeks of incubation was greater in the summer (23%) than for fall (15%), but due to interactions, main effect differences among treatments between se asons could not be statistically analyzed. During summer in the GH, N min from organic blends was higher than CRF, but no difference between blends and CRF was detected in the GH during fall (Table 4-4). The net cumulative N min for the GH in summer was 23%, while 17% in fall. This difference between N min in this location during two seasons can be attr ibuted to the higher nu mber of cumulative DD in summer (794) than spring (542). Alt hough temperature in the lab was constant, N min was higher in summer (22%) than in fall (17%). For example, cumulative N min of BTK during 70

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summer was three times higher than fall, but c ould not be statistically analyzed due to interactions. This difference in N min can be due to changes that occurred during storage of amendments between experiments, since the same batch was used. After five weeks, cumulative mineralized N from organic blends and CRF was linearly correlated with cumulative DD based on regr ession analysis (Figure 4-3). Increasing temperature, as the sum of DD, increased the NH 4 + -N release rate from all treatments except NA. Cumulative N min followed the similar trends as the first five weeks of the study by Agehara and Warncke (2005), although the magnitude of release was lower. In that study, researchers also observed that a 10 C increase in temperature resulted in a three-fold increase in mineralization rate from 0.54 mg N kg -1 week -1 in 15/10 C (daytime temperature/night time temperature) to 1.53 mg N kg -1 week -1 in 25/20 C. Minimal research has been done studying the N mineralization of custom organic blends, but several studies have been done studying organic amendments in soils. For example, Hartz and Johnstone (2006) studied the N mineralizati on of blood meal and feather meal in a sandy loam soil under laboratory conditions. Results indicate that N mineralization from both amendments after one week of incubation at 25 C was 50%, with NH 4 + -N representing < 1%. Similarly, Hadas and Kautsky (1994) observed th at under lab conditions, N mineralization from feather meal incubated with soil from cu ltivated fields at 30 C and 60% WHC was approximately 55% of initial N added after two weeks, and a c onsiderably slower rate of mineralization was obtained thereafte r. Compared to other studies, N min was very low probably because other studies have used soil, while we used soilless media. Nitrate Release Rates The net cumulative NO 3 -N release rates expressed as N nit are shown in Table 4-4. Based on ANOVA, the net cumulative NO 3 -N release rate was affected by a treatment, temperature 71

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regime and season interaction ( P <0.01, data not shown). During both seasons, a main effect of treatment was observed on week one but thereafter treatment and temperature regime interaction was significant. Over the five weeks, cumulative N nit from NA, BTK and CRF was linearly correlated with cumulative DD (Figure 4-3) but no effect was detected on the remaining blends. Overall N nit from blends was lower than CRF and similar to NA. The NO 3 -N release rate throughout the five weeks was relatively low (< 3%) except during summer in the greenhouse, in which N nit from organic blends ranged 6%-8%. Our results are consistent with research by Bugbee and Elliott (1998), where NO 3 -N released from a media composed of compost, peat, sand and bark commenced six weeks into the experiment. In this study, the low NO 3 -N release rate may be attributed to several factors. First, the loss of NH 4 + -N by volatilization of NH 3 + is favored by pH > 7.5. In addition, the temporary decrease in O 2 concentration of the media as a result of the rapid oxidation of organic material and saturated conditions after leaching the media may favor denitrification. Maximum nitrification occurs at 20% oxyge n percentage (Havlin et al, 1999; Brady and Weil, 1999). When the O 2 supply is too low to meet microbial activity, like in saturated soils, some organisms obtain their O 2 from NO 2 and NO 3 causing loss of NO 3 by denitrification. Temporary anaerobic conditions can also limit the O 2 supply for microbial activity (Havlin et al, 1999). Anaerobic conditions can be created after the addition of green manures and organic by-products, since these materials increase microbi al biomass and activity (Stark et al., 2007; Hadas and Kautsky, 1994). Therefore, as microbial activity in creases, microorganisms consume more O 2 and can result in temporary O 2 depletion. Finally, soilless media characteristically have a smaller biological population than mineral field soils, because of the relatively sterile ingredients. Studies have demonstrated that nitrifying bacteria exist in low concentrations in uncultivated 72

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peat (Herlihy, 1972), but may increase 1000-fold afte r cultivation and planting (Lang and Elliot, 1991; Lang and Elliot, 1997). The low population of microbes in peat may be due to the low pH of peat (pH < 4.0) that is not favorable for microbial growth. Phosphorus and Potassium Release and Availability Net cumulative P release was affected by treatment based on ANOVA ( P <0.01, data not shown). Phosphorus release rates from NA were negative. The lo ss of detectable P may have been caused by the reaction of P with calcium pr esent in dolomitic limestone resulting in the formation of Ca phosphates, which have low solubility. All organic blends had low P release rates (< 1%). Only CRF had detectable P re lease rates (16%), re presenting, 4 5 g kg -1 blend of available P. Net cumulative K release was affected by treatment based on ANOVA ( P <0.01, data not shown). Potassium release rates from NA were ne gative. This negative release may be caused by the fixation of K by vermiculite, which is a 2:1 clay. The net cumulative release rate from organic blends was higher than CRF. The BTK blend had the highest net cumulative K release rate, 45% equivalent to 44 g kg -1 blend (Figure 4-4). The BBK a nd FBK had similar release rates (39% and 38%), representing 38 g kg -1 blend of available K. Overall, available P from custom organic ble nds is not sufficient to sustain transplant growth. All organic blends prove to have enough release to sustain crop growth. It is important to consider that the application of organic blends can increase the EC and limit crop productivity. Nitrogen Availability Treatment means of cumulative PAN for both seasons and temperature regimes are show in Figure 4-5. Cumulative PAN for both seasons and temperature regimes was highest from CRF with 90 g kg -1 amendment in summer and up to 110 g kg -1 amendment in fall. During the summer, plant available N from all blends was higher in the GH than in the Lab. In the GH, 73

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74 cumulative DD reached 794 and PAN ranged from 59 to 74 g kg -1 In the Lab, the cumulative DD reached 592, and PAN ranged from 50 to 64 g kg -1 blend in the Lab. Treatment means of available cumulative NH 4 + -N for both seasons and temperature regimes is show in Figure 4-6. Available cumulative NH 4 + -N from all organic blends was higher than CRF during summer, under both temperature re gimes. In the fall, organic blends and CRF had similar available NH 4 + -N (Figure 4-6). The CRF was the only treatment with enough cumulative available NO 3 -N able to provide enough N for crop growth, 55 to 56 g kg -1 blend. During the fall, the available NO 3 -N from organic blends was < 2 g kg -1 blend. Highest cumulative available NO 3 -N was observed during summer in the GH, where cumulative DD reached 794. Blends containing BLM had 13 g kg -1 blend at the end of the five weeks. Meanwhile, FRK had 16 g kg -1 blend of available NO 3 -N and FBK 11 g kg -1 blend of available NO 3 -N. Similarly to our results, Krau s et al. (2000), observed that NH 4 + availability from compost turkey litter (CLT) was greater at 45 C/ 25 C and 45 C than at 25 C. Contrary to our results, NO 3 availability from C LT was greater at 25 C. Monitoring air temperature is an effective way to predict N mineralization and nitrification from organic amendments. Overall, PAN from all organic blends are pote ntially good N sources. Plant available nitrate from orga nic blends was minimal and not enough to sustain crop growth. This low nitrification may be attributed to the scarce presence of nitrifying bacteria in peat, temporary anaerobic conditions, loss by volatiliza tion. Further research s hould be done, focusing on optimizing pH, EC and environmental factors to increase the nitrification rate of these amendments..

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75 Table 4-1. Chemical properties of po tting media and custom organic blends. Treatment z pH EC Total N NH 4 + -N NO 3 -N P K Mg Ca S --dS cm -1 ---%---------mg L -1 ----------------------------------------------mg kg -1 ------------------------------NA 7.6 0.36 0.26 5.25 14.52 3.01 17.09 26.20 58.01 76.14 FBK 8.2 4.16 19.00 78.75 2.80 4750.00 12781.00 171.70 153.59 567.36 FRK 7.9 3.51 19.00 56.75 2.80 4316.00 12731.00 125.10 142.29 408.86 BBK 8.1 4.31 19.00 60.75 2.25 5402.00 12988.00 119.40 105.19 365.64 BTK 8.0 3.15 19.00 57.75 2.45 4946.00 12935.00 81.80 78.29 311.76 z NA = media with no application; FBK= feat her meal + blood meal + potassium magnes ium sulfate; FRK = feather meal + rock phosphate + potassium magnesium sulfate; BBK = blood meal + bone meal + potassium magnesium sulfate; BTK = blood meal + rock phosphate + potassium ma gnesium sulfate; CRF = cont rolled-released fertilizer. Table 4-2. Values for constituents of the irrigation water used in the greenhouse and laboratory used for irrigation of custom organic blends. pH EC NH 4 + N NO 3 N P K ---dS cm -1 ---------------------------mg L -1 --------------------Greenhouse 8.6 0.30 0.33 0.09 0.87 14.48 Lab 8.6 0.22 0.28 0.05 0.59 9.71

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76 Table 4-3. Regression analysis between media solution pH and EC and N mineralization (N min ) and nitrification (N ni t ) of custom organic blends. pH EC Summer Fall Su mmer Fall Treatment z N min N nit N min N nit N min N nit N min N nit NA NS NS NS NS NS NS NS FBK NS NS ** NS ** NS ** NS FRK NS NS ** NS ** ** NS BBK NS NS ** ** ** NS BTK NS NS ** ** ** NS CRF NS ** ** ** z NA = media with no application; FBK= feathe r meal + blood meal + potassium magnesium sulfate; FRK = feather meal + rock phosphate + potassium magnesium sulfate; BBK = blood meal + bone meal + potassium magnesium su lfate; BTK = blood meal + rock phosphate + potassium magnesium sulfate; CRF = controlled-released fertilizer. *,** Significant at P < 0.05 or 0.01, respectively.

