Fertilization of pinus pinea L. seedlings with a sewage sludge-based compost

Two experiments were conducted to evaluate the effect of a sewage sludge-based compost (SSC) on the growth and mineral composition of containerized Pinus pinea L. seedlings. In the first experiment, five different substrates were tested: four binary mixtures of SSC and peat (100% SSC, 75% SSC, 50% SSC and 25% SSC, by volume) without fertilization, and a control substrate (peat-based substrate + fertilizer). Seedlings growing in the 100% SSC substrate showed the lowest growth, a consequence of both the low water availability and the high electrical conductivity that made SSC unsuitable to be the only component of a growing-media for pine 'seedlings'. The 50% SSC substrate presented physical and chemical properties similar to the control substrate and near the acceptable range for a growing-media. Moreover, no significant differences were found between growth of seedlings from treatment 50% SSC (without mineral fertilization) and seedlings from control treatment (with mineral fertilization). In the second experiment, a fertilization assay was performed with two substrates selected from the first experiment (50% SSC and control). The two substrates were fertilized with three levels of a macronutrient fertilizer (0.5, 1.0 and 2.0 g L —1) and two levels of a micronutrient fertilizer (0 and 0.4 g L—1 of fertilizer containing only micronutrients). Results obtained suggest that replacing 50% (by volume) of peat-based substrate by the sewage sludