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The three major functions of a potting medium for plant production is to provide support, to retain water and nutrients, and to allow oxygen diffusion to the roots. A potting medium should meet the requirements of practical plant production such as: to be available and ready at all times, easy to handle, lightweight and to produce uniform plant growth. Constituents such as natural soil, peat, sand, perlite and vermiculite are commonly used as substrates for container plant production. Nevertheless, these materials might be fully or partially replaced by various organic or inorganic wastes, thus achieving environmental and economic benefits. This study presents a synthesis of results extracted from many trials on waste materials as potting media substitutes for the seedlings production of the following native plant species: Pinus halepensis, Quercus ilex, Quercus macropleis and Ceratonia siliqua. The studied waste materials were either organic or inorganic components including: spoils of peridotite, raw rice hulls, coconut fiber and kenaf (the ground stem of the plant H. cannabinus L). The experimental potting media tested were: peat:perlite (3:1), a common medium used for seedling production, peat:spoils of peridotite (3:1), peat:rice hulls (3:1), peat:rice hulls (1:1), peat:coconut fiber (1:1), kenaf (100%) and kenaf:peat:rice hulls (3:1:1). The main physical (water retention characteristics, bulk density, particle density, total porosity) and chemical (N, K, Ca, Mg, soluble P, exchangeable cations, pH and loss on ignition) properties of each potting medium were measured. For each plant species the following seedling quality parameters were assessed: morphological characteristics (shoot height, root collar diameter), shoot and root biomass, Dickson’s quality index and shoot and root nutrient concentrations. Then seedlings were planted in the field and their survival and growth was monitored. The feasibility of replacing peat or perlite with various waste materials as well as their effect on seedling quality and field performance are discussed.
Container Seedlings; Field Performance; Growing Media; Nursery; Organic and Inorganic Residues; Seedling Quality
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