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77 Table 4-4. Net release as mineralized (N min ) and nitrified (N nit ) N from four custom organic blends, a controlled-released fertilizer and potting media with no amendment, as influenced by temperature regime, season and time of incubation. Nitrogen release as % (mg released/mg applied x 100) Summer Lab Summer Greenhouse Fall Lab Fall Greenhouse Time of Incubation (weeks) Treatment z as NH 4 + N as NO 3 N as NH 4 + N as NO 3 N as NH 4 + N as NO 3 N as NH 4 + -N as NO 3 N NA 0.13 c y 0.45 b 0.33 c 0.52 b (0.02) x d 0.22 b 0.10 e 0.28 b FBK 4.17 ab 0.00 b 7.60 a 0.00 c 7.04 a 0.00 b 3.92 ab 0.00 b FRK 4.93 a 0.00 b 8.19 a 0.00 c 4.95 a 0.00 b 3.10 bc 0.00 b BBK 3.62 ab 0.00 b 7.42 a 0.00 c 4.18 a 0.00 b 2.75 cd 0.00 b BTK 3.41 ab 0.01 b 7.08 a 0.00 c 1.94 b 0.01 b 1.79 d 0.00 b 1 CRF 3.13 b 5.53 a 2.84 b 4.03 a 5.16 a 8.25 a 4.47 a 7.44 a NA 0.23 c 1.76 b 0.21 d 1.44 cd 0.05 c 0.67 b (19.85) x d 1.12 b FBK 17.66 a 0.01 b 20.23 b 2.18 c 16.45 a 0.00 c 16.09 a 0.06 b FRK 19.19 a 0.05 b 25.55 a 4.15 b 14.76 a 0.00 c 11.65 b 0.00 b BBK 16.57 a 0.00 b 24.47 ab 2.51 c 15.30 a 0.00 c 14.82 a 0.26 b BTK 21.67 a 0.07 b 25.07 ab 2.51 c 6.70 b 0.02 c 6.51 c 0.08 b 3 CRF 10.92 b 16.87 a 12.25 c 16.70 a 14.85 a 20.09 a 13.50 ab 23.65 a NA 0.29 d 2.41 b 0.28 d 1.68 d 0.07 c 1.14 b (19.80) x c 1.64 b FBK 29.09 ab 1.93 b 25.26 b 5.74 c 24.29 a 0.05 b 23.71 a 0.21 b FRK 28.95 ab 2.04 b 30.60 a 8.34 b 22.28 a 0.00 b 21.16 a 0.23 b BBK 25.74 b 0.78 b 29.40 ab 6.70 c 23.79 a 0.44 b 23.60 a 0.90 b BTK 32.26 a 1.63 b 31.25 a 6.88 c 9.88 b 1.12 b 11.69 b 1.06 b 5 CRF 17.62 c 29.35 a 18.64 c 28.69 a 22.92 a 29.57 a 21.85 a 36.41 a z NA = media with no application; FBK= feat her meal + blood meal + potassium magnes ium sulfate; FRK = feather meal + rock phosphate + potassium magnesium sulfate; BBK = blood meal + bone meal + potassium magnesium sulfate; BTK = blood meal + rock phosphate + potassium ma gnesium sulfate; CRF = cont rolled-released fertilizer. y Means within columns within incubation times se parated using Duncans multiple range test, P<0.05. x Immobilization of NH 4 +

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NA = media with no application; FBK= feather meal + blood meal + potassium magnesium sulfate; FRK = feather meal + rock phosphate + potassium magnesium sulfate; BBK = blood meal + bone meal + potassium magnesium su lfate; BTK = blood meal + rock phosphate + potassium magnesium sulfate; CRF = controlled-released fertilizer. z Calculated and analyzed as Hydrogen concentration. Figure 4-1. Average media solution pH meas ured by pour-through media extraction procedure from four custom organic blends, a contro lled-released fertilizer and potting media with no amendment, as influenced by temperature regime, season and time of incubation. Average pH Summer Labz5 5.5 6 6.5 7 7.5 8 8.5 9 012345WeekspH NA FBK FRK BBK BRK CRF Average pH Summer Greenhousez5 5.5 6 6.5 7 7.5 8 8.5 9 012345WeekspH NA FBK FRK BBK BRK CRF Average pH Fall Labz5 5.5 6 6.5 7 7.5 8 8.5 9 012345WeekspH NA FBK FRK BBK BRK CRF Average pH Fall Greenhousez5 5.5 6 6.5 7 7.5 8 8.5 9 012345WeekspH NA FBK FRK BBK BRK CRF 78

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NA = media with no application; FBK= feather meal + blood meal + potassium magnesium sulfate; FRK = feather meal + rock phosphate + potassium magnesium sulfate; BBK = blood meal + bone meal + potassium magnesium su lfate; BTK = blood meal + rock phosphate + potassium magnesium sulfate; CRF = controlled-released fertilizer. Figure 4-2. Average media solution EC meas ured by pour-through media extraction procedure from four custom organic blends, a contro lled-released fertilizer and potting media with no amendment, as influenced by temperature regime, season and time of incubation. Average EC Summer Lab0 5 10 15 20 012345WeeksEC dS cm-1 NA FBK FRK BBK BRK CRF Average EC Summer Greenhouse0 5 10 15 20 012345WeeksEC dS cm-1 NA FBK FRK BBK BRK CRF Average EC Fall Lab0 5 10 15 20 012345WeeksEC dS cm-1 NA FBK FRK BBK BRK CRF Average EC Fall Greenhouse0 5 10 15 20 012345WeeksEC dS cm-1 NA FBK FRK BBK BRK CRF 79

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Cumulative NO3 --N released as percentage -10 0 10 20 30 40 0100200300400500600700800900Cumulative Degree DaysCRF Y = 0.040CDD R2= 0.70 BRK Y = 0.005CDD R2= 0.44 NA Y = 0.003CDD R2= 0.55 Cumulative NH4 +-N released as percentage 0 10 20 30 40 0100200300400500600700800900Cumulative Degree DaysFBK Y = 0.041CDD R2= 0.96 BBK Y = 0.044CDD R2= 0.96 CRF Y = 0.029CDD R2= 0.78 BRK Y = 0.042CDD R2= 0.47 FRK Y = 0.045CDD R2= 0.88 Cumulative NO3 --N released as percentage -10 0 10 20 30 40 0100200300400500600700800900Cumulative Degree DaysCRF Y = 0.040CDD R2= 0.70 BRK Y = 0.005CDD R2= 0.44 NA Y = 0.003CDD R2= 0.55 Cumulative NO3 --N released as percentage -10 0 10 20 30 40 0100200300400500600700800900Cumulative Degree DaysCRF Y = 0.040CDD R2= 0.70 BRK Y = 0.005CDD R2= 0.44 NA Y = 0.003CDD R2= 0.55 CRF Y = 0.040CDD R2= 0.70 BRK Y = 0.005CDD R2= 0.44 NA Y = 0.003CDD R2= 0.55 NA Y = 0.003CDD R2= 0.55 Cumulative NH4 +-N released as percentage 0 10 20 30 40 0100200300400500600700800900Cumulative Degree DaysFBK Y = 0.041CDD R2= 0.96 BBK Y = 0.044CDD R2= 0.96 CRF Y = 0.029CDD R2= 0.78 BRK Y = 0.042CDD R2= 0.47 FRK Y = 0.045CDD R2= 0.88 Cumulative NH4 +-N released as percentage 0 10 20 30 40 0100200300400500600700800900Cumulative Degree DaysFBK Y = 0.041CDD R2= 0.96 BBK Y = 0.044CDD R2= 0.96 CRF Y = 0.029CDD R2= 0.78 BRK Y = 0.042CDD R2= 0.47 FRK Y = 0.045CDD R2= 0.88 FBK Y = 0.041CDD R2= 0.96 BBK Y = 0.044CDD R2= 0.96 CRF Y = 0.029CDD R2= 0.78 BRK Y = 0.042CDD R2= 0.47 FRK Y = 0.045CDD R2= 0.88 NA = media with no application; FBK= feather meal + blood meal + potassium magnesium sulfate; FRK = feather meal + rock phosphate + potassium magnesium sulfate; BBK = blood meal + bone meal + potassium magnesium su lfate; BTK = blood meal + rock phosphate + potassium magnesium sulfate; CRF = controlled-released fertilizer. Figure 4-3. Regression analysis be tween net cumulative release of NH 4 + N and NO 3 N from custom organic blends, a controlled-release fertilizer and potting media with no amendment as affected by cumulative degree days. 80

