Using Respirometry to Investigate Biological Stability of Growing Media in Aerobic Conditions

Newman, Sonia; Alexander, Paul; Bragg, Neil and Howell, Graham (2023). Using Respirometry to Investigate Biological Stability of Growing Media in Aerobic Conditions. Horticulturae, 9(12), article no. 1258.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/horticulturae9121258

Abstract

Materials used to replace peat in growing media include wood fibre (WF), often used in combination with composted bark (BC), coir (CR), green compost (GC), and anaerobic digestate fibre (AD). The physical and chemical properties of these materials are relatively well characterised; however, biological properties are less well understood. Biological stability of growing media is an important factor in plant performance. The aim of this research was to identify whether dynamic respirometry methods are suitable for measuring growing media stability and to assess the effect of blending two raw materials in a mix. Raw materials were run for 42 days in aerated conditions at 35 °C. Except for AD, individually run samples were considered stable, with CO2 production over 7 days ranked BC < CR < WF < GC << AD in the early stages of the test. The AD was run at two moisture levels, with greater biological activity at lower moisture content. In the most active mixture, AD and WF, there was an increase of activity when nutrients were added at 28 days, indicating major elements were limiting microbial activity. There were interaction effects in sample mixtures, with the CO2 production of WF + GC, WF + CR greater than the sum of the CO2 production from the separate components.

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