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Vermicompost as a substitute for peat in potting media: Effects on germination, biomass allocation, yields and fruit quality of three tomato varieties

Commercial potting media often contain substantial amounts of peat that was mined from endangered bog and fen ecosystems. The main objectives of this study were to assess (1) whether the amendment of 0, 20, 40, 60, 80 and 100% (v/v) of vermicompost (VC) to a fertilized commercial peat potting substrate has effects on the emergence, growth and biomass allocation of tomato seedlings ( Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) under greenhouse conditions, (2) whether possible impacts on seedlings can affect tomato yields and fruit quality even when transplanted into equally fertilized field soil, and (3) whether effects are consistent among different tomato varieties. Amended VC was produced in a windrow system of food and cotton waste mainly by earthworms Eisenia fetida Sav. Vermicompost amendments significantly influenced, specifically for each tomato variety, emergence and elongation of seedlings. Biomass allocation (root:shoot ratio) was affected by VC amendments for two varieties in seedling stage and one field-grown tomato variety. Marketable and total yields of field tomatoes were not affected by VC amendments used for seedling husbandry. However, morphological (circumference, dry matter content, peel firmness) and chemical fruit parameters (contents of C, N, P, K, Ca, Mg, l -ascorbic acid, glucose, fructose) were significantly affected by VC amendments in seedling substrates; these effects again were specific for each tomato variety. Overall, vermicompost could be an environmentally friendly substitute for peat in potting media with similar or beneficial effects on seedling performance and fruit quality. However, at least for tomatoes, variety-specific responses should be considered when giving recommendations on the optimum proportion of vermicompost amendment to horticultural potting substrate. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Scientia Horticulturae Elsevier
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