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81 BBK FBK CRF BRK FRK 0 10 20 30 40 50 12345Plant Available K (g kg-1amendment)BBK FBK Week CRF BRK FRK BBK FBK CRF BRK FRK FBK CRF BRK FRK 0 10 20 30 40 50 12345Plant Available K (g kg-1amendment) Week a = Summer Lab; b = Summer Greenhouse; c = Fall Lab; d = Fall Greenhouse; NA = media with no application; FBK= feather meal + blood meal + potassium magnesium sulfate; FRK = feather meal + rock phosphate + potassium magnesium sulfate; BBK = blood meal + bone meal + potassium magnesium sulfate; BTK = blood meal + rock phosphate + potassium magnesium sulfate; CRF = controlled-released fertilizer. Figure 4-4. Net cumulative available potassi um from four custom organic blends, and controlled-release fertilizer under two temperature regimes during two seasons.

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WeekCumulative PAN (g kg -1amendment)Cumulative Degree Days 024 200400600800 02004006000 0 20 40 60 80 100 120 024 0200400600 024 0200400600 0246 FBK BBK CRF BRK FRK NA FBK BBK CRF BRK FRK NA FBK BBK CRF BRK FRK NA FBK BBK CRF BRK FRK NA a b c dWeekCumulative PAN (g kg -1amendment)Cumulative Degree Days 024 200400600800 02004006000 0 20 40 60 80 100 120 024 0200400600 024 0200400600 0246 FBK BBK CRF BRK FRK NA FBK BBK CRF BRK FRK NA FBK BBK CRF BRK FRK NA FBK BBK CRF BRK FRK NA WeekCumulative PAN (g kg -1amendment)Cumulative Degree Days 024 200400600800 02004006000 0 20 40 60 80 100 120 024 0200400600 024 0200400600 0246 WeekCumulative PAN (g kg -1amendment)Cumulative Degree Days 024 200400600800 02004006000 0 20 40 60 80 100 120 024 0200400600 024 0200400600 0246 024 200400600800 024 200400600800 02004006000 0 20 40 60 80 100 120 024 02004006000 02004006000 0 20 40 60 80 100 120 024 0200400600 024 0200400600 0200400600 024 0200400600 0246 0200400600 0200400600 0246 FBK BBK CRF BRK FRK NA FBK BBK CRF BRK FRK NA FBK BBK CRF BRK FRK NA FBK BBK CRF BRK FRK NA FBK BBK CRF BRK FRK NA FBK BBK CRF BRK FRK NA FBK BBK CRF BRK FRK NA FBK BBK CRF BRK FRK NA a b c d 82 a = Summer Lab; b = Summer Greenhouse; c = Fall Lab; d = Fall Green house; NA = media with no application; FBK= feather meal + blood meal + potassium magnesium sulfate; FRK = feather meal + rock phosphate + potassium magnesium sulfate; BBK = blood meal + bone meal + potassium magnesium sulfate; BTK = blood meal + rock phosphate + potassium magnesium sulfate; CRF = controlled-released fertilizer. Figure 4-5. Net cumulative plant available ni trogen (PAN) from four custom organic bl ends, a controlled-release fertilizer and potting media with no amendment under two temperature regimes during two seasons.

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WeekCumulative available NH4+-N (g kg -1amendment)Cumulative Degree Days 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 024 02004006000 024 200400600800 0200400600 024 0200400600 0246 FBK BBK CRF BRK FRK NA FBK BBK CRF BRK FRK NA FBK BBK CRF BRK FRK NA FBK BBK CRF BRK FRK NA a b c dWeekCumulative available NH4+-N (g kg -1amendment)Cumulative Degree Days 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 024 02004006000 024 200400600800 0200400600 024 0200400600 0246 FBK BBK CRF BRK FRK NA FBK BBK CRF BRK FRK NA FBK BBK CRF BRK FRK NA FBK BBK CRF BRK FRK NA WeekCumulative available NH4+-N (g kg -1amendment)Cumulative Degree Days 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 024 02004006000 024 200400600800 0200400600 024 0200400600 0246 WeekCumulative available NH4+-N (g kg -1amendment)Cumulative Degree Days 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 024 02004006000 024 200400600800 0200400600 024 0200400600 0246 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 024 02004006000 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 024 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 024 02004006000 02004006000 024 200400600800 024 200400600800 0200400600 024 0200400600 0200400600 024 024 0200400600 0246 0200400600 0200400600 0246 FBK BBK CRF BRK FRK NA FBK BBK CRF BRK FRK NA FBK BBK CRF BRK FRK NA FBK BBK CRF BRK FRK NA FBK BBK CRF BRK FRK NA FBK BBK CRF BRK FRK NA FBK BBK CRF BRK FRK NA FBK BBK CRF BRK FRK NA a b c d 83 a = Summer Lab; b = Summer Greenhouse; c = Fall Lab; d = Fall Green house; NA = media with no application; FBK= feather meal + blood meal + potassium magnesium sulfate; FRK = feather meal + rock phosphate + potassium magnesium sulfate; BBK = blood meal + bone meal + potassium magnesium sulfate; BTK = blood meal + rock phosphate + potassium magnesium sulfate; CRF = controlled-released fertilizer. Figure 4-6. Net cumulative available NH 4 + -N from four custom organic blends, a contro lled-release fertilizer and potting media with no amendment under two temperature regimes during two seasons.

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CHAPTER 5 ORGANIC CUSTOM BLENDS AFFECT GROW TH AND NUTRIENT CONTENT OF BASIL ( Ocimum basilicam L.) TRANSPLANTS Abstract Nutrients in USDA certified organic production systems are supplied by plant and animalbased fertilizers. Minimal research has been done on the use of custom organic blends for transplant production despite th e widespread use by growers The objective of this research was to study the effect of custom organic fertilizer blends applied at 2 rates of nitrogen (N) (252 or 505 g N m -3 of N) on germination, growth and nutritional status of basil transplants. The blends were derived from five nutrient sources approved for use in or ganic production: 1) blood meal (BLM); 2) feather meal (FM); 3) bone meal (BM); 4) rock phosphate (RP); and 5) potassium magnesium sulfate (KMS). The four custom ble nds: 1) FM + BM + KMS (FBK); 2) FM + RP +KMS (FRK); 3) BLM + BM + KMS (BBK); and 4) BLM + RP + KMS (BRK). Blends were compared to a controlled-released synthetic fert ilizer (CRF) and a contro l of potting media with no fertilizer (NA). The effect of treatment on media leachate EC and pH varied by season, week, and N rate. The percent of basil germination and mean days to emergence were similar among all treatments except in one case, the BBK, where re duction was attributed to high EC levels. Basil transplants grown in blends containing FM (FBK and FRK) were taller to those grown on blends containing BLM. Basil transplant dry weight was influenced by a treatment and season as well as a treatment and rate interaction. During spring, tr ansplants grown with custom blends containing FM (FBK and FRK) had more dry weight than those grown with custom blends containing BLM (BBK and BRK). During summer, dry weight was dependant on the main effect of treatment; CRF 0.94 g > FRK 0.62 g = FBK 0.53 g = BRK 0.39 g = BBK 0.25 g, and > NA 0.04 g All fertilized transplants had sufficient tissue N concentration; however transplants produced in NA were N deficient. 84

