Impact of thermo-hydrolytically treated wood fibers as a substrate component on the growth of petunias

T. Reineke, H.H.A. Muhammed, R. Anlauf, D. Daum
Wood fibers can contribute to replacing peat in growing media and thus help to protect peatlands. As domestic, renewable raw materials, they represent a sustainable option for this purpose. To date, however, wood fibers are usually used as a peat substitute at a maxi-mum of 30% (v/v). A main reason for this limitation is the insufficient microbial stability of wood fibers, which favors nitrogen immobilization and can thus impair nitrogen supply of plants. To address this drawback, in this study wood fibers were subjected to different thermal or thermal-hydrolytic treatments. Seedling tests with napa cabbage were conducted to determine whether treated wood fibers were free of phytotoxic substances. Mixtures with 50% (v/v) wood fiber and white peat each were used. In addition, three wood fiber varieties were evaluated in the cultivation of petunia. Two wood fiber proportions (30 and 60% v/v) and two nitrogen fertilization rates (common and increased supply) were included in each case. In the seedling trial with napa cabbage, no phytotoxic effects were detectable in any of the wood fiber variants investigated. However, when cultivating petunias, both shoot mass growth and number of flowers decreased with increasing wood fiber content. In substrates with a wood fiber content of 60% (v/v), plant development was inhibited so severely that the petunias no longer achieved marketable quality. Increased nitrogen fertilization was able to compensate for this negative effect only in few cases. This suggests that other factors than nitrogen limited plant growth in wood fiber-rich substrates. Among others, physical proper-ties such as the lower water capacity of wood fibers may be a cause. More in-depth investigations are still required in this regard.
Reineke, T., Muhammed, H.H.A., Anlauf, R. and Daum, D. (2024). Impact of thermo-hydrolytically treated wood fibers as a substrate component on the growth of petunias. Acta Hortic. 1389, 105-112
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2024.1389.12
fertilization, nitrogen immobilization, peat substitutes, phytotoxicity, potted or-namental plants, product quality

Acta Horticulturae