Compost from willow biomass (Salix viminalis L.) as a horticultural substrate alternative to peat in the production of vegetable transplants

Sci Rep. 2022 Oct 21;12(1):17617. doi: 10.1038/s41598-022-22406-7.


Willow (Salix viminalis L.) is a species well adapted to the environment conditions of central Europe. It is mainly cultivated for energy purposes as solid fuel. In this study, an evaluation of its suitability for other purposes was made using a 4-year old short rotation coppice (SRC) willow regrowth to produce chipped biomass which was composted. Four composting methods were used: without additives (WC), with the addition of nitrogen to narrow the C:N ratio (WN), with the addition of mycelium (WPG) and with the addition of mycelium and nitrogen (WPGN). A mixture of WC and WPGN composts was also prepared at 75:25% and 50:50% by volume. Composts, different proportion (25, 50 and 75%) of peat (SM) were evaluated for suitability as a substrate for tomato and cucumber transplant production. Tomato transplants produced in the medium were prepared from mixtures of willow composts (WPGN + WC(1) and WPGN + WC(2) and these mixtures with peat (WPGN + WC(1):SM and WPGN + WC(2):SM) were characterised as having the best parameters: plant height, lateral leaf span and number of leaves. Similarly, for cucumber transplants, better growth conditions than in peat substrate were obtained in the variant WPGN + WC(1) and WPGN + WC(1):SM. The addition of nitrogen to the composted biomass positively influenced the composting process. N concentration in the substrate was too high and toxic for the growth of tomato and cucumber transplants. At the end of the tomato and cucumber experiment, the nitrate content was 1510 and 2260 mg dm-3, respectively, in the WN substrate. Similarly, the high N-NO3- content in the composted willow substrate with the addition of nitrogen and mycelium did not promote the growth of tomato and cucumber. Based on this research at least 25% of the mass of the peat can be replaced by different willow composts without having an adverse impact on seedling growth and with some of the willow compost mixtures this could be as high as 50%.

PMID:36271107 | PMC:PMC9587216 | DOI:10.1038/s41598-022-22406-7


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