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Introduction Florida greenhouse herb production has increased from near zero ha in 1990 to 6.8 ha in 2001, with basil ( Ocimum basilicum L.) been the primary herb grown (Hochmuth et al, 2003; Tyson et al., 2004). In addition, increasing cons umer demand for fresh market organic produce indicates a potential for expansion of the or ganic herb market. Barri ers to organic herb greenhouse production are high due to lack of available technical information especially on the management of organic soil and fertilizer am endments (D. Treadwell, personal communication). The USDA National Organic Standards requir e organic producers to use organically produced transplants for vegetable production (U SDA, 2007b). Research on the use of organic amendments and fertilizers for transplant pr oduction has increased over the past two decades. Studies have focused mainly on the use of compost and vermicompost as media constituent and nutrient source, and a minimal research has focu sed on other nutrient sources such animal and plant wastes products and liquid fertilizers (C lark and Cavigelli, 2005; Gagnon and Berrouard, 1994; Larrea, 2005; Raviv et al., 1998; Russ o, 2005; Russo, 2006; Succop and Newman, 2004). Research results have not been consistent, becau se transplant response is in part dependant on the physical and chemical characteristics of the fertilizer used. In the case of compost, research results indicate that it can be used as partial or a complete substitute for commercial peat-based potting media. For example, Kahn et al (2005) observed that when using 80% media composed of 60% vermiculite and 40% peat, (VP) mixed with 20% compost medium made from 50% yard trimmings and 50% biosolids compost, cauliflower transplant he ight was similar to those grown in 100% VP. Snchez-Monedero et al (2004) found that replacing up to 67% of commercial substrate with two diffe rent types of compost (Compost A 88 % sweet sorghum bagasse, 11% pine bark 1% and urea Compost B 86% sweet sorghum bagasse, 11% pine bark and 3% brewery sewage sludge ) resulted in similar dry weight, growth and nutritional status of 85

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broccoli, tomato and onion transplants to th ose grown in commercial potting media (control). Germination percentage of tomato seeds in media containing compost B was the same as the control, but germination was re duced by 23% with compost A. This reduction was attributed to the higher EC of compost A (13.21 dS cm -1 ) compared to compost B (8.55 dS cm -1 ). Clark and Cavigelli (2005) found that germination, height a nd marketable yield of lettuce and tatsoi grown in 100% compost derived from pre-consumer food residuals mixed with yard waste (FR) (pH 6.6 and an EC of 2.9 dS cm -1 ) was not different than the commercial peat-based potting media with synthetic fertilizer (pH 5 .6 and an EC of 0.7 dS cm -1 ), even though FR had higher pH and EC than the synthetic fertilizer. Compost has not only been proven to benefit transplant growth but also improves structure, increases the water ho lding capacity and the ca tion exchange capacityof media, provides a slow release nutrients and can lower mortality rates caused by Pythium aphanidermatum in cabbage transplants (Raviv et al ., 1998), and suppressed infestation of Fusarium oxisporum f. basilici in basil (Raviv et al ., 1998; Reuveni et al., 2002). Gagnon and Berrouard (2004) evaluated the poten tial of several organic wastes from the agri-food industry for growing greenhouse tomato transplants. They concluded that when using animal and/or plant wastes products mixed w ith peat-compost growing medium, specifically meals from blood, feather, meat, crab shells, fish, cotton-seed, and whey by-products, produced the best growth of tomato transplants and signi ficantly increased the s hoot dry weight by 57 83% compared with non-fertilized plants. In other studies, increasing feather meal as a component of a custom organic mix composed of peat/perlite base, and vermi-compost from 310 mL to 620 mL, reduced germination of tomato seedlings (Larrea, 2005).the pink polka dots was rather cute. In this case, the sentence is st ronger as a statement without the although. 86

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With the increasing demand of organically produced food, new commercially available fertilizers approved for use in organic systems have increased fertilizer options for organic growers. Ingredients and manufacturing process of commercial formulations are proprietary; but they are usually composed of dehydrated and pelle tized blends of animal and/or plant wastes and animal by-products supplemented by rock phosph ate, potassium magnesi um sulfate and other naturally derived components. The advantages of using these commercial formulations include a guaranteed analysis and complete nitrogen (N) phosphorus (P) potassium (K) formulation. On occasion, these formulations have been phytotoxic for pepper, tomatoes (Chellemi and Lazarovits, 2002), and basil (Hochmuth et al., 2003) due to high levels of electrical conductivity (EC) when recommended fertility rates are used. Additional research on the effect of organic fertility sources on transplant quality is needed. Although some studies have demonstrated that organic amendments and fertilizers can be used successfully in organic transplant production, it is hard to generalize the results to other crops and potting media. Not only because of th e high variability on th e composition (i.e. carbon (C) and N ratio and lignin content) and nature of these materials, but the specific management received in each study. Therefore, the objective of this was to ev aluate the effect of custom organic blends with 2 N rates on germinati on, growth and nutritional status of basil ( Ocimum basilicum var. Nufar) transplants. Materials and Methods Media Characteristics and Organic Blends Five organic nutrient sources were used to make the custom blends: 1) feather meal (FM; Griffin Industries, Cold Spri ng, KY); 2) blood meal (BLM; Voluntary Purchasing Group Inc, Bonham TX); 3) bone meal (BM; North Paci fic Group, Inc., Portland, Oregon); 4) rock phosphate (RP; Earthsafe Organics, Gladewater TX); and 5) potassium-magnesium-sulfate 87

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(KMS; Diamond R Fertilizer, Winter Garden, FL). The blends were compared to two controls: potting media with no fertilizer (NA). and an inorganic polymer-coated controlled-released fertilizer (CRF) derived from ammonium nitr ate, ammonium sulfate, calcium phosphate and potassium sulfate with an analysis of 19N-2.6P-9.9K; 10% of the N as NH 4 + -N and 9% as NO 3 N (The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company, Marysville OH). The nutrient sources used for this study were selected because they are the most common basic ingredients in the commercial organic fertilizers. Nutrient sources were selected to provide a complete macronutrient source. Feather meal and BM where selected as N sources, BM and RP where selected as phosphorus (P) sources and KMS was selected as a potassi um (K) source. Each of the N sources was mixed with one of the P sources and the K source. Custom blends we re: 1) FM + BM + KMS (FBK); 2) FM + RP + KMS (FRK); 3) BLM + BM + KMS (BBK); a nd 4) BLM + RP + KMS (BRK). All nutrient sources were mixed to achieve 252 or 505 g N m -3 (rate 1x and 2x; respectively), 32 g P m -3 and 132 g K m -3 Theses rates were selected based on previous research for organic greenhouse basil production (Migliaccio et al., 2007). The treatments were arranged in a completely randomized design with two N rates and repl icated four times each during two seasons (spring and summer). Potting media was a commercial propriety blend of peat moss (70%), perlite, vermiculite and gypsum (Fafard Organic Formulation #20, Fa fard Industries, Agawam, MA), and was approved for use in organic production. Th e media was amended with 6.5 lbs m -3 of approved dolomitic limestone to raise media from pH 3.5 to pH 6.0. Prior to trial initiation, potting media and cust om blends were analyzed for total C and N using a C and N combustion analyzer (Lec o, St. Joseph, MI); water extractable NO 3 N, NH 4 + N, P, K, magnesium (Mg), calcium (Ca), sulfur (S) and micronutrients, and pH and EC were 88

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determined by Waters Agricultural Laboratories (Camilla, GA). A summary of these analyses are presented in Table 5-1. Cultural Practices This study was conducted at the teaching gr eenhouse of the Horticultural Science Department at the University of Florida (Gaine sville, FL). Expt. 1 was conducted from 13 Apr. to 18 May, 2007 (spring) and Expt. 2 was conducted from 9 May to 13 June 2007 (summer). The greenhouse temperature was maintained with pad and evaporative cooling and gas heat. Heating, cooling and venting were controlled with a Wa dsworth Control System (Control Systems Inc, Arvada, CO). The heating/cooling set points were : heat when nighttime temperature was <16 C; vents low speed when daytime temperature reached 25 C and high speed when daytime temperature reached 28 C ; and cooling pads when daytime reached 30 C. During the study, air temperature levels were monitored daily in 15 mi nute intervals using a data logger. Temperature ranged from 14 C to 33 C in Expt. 1 and 14 C to 36 C in Expt, 2. Although temperature in both experiments was similar, temperature data in this study is reported as degree days (DD) and was calculated using the following formula: DD = Average daily temperature in C 5 (5-1) (Where 5 is the threshold of micr obial activity (Havlin et al., 1999) Media amended with custom blends was placed into a 32-cell transp lant tray with cell volume of 94 cm -3 (T.O. Plastics Inc, Clearwater, MN). One seed of Nufar organic sweet basil (Johnnys Selected Seeds, Maine, NE) was sown in 5 mm deep holes and then covered with the media. Trays were irrigated 3 times a day (9 AM, 12M and 5PM) at 4-min duration using a misting system. Emitters delivered 51 mL min -1 (providing 612 mL daily per emitter) in a fine mist. Each cell received 96 mL of water daily, with 1.8 mL of flow-through water per cell in each irrigation event. Values for constituents of the irrigation water are shown in Table 5-2. 89

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Studies have demonstrated that nitrifying bacteria exist in low concentrations in uncultivated peat (Herlihy, 1972), and in peat co ntaining media (Lang and Elliot, 1991; Lang and Elliot, 1997). In previous research custom blends had low nitrification a nd a pretrial comparing media plus custom blends with and without inoculation of nitrifying bacteria revealed nitrification earlier an improveme nt on nitrification after the inoc ulation with nitrifying bacteria (data not shown). Theref ore, media was inoculated with pur e cultures of autotrophic nitrifying bacteria, Nitrosomonas spp. and Nitrobacter spp (Proline nitrifying bacteria, Aquatic EcoSystems, Apopka, FL) at a rate of 2.7 L cm -3 The nitrifying bacteria were applied to each cell that was previously filled with moist media mixed with the blend. Data Collection Germination data was collected daily for th e first 12 d of each experiment. pH and EC were measured weekly from the flow-through wa ter from irrigation co llected over a 24h period of the 32-cell tray using a portable pH and conductivity meter (model Combo, Hanna Instruments, Woonsocket, RI). Heights from the surface to the most recently mature leaf of six plants, chosen at random in each tray were taken five weeks after sowing. Above ground material of these plants were placed in paper envelopes and ov en dried at 60 C for 72 h and analyzed for total N using a C and N combustion analyzer (Leco, St. Joseph, MI). Statistical Analysis The treatments were arranged in a complete ly randomized design with two N rates and replicated four times each during two seasons (s pring and summer). Data were subjected to analysis of variance (ANOVA) using SAS (SAS V8, Cary, NC) to dete rmine significance of main and interaction effects. Means were separate d using Duncans multiple range test at alpha = 0.05. To describe the relationship between pH, EC and DD on seedling germination, SAS 90

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regression analysis was used to identify signi ficant relationships among pairs of response variables. Results and Discussion Media Solution pH Media solution pH for spring and summer s eason is shown in Figure 5-1. Various interactions among treatment, season, week, and ra te significantly affected media pH based on ANOVA ( P < 0.01, data not shown). Therefore, media solution pH was analyzed by season and week, or season, week and rate when appropriate During spring, a treatmen t by rate interaction was significant for weeks one, two and four. During week three, media solution pH was dependant of main effect of treatment and no di fferences in pH were observed in week five. During summer, only main effects of treatment and rate influenced pH in weeks one and four; by week five, pH was influenced only by treatmen t. pH was dependant on a treatment and rate interaction in weeks two and thre e, Media solution pH in week one was higher in the 2x rate (pH 6.5) than the 1x rate (pH 6.2). The NA treatment had pH 6.3, meanwhile, CRF had the lower pH (pH 5.9) than all four organic bl ends that ranged from 6.4 to 6.8 In week five, all four organic blends FRK (pH 5.5) = FBK (pH 5.6) > BBK (pH 5.7) = BRK (pH 5.8) had lower pH than CRF (pH 6.1) and NA (pH 6.7). Media solution pH from all treatments was vari able across seasons and rates. For example, highest pH observed for the 1x rate during summer was on week two (pH = 6.9), after this, the four organic blends decreased to pH 5.7 for BBK and BRK, and pH 5.5 for FBK and FRK. Media solution pH from the 1x rate in spring had a different pattern, wher e highest observed pH was pH 7.1 on week two for FRK and BRK and on week three for BBK. The FBK, BBK and BRK blends increased pH from week four to five. 91

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Optimum pH for vegetable transplants range 5.5-6.8 (Maynard and Hochmuth, 1997). This pH range is where macronutrient and micronutrien t are available. Media pH also mediates microbial community composition as different ty pes of microorganisms have different optimum pH. For example, at at pH > 7.5, NH 4 + can lost by volatilization of ammonia (NH 3 + ), and NO3is more likely to be denitrified (Havlin et al, 1999). Studies generally analyze initial pH, and only a few studies collect data of pH throughout the expe riment. Several studies have reported that the application of animal-based fert ilizers to planting me dia may increase pH up to 8.8 (Clark and Cavigelli, 2005; Kahn et al., 2005 ; Rippy et al., 2004). For exampl e, Rippy et al. (2004), studied different organic substrates amended with dolomitic limestone, blood meal, bone meal and potassium sulfate and fertilized with organic or conventional liquid fertilizers for greenhousegrown tomatoes. Researchers observed that medi a solution pH was higher in organic treatments (pH 6.9 7.3) than conventional treatments (pH 5.5 6.7) throughout the 12 week study. In order to reduce the pH of organic treatments to th e recommended pH range, dolomitic limestone was replaced with 0.3 kg m -3 of elemental sulfur. On the cont rary, research by Larrea (2005) on organic tomato transplant production observed th at the pH from custom organic substrates composed of vermicompost, peat, and perlite, and amended with feather meal and kelp meal was not affected by organic treatment s and remained between pH 5.5-6.9. Media Solution EC Media solution EC for spring and summer season is shown in Figure 5-2. Based on ANOVA, the media solution EC was affected by an interaction of treatment, rate, and season ( P <0.01, data not shown). Therefore, media soluti on EC was analyzed by season and week. During spring, media solution EC was dependant of main effects of treatment for weeks one and two, and no effect of treatment or rate were observe d thereafter. Media solu tion EC for the 2x rate was higher than the 1x rate for the first three we eks, but no differences were detected in weeks 92

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four and five. Media solution EC also increase d after one week. During the first week, the FBK treatment had the highest EC (4.67 dS cm -1 ), that was similar to the other BBK (3.98 dS cm -1 ) and BRK (3.84 dS cm -1 ), but higher than FRK (3.54 dS cm -1 ), followed by CRF (1.99 dS cm -1 ) and NA (1.12 dS cm -1 ). By the end of the experiment, EC of all treatments decreased to < 1.00 dS cm -1 During summer, media solution EC was dependant of main effects of treatment for each week except week three, and main effect of ra te in weeks two and th ree. During this season, media solution EC was higher in the 2x rate than the 1x rate for the first three weeks, but no differences were detected in weeks four and fi ve. Media solution EC increased after one week. During week one, the FRK treatment had the highest EC (1.89 dS cm -1 ) and was similar to the other three organic blends, but higher than CRF (0.81 dS cm -1 ) and NA (0.43 dS cm -1 ). By the end of the experiment, the EC of a ll treatments decreased to < 0.50 dS cm -1 Adequate EC for vegetable transplants grow n in soilless potting media range from 1.001.76 dS m -1 (Maynard and Hochmuth, 1997). Research ha s shown that the appl ication of animalbased fertilizers to planting media can increase the EC up to 13 dS m -1 (Chellemi and Lazarovits, 2002; Clark and Cavigelli, 2005; Kahn et al., 2005; Larrea, 2005; Raviv et al., 1998; Rippy et al., 2004; Snchez-Monedero et al, 2004). So far, EC has been identified as one of the main factors limiting seed germination and seedling growth (Larrea, 2005; Snchez-Monedero et al., 2004). The effects of EC on germination and transplant growth in this study will be discussed in the next section. Seedling Germination Based on ANOVA, germination as a percen tage of emerged cotyledons was only influenced by the main effects of rate and season ( P < 0.01, data not shown). Overall, the 1x rate (93.7%) had higher germination than the 2x rate (89.5%) and during summer germination was 93

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higher (94.2%) than in spring (89.5 %). These results were consider ed acceptable considering that the manufacturer guaranteed ge rmination is 90%. When analyzed by year and rate, the BBK treatment reduced germination of basil during spring in the 2x rate (Table 5.3). This reduction is attributed to the effect of EC based on regression analysis ( P > 0.05, R 2 = 0.94, data not shown). Snchez-Monedero et al. (2004) found that replacing up to 67 % of commercial substrate with compost composed of 88 % sweet sorghum bagasse, 11% pine bark 1% and urea reduced germination percentage of tomato seeds by 23%. This reduction was attributed to the high EC of the compost (13.21 dS cm -1 ). Larrea (2005) observed that increasing feather meal as a component of a custom organic mix composed of peat/perlite base, and vermicompost from 310 mL to 620 mL, reduced germination of tomato seedlings. Even though EC levels in our study are higher than the adequate EC for vegetable tr ansplants grown in soilless potting media, no reduction on germination was observed. Similar to our results, Clark and Cavigelli (2005) found that germination of lettuce a nd tatsoi grown in 100% compost derived from pre-consumer food residuals mixed with yard waste (FR) was not di fferent than the commercial peat-based potting media with synthetic fertilizer. Mean days to emergence (MDE) of both seas ons and temperature regimes are shown in Table 5-3. Based on ANOVA, MDE was affected by the interaction of treatme nt, rate and season ( P > 0.01, data not shown); therefore, data was an alyzed by season. Mean days to emergence for summer was 3.5 and for spring was 5.3, but no conclu sions can be drawn due to the interaction. MDE may have been enhanced by the higher nu mber of DD observed in summer during week one (247) compared to spring (202). During sprin g, MDE was not affected by either treatment or rate. Mean days to germination was the same for both rates, 5.3 d. During summer, MDE was dependant on treatment and rate interaction, th erefore data was analy zed by season and rate. A 94

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main effect of treatment was only observed in the 2x rate, where FRK and BRK increased days to emergence. The delay from FRK is attributed to the effect of EC, ba sed on regression analysis ( P > 0.05, R 2 = 0.98, data not shown). Similarly, Ka hn et al (2005) observed a delay in germination on media amended with compost that had EC above 4 dS cm -1 Seedling Growth Based on ANOVA, seedling height was affected by the interacti on of treatment, rate and season ( P <0.01, data not shown); therefore, seedli ng height was analyzed by season and rate. During both seasons, height was affected by tr eatment (Table 5-4). During both seasons, transplants grown in CRF in both rates were high er than those grown using organic blends. For example, in transplants grown in summer using 1x rate in media fertilized in CRF were 24.8 cm tall, followed by transplants grown in media am ended with FRK (21.4 cm), and then FBK (19.1). In the same season, when using the 2x rate, CRF was 10 cm taller than those grown using the 1x rate, although they were not sta tistically analyzed due to inte ractions. No specific trend was observed during this season, but in some cases pl ants grown with 2x tend to taller than those grown with 1x rate, in this case, BBK and BRK During spring, transplant s tend to be smaller than those grown in summer, in some cases like with BBK at 1x 2fold taller, and at 2x, 5-fold taller. This difference among seasons can be attr ibuted to higher EC for spring than summer season, and higher number of DD in summer (1279) compared to spring (1064), that might affected release rate from organic blends. Seedling dry weight (DW) was affected by th e interaction of treatment and rate, and treatment and season, based on ANOVA (P <0.01, data not shown); ther efore data was analyzed by season. During spring, DW was dependant on the interaction of treatment and rate. In this season, transplant dry weight was greatest in CRF, at both rates, than those grown with organic blends (Table 5-4). In both rate s, transplants grown with custom blends containing FM (FBK and 95

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FRK) had more dry weight than those grown with custom ble nds containing BLM (BBK and BRK). During summer, DW was dependant on the ma in effect of treatmen t. Transplants grown with CRF had greater DW than those grown with organic blends, and a ll fertilized treatments were higher than NA: CRF 0.94 g > FRK 0.62 g = FBK 0.53 g = BRK 0.39 g = BBK 0.25 g, and > NA 0.04 g. Research results of organic fertilizers for transplant production have not been consistent. Transplant growth response is dependant on th e physical and chemical characteristics of the materials used and the rate and crop type. In many cases, seedling emergence and transplant growth in media plus compost have decreased or been similar to those grown with in potting media alone. For example, Kahn et al. (2005) observed that when using 80% media composed of 60% vermiculite and 40% peat, mixed with 20% compost medium made from 50% yard trimmings and 50% biosolids compost, cauliflower transplant height was similar to those grown in 100% PL, but increasing compost rate d ecreased height. Gagnon and Berrouard (2004) evaluated the potential of several organic wa stes from the agri-f ood industry for growing greenhouse tomato transplants. Researchers conc luded that when using compost made from meals from blood, feather, meat, crab shells, fi sh, cotton-seed, and whey by-products mixed with peat, tomato transplant shoot dr y weight increased 57-83% compared with non-fertilized plants. Response to compost treatments differs by crop. Snchez-Monedero et al. (2004) found that replacing up to 67% of a co mmercial potting media with compost composed of 88 % sweet sorghum bagasse, 11% pine bark 1% and urea resulted in taller broccoli transplants with similar DW of those grown in commercial substrates with inorganic fert ilizer. However, in the same study, tomato transplants were shorter, but ha d similar DW of those grown in commercial 96

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substrates, and onion transplant height was simila r to those grown in commercial substrate, but had lower DW. Nutritional Status Results of total N percentage per g of dry matter for both seasons are shown on Table 5-5. Total N percentage was dependant on the inte raction of treatment and season based on ANOVA ( P <0.01, data not shown); therefore data was analyzed by season. During both seasons, total N was dependant on the main effect of T and S. During summer, transplants grown using BBK had higher N content than transplants grown in the other treatments. Transplants grown in NA were the only treatment with lower N than the aver age N content for vegetable crops, (Taiz and Zeiger, 2002) to be 1.5% g -1 of DW. During spring, transplants grown in blends containing BLM (BBK and BRK) had higher N content than transplants grown in the remaining treatments. In conclusion, there was no significant reducti on of seed germination or means days to emergence from treatments with organic blends comp ared to the controlled-release fertilizer and the potting media with no fertiliz er, except in one case, where reduction was attributed to high EC levels. In specific cases, media germination and mean days to emergence were linearly correlated to EC. Although EC levels were above adequate EC levels for transplant production, no significant reduction in germination and mean days to emergence was observed. Transplants grown in blends containing feather meal (FBK a nd FRK) were generally taller to those grown on blends containing blood meal. Di fferences in transplant dry weight were dependant on the season, but within each season, dry weights were similar am ong organic treatments. Although transplants grown in BBK and BRK had higher N content than the remaining treatments, only basil grown without fertilizer ( NA) was deficient in N. Overall, seedling growth and dry weight was higher in conventional system than organic tr eatments, which in some cases were higher or similar to those grown in media with no fertility. Finally synchroni zing nutrient availability with 97

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98 crop demand using organic fertilizers can be difficu lt due to the high variable nature of these materials. Future research should focus on finding methods to optimize synchrony between nutrient release taking into account the chemical (pH and EC) and environmental factors (temperature and moisture) that aff ect nutrient release and plant growth.

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Table 5-1. Chemical properties of potting media and cust om organic blends used fo r basil transplant production. Treatment z pH EC NH 4 + -N NO 3 -N P K Mg Ca S --dS cm -1 ---------mg L -1 ----------------------------------------------mg kg -1 ------------------------------NA 6.0 0.36 5.25 14.52 3.01 17.09 26.20 58.01 76.14 FBK 8.2 4.16 78.75 2.80 4750.00 12781.00 171.70 153.59 567.36 FRK 7.9 3.51 56.75 2.80 4316.00 12731.00 125.10 142.29 408.86 BBK 8.1 4.31 60.75 2.25 5402.00 12988.00 119.40 105.19 365.64 BRK 8.0 3.15 57.75 2.45 4946.00 12935.00 81.80 78.29 311.76 z NA = media with no application; FBK= feat her meal + blood meal + potassium magnes ium sulfate; FRK = feather meal + rock phosphate + potassium magnesium sulfate; BBK = blood meal + bone meal + potassium magnesium sulfate; BRK = blood meal + rock phosphate + potassium ma gnesium sulfate; CRF = cont rolled-released fertilizer. Table 5-2. Values for constituents of the irrigation water used in the greenhouse. pH EC NH 4 + N NO 3 N P K ---dS cm -1 ---------------------------mg L -1 --------------------8.6 0.30 0.33 0.09 0.87 14.48 99

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Table 5-3. Analysis of variance on the effect of four custom or ganic blends, a controlled-released fertilizer and media with n o fertilizer on germination and mean days to emergence of basil transplants. Spring Summer Treatment 1x 2x 1x 2x ------------------------------Germination (%)-----------------------NA z 93.7 94.5 FBK 89.8 90.6 ab 97.7 90.6 FRK 89.1 84.4 bc 97.7 91.4 BBK 92.2 82.8 c 94.5 89.8 BRK 92.2 85.9 abc 97.7 93.7 CRF 91.4 92.2 a 94.5 93.7 ANOVA Source df F P F P F P F P T 5 0.34 0.8780 3.86 0.0305 0.86 0.5318 0.69 0.6143 R 2 0.21 0.74 0.31 0.40 CV 6.38 4.72 3.85 4.72 ------------------------Mean days to emerge nce---------------------NA 5.1 3.4 FBK 5.6 5.6 3.4 3.3 b FRK 5.8 5.1 3.4 4.0 a BBK 5.2 5.6 3.4 4.0 a BRK 5.3 4.9 3.3 3.5 b CRF 5.0 5.2 3.6 3.6 b ANOVA Source df F P F P F P F P T 5 2.68 0.0635 1.63 0.2294 19.24 0.1156 6.89 0.0040 R 2 0.57 0.51 0.48 0.72 CV 6.5 8.77 3.98 6.34 100 z NA = media with no application; FBK= feat her meal + blood meal + potassium magnes ium sulfate; FRK = feather meal + rock phosphate + potassium magnesium sulfate; BBK = blood meal + bone meal + potassium magnesium sulfate; BRK = blood meal + rock phosphate + potassium ma gnesium sulfate; CRF = cont rolled-released fertilizer. y Means within columns separated using Duncans multiple range test, P < 0.05.

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101 Table 5-4. Analysis of variance on the effect of four custom or ganic blends, a controlled-released fertilizer and media with n o fertilizer on height and dry we ight of basil transplants. Spring Summer Treatment 1x 2x 1x 2x ----------------------------------H eight (cm)-----------------------------------NA z 4.6 d 3.7 f y FBK 11.8 b 8.4 c 19.1 c 19.8 b FRK 11.7 b 11.7 b 21.4 b 15.4 c BBK 4.6 d 2.8 d 10.7 e 15.0 c BRK 9.8 c 3.9 d 13.0 d 16.8 bc CRF 19.3 a 22.0 a 24.8 a 34.2 a ANOVA Source df F P F P F P F P T 5 92.10 <0.0001 154.14 <0.0001 177.53 <0.0001 30.44 <0.0001 R 2 0.78 0.85 0.87 0.55 CV 25.81 31.28 18.55 35.31 --------------------------------Dry Weight (g)---------------------------------NA 0.17 c 0.04 e FBK 0.35 b 0.22 b 0.58 bc 0.47 b FRK 0.43 b 0.22 b 0.76 ab 0.49 b BBK 0.14 c 0.02 c 0.23 de 0.28 b BRK 0.21 c 0.04 c 0.42 cd 0.37 b CRF 1.022 a 1.46 a 0.86 a 1.04 a ANOVA Source df F P F P F P F P T 5 60.83 <0.0001 100.33 <0.0001 19.24 <0.0001 11.72 0.0004 R 2 0.95 0.97 0.87 0.81 CV 21.87 30.57 29.72 32.63 z NA = media with no application; FBK= feat her meal + blood meal + potassium magnes ium sulfate; FRK = feather meal + rock phosphate + potassium magnesium sulfate; BBK = blood meal + bone meal + potassium magnesium sulfate; BRK = blood meal + rock phosphate + potassium ma gnesium sulfate; CRF = cont rolled-released fertilizer. y Means within columns separated using Duncans multiple range test, P < 0.05.

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Table 5-5. Analysis of varian ce on the effect of four custom organic blends, a controlledreleased fertilizer and media with no fer tilizer on total nitrogen per gram of dry weight of basil transplants. Treatment Spring Summer NA z 1.06 d 0.85 c y FBK 2.97 bc 1.55 b FRK 2.33 c 1.93 b BBK 4.38 a 3.36 a BRK 4.09 a 2.77 a CRF 3.07 b 2.77 a ANOVA Source df F P F P T 5 20.89 <0.0001 13.21 <0.0001 R 1 10.50 0.0029 26.29 <0.0001 T x R 4 1.49 0.2304 0.95 0.4470 R 2 0.82 0.79 CV 30.86 24.44 z NA = media with no application; FBK= feathe r meal + blood meal + potassium magnesium sulfate; FRK = feather meal + rock phosphate + potassium magnesium sulfate; BBK = blood meal + bone meal + potassium magnesium su lfate; BRK = blood meal + rock phosphate + potassium magnesium sulfate; CRF = controlled-released fertilizer. y Means within columns separated using Duncans multiple range test, P < 0.05. 102

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NA = media with no application; FBK= feather meal + blood meal + potassium magnesium sulfate; FRK = feather meal + rock phosphate + potassium magnesium sulfate; BBK = blood meal + bone meal + potassium magnesium su lfate; BRK = blood meal + rock phosphate + potassium magnesium sulfate; CRF = controlled-released fertilizer. z Calculated and analyzed as Hydrogen concentration. Figure 5-1. Average media solution pH meas ured by pour-through media extraction procedure from four custom organic blends, a contro lled-released fertilizer and potting media with no amendment used for basil transplant production. Average pH Spring 1xz5 5.5 6 6.5 7 7.5 8 8.5 012345WeekspH NA FBK FRK BBK BRK CRF Average pH Spring 2xz5 5.5 6 6.5 7 7.5 8 8.5 012345WeekspH FBK FRK BBK BRK CRF Average pH Summer 1xz5.0 5.5 6.0 6.5 7.0 7.5 8.0 8.5 012345WeekspH NA FBK FRK BBK BRK CRF Average pH Summer 2xz5.0 5.5 6.0 6.5 7.0 7.5 8.0 8.5 012345WeekspH FBK FRK BBK BRK CRF 103

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NA = media with no application; FBK= feather meal + blood meal + potassium magnesium sulfate; FRK = feather meal + rock phosphate + potassium magnesium sulfate; BBK = blood meal + bone meal + potassium magnesium su lfate; BRK = blood meal + rock phosphate + potassium magnesium sulfate; CRF = controlled-released fertilizer. Figure 5-2. Average media solution EC meas ured by pour-through media extraction procedure from four custom organic blends, a contro lled-released fertilizer and potting media with no amendment used for basil transplant production. Average EC Spring 1x0 1 2 3 4 5 6 012345WeeksEC dS cm-1 NA FBK FRK BBK BRK CRF Average EC Spring 2x0 1 2 3 4 5 6 012345WeeksEC dS cm-1 FBK FRK BBK BRK CRF Average EC Summer 1x0 1 2 3 4 5 6 012345WeeksEC dS cm-1 NA FBK FRK BBK BRK CRF Average EC Summer 2x0 1 2 3 4 5 6 012345WeeksEC dS cm-1 FBK FRK BBK BRK CRF 104

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APPENDIX A ADDITIONAL RESOURCES A-1. Research on the use of compost and othe r organic fertilizer for organic vegetable production in greenhouse Crop Media Nutrient Source and rates Results Reference Tomato Composts derived from separated cow manure (SCM), mixed with orange peel (OP), wheat straw (WS) or grape marc (GM). Peat Sea-bird guano (G) containing 14N4.3P-2.5K. Half of the media volume (peat or compost) N release from OP-SCM and WS-SCM with or without G was higher than GM-SCM and peat. Plant height was the same for OP-SCM, OP-SCM+G, WS-SCM and WSSCM+G, which were higher than the other treatments. Raviv et al., 2005 Tomato Peat / pine bark commercial mix, coconut coir / pine bark media with the addition of vermicompost; amended with BLM, bone meal (BM) and potassium sulfate. Two liquid organic fertilizers and one liquid conventional fertilizer Stage 1: 90N-45P-195K, stage 2: 125N-45P195K, stage 3: 165N-45P-310K The pH of all organic treatment was higher than the ideal pH. After addition of elemental sulfur, pH reached the ideal range. Electrical conductivity reached up to 10 dS cm -3 but decreased to optimal levels after 4 weeks. Harvest yields grown organically were similar to those grown conventionally, although the percentage of No.1 fruit was much lower in the conventional than the organic Rippy et al., 2004 Basil Rockwool (RW) Perlite (PL) Sphagnum peat / perlite / compost media (PPC) Conventional liquid fertilizer and organic liquid fertilizer consisting of fermented poultry compost, hydrolyzed fish emulsion, kelps extracts, and soft rock phosphate. 520 mL solution daily Total yield for plants grown in PL, in both years, was higher in organic than conventional. For RW and PPC conventional was higher than organic. Succop and Newman, 2004 105

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A-2. Research on the use of compost and ot her organic fertilizer for organic vegeta ble and transplant production in greenhouse Crop Media Nutrient Source and rates Results Reference Tomato, cabbage and lettuce Control: vermiculite and fine Finnish peat 4:6 (PV) Test medium: vermiculite, fine Finnish peat, and compost made of coarse fraction of cow manure 4:3:3. (CPV) Lettuce was fertilized with water extract of fish meal. Cabbage and tomato were fertilized with water extract of guano. @ 40 mg N L -1 Fresh weight and dry weight of lettuce and cabbage grown in CPV were higher than plants grown PV. For tomato, plants grown in CPV, transplant weight, height and total yield were higher when compared to PV. Raviv et al., 1998 Basil Pure grade peat or compost prepared from coarse fraction of cow manure, wheat straw and chicken manure 6.5:2:1.5. Inoculation with Fusarium None Plants inoculated a nd non-inoculated grown in compost accumulated more fresh weight than peat-grown. Compost-grown plants were less affected by inoculation. Raviv et al., 1998 Lettuce and tatsoi Commercial substrate bark, peat and fine sand (Filler). Commercial peat based media with added synthetic fertilizer. Compost derived from preconsumer food residuals mixed with yard waste (FR) and straw horse bedding (HB). @ 0, 50 and 100% FR effect on germination, height and marketable yield for lettuce and tatsoi was not different from the commercial peat-based potting media. HB at all rates was unacceptable for commercial production. Clark and Cavigelli, 2005 Tomato Commercial conventional media Commercial organic mixes Custom organic mixes Custom organic mixes composed of peat / perlite and mixed with vermicompost (@ 10, 20%), kelp meal (@ 0, 133 mL), and feather meal (@ 0, 310, 465 and 620 mL) Seed germination was higher in the conventional and organic commercial formulations. No consis tent relationship was found between media pH, salt levels or physical properties and germination rates. Larrea and Peet, 2004 Bell pepper, watermelon and onion Two soilless media One soil media Conventional media Liquid organic fertilizer 7.5 mL L -1 (2.1N 3.3P 2.2K) Water soluble synthetic fertilizers (20N 20P 20K) Watermelons were sufficiently vigorous for transplanting regardless of the media and fertilizer used. Bell pepper and onion seedlings were required to be held up to 34 additional days before being vigorous enough for transplanting. Adjustments were made and It was necessary to apply 4x the recommended rate (30 mL L -1 ) in order to produce peppers similar to those produced in conventional systems. Russo, 2005 106

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A-3. Volume of custom blends and contro lled-release fertilizer added to each pot Treatment FM BLM BM RP KMS CRF -------------------------------------------g------------------------------------------FBK 150 43 55 FRK 157 300 55 BBK 135 43 55 BBK 140 300 55 CRF 100 107

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108 APPENDIX B ANALYSIS OF VARIANCE B-1. Analysis of variance of cumulative nitrogen mineralization from five organic nu trient sources, a controlled-released fert ilizer and potting media with no fertilizer. Cumulative 1 Cumulative 2 Cumulative 3 Cumulative 4 Cumulative 5 Source df F P F P F P F P F P S 1 63.52 <0.0001 276.32 <0.0001 225.04 <0.0001 166.07 <0.0001 121.23 <0.0001 T 6 64.90 <0.0001 202.36 <0.0001 539.97 <0.0001 802.94 <0.0001 947.37 <0.0001 TR 1 6.48 0.0123 1.27 0.2624 1.61 0.2066 18.00 <0.0001 26.75 <0.0001 T x S 6 42.80 <0.0001 153.72 <0.0001 136.74 <0.0001 102.29 <0.0001 76.95 <0.0001 TR x S 1 0.76 0.3865 0.05 0.8298 0.69 0.4089 1.82 0.1797 2.13 0.1477 T x TR 6 7.64 <0.0001 6.04 <0.0001 3.94 0.0014 6.53 <0.0001 11.02 <0.0001 T x TR x S 6 6.32 <0.0001 3.90 0.0015 3.35 0.0046 2.38 0.0338 3.99 0.0012 R 2 0.87 0.95 0.97 0.98 0.98 CV 51.81 32.09 21.16 17.73 16.5 z S = Season; T = Treatment; TR = Temperature regime. B-2. Analysis of variance of cumulative nitrogen nitrification from fi ve organic nutrient sources, a controlled-released ferti lizer and potting media with no fertilizer. Cumulative 1 Cumulative 2 Cumulative 3 Cumulative 4 Cumulative 5 Source z df F P F P F P F P F P S 1 2.34 0.1291 0.22 0.6369 9.40 0.0027 23.68 <0.0001 42.45 <0.0001 T 6 371.26 <0.0001 997.15 <0.0001 251.87 <0.0001 375.77 <0.0001 536.71 <0.0001 TR 1 9.70 0.0024 28.39 <0.0001 19.72 <0.0001 18.97 <0.0001 23.30 <0.0001 T x S 6 1.87 0.0919 9.42 <0.0001 6.42 <0.0001 9.46 <0.0001 16.41 <0.0001 TR x S 1 0.00 0.9929 3.35 0.0699 14.31 0.0003 15.55 0.0001 13.75 0.0003 T x TR 6 5.80 <0.0001 10.36 <0.0001 6.98 <0.0001 8.36 <0.0001 10.53 <0.0001 T x TR x S 6 1.39 0.2267 3.52 0.0032 3.29 0.0053 2.83 0.0135 2.73 0.0167 R 2 0.96 0.98 0.94 0.96 0.97 CV 42.14 21.07 37.14 29.75 24.26 z S = Season; T = Treatment; TR = Temperature regime.

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B-3. Analysis of variance of cumulative nitrogen mineralization from four custom or ganic blends, a contro lled-released fertili zer and potting media with no fertilizer. Cumulative 1 Cumulative 2 Cumulative 3 Cumulative 4 Cumulative 5 Source df F P F P F P F P F P S 1 32.76 <0.0001 86.37 <0.0001 159.87 <0.0001 141.24 <0.0001 129.13 <0.0001 T 5 68.44 <0.0001 77.72 <0.0001 169.80 <0.0001 193.36 <0.0001 241.09 <0.0001 TR 1 8.67 0.0044 11.02 0.0015 0.57 0.4547 3.25 0.3268 7.88 0.0065 T x S 5 15.67 <0.0001 20.26 <0.0001 24.00 <0.0001 25.60 <0.0001 29.81 <0.0001 TR x S 1 81.10 <0.0001 27.89 <0.0001 49.95 <0.0001 25.41 <0.0001 9.10 0.0036 T x TR 5 2.83 0.0221 2.15 0.0696 12.96 <0.0001 8.95 <0.0001 7.78 <0.0001 T x TR x S 5 7.86 <0.0001 2.38 0.0471 5.93 0.0001 5.52 0.0003 7.60 <0.0001 R 2 0.89 0.90 0.94 0.95 0.96 CV 25.02 22.75 21.32 18.68 16.17 z S = Season; T = Treatment; TR = Temperature regime. 109 B-4. Analysis of variance of cumulative nitrogen nitrification from f our custom organic blends, a controlled-released fertilizer and potting media with no fertilizer. Cumulative 1 Cumulative 2 Cumulative 3 Cumulative 4 Cumulative 5 Source z df F P F P F P F P F P S 1 18.97 <0.0001 8.62 0.0045 0.95 0.3323 24.88 <0.0001 67.31 <0.0001 T 5 359.95 <0.0001 709.24 <0.0001 1006.48 <0.0001 1441.23 <0.0001 1668.22 <0.0001 TR 1 2.84 0.0968 14.66 0.0003 40.45 <0.0001 80.27 <0.0001 97.13 <0.0001 T x S 5 22.50 <0.0001 37.50 <0.0001 30.43 <0.0001 31.82 <0.0001 31.65 <0.0001 TR x S 1 0.27 0.6034 0.47 0.4938 7.24 0.0090 18.57 <0.0001 17.02 0.0001 T x TR 5 3.14 0.0132 1.59 0.1760 2.03 0.0850 3.94 0.0035 5.10 0.0005 T x TR x S 5 0.27 0.9257 3.57 0.0063 8.78 <0.0001 16.31 <0.0001 21.44 <0.0001 R 2 0.97 0.98 0.99 0.99 0.96 CV 47.15 30.73 23.86 18.76 16.15 z S = Season; T = Treatment; TR = Temperature regime.

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110 B-5. Analysis of variance of total nitrogen cont ent in basil transplants grown using four custom organic blends, a controlled-r eleased fertilizer and potti ng media with no amendment. Source df F P T 5 32.38 <0.0001 R 1 36.12 <0.0001 S 1 41.39 <0.0001 T x R x S 4 2.33 0.0658 T x R 4 0.24 0.9174 T x S 5 3.40 0.0087 R x S 1 1.56 0.2166 R 2 20.71 CV 0.83 B-6. Analysis of variance of dry weight of basil transplants grown using four custom organic blends, a controlled-released fertilizer and potting media with no amendment. Source df F P T 5 110.36 <0.0001 R 1 1.63 0.2060 S 1 13.25 0.0006 T x R x S 4 1.63 0.1784 T x R 4 9.95 <0.0001 T x S 5 12.64 <0.0001 R x S 1 0.00 0.9792 R 2 0.92 CV 29.35 B-7. Analysis of variance of height of basil tr ansplants grown using four custom organic blends, a controlled-released fertilizer a nd potting media with no amendment. Source df F P T 5 221.80 <0.0001 R 1 0.97 0.3243 S 1 386.22 <0.0001 T x R x S 4 12.09 <0.0001 T x R 4 16.74 <0.0001 T x S 5 9.11 <0.0001 R x S 1 28.16 <0.0001 R 2 0.78 CV 30.40

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B-8. Analysis of variance of mean days to emergence of basil transp lants grown using four custom organic blends, a controlled-released fertilizer and potting media with no amendment. Source df F P T 5 2.45 0.0430 R 1 1.77 0.1882 S 1 638.99 <0.0001 T x R x S 4 3.64 0.0099 T x R 4 1.93 0.1168 T x S 5 2.34 0.0518 R x S 1 6.08 0.0164 R 2 0.92 CV 7.22 B-9. Analysis of variance of emergence (%) of basil transplants gr own using four custom organic blends, a controlled-r eleased fertilizer and potti ng media with no amendment. Source df F P T 5 0.95 0.4546 R 1 14.65 0.0003 S 1 18.50 <0.0001 T x R x S 4 0.96 0.4332 T x R 4 1.25 0.3007 T x S 5 0.96 0.4494 R x S 1 0.13 0.7200 R 2 0.50 CV 5.26 111

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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Alejandra was born in Honduras, Central America. She is mom to beautiful 5 year-old boy named Ricardo Andre. She earned her Bachelor of Science at Zamorano Agriculture University in Honduras, where she pursued an agriculture degree with a minor in Natural Resources and Biological Conservation. Before st arting her Masters in University of Florida she worked with the National Direction of Agricultural Science and Technology of the Mi nistry of Agriculture and Livestock of Honduras. Her main responsib ilities were to promote organic agriculture among farmers and consumers, and provide t echnical assistance to organic farmers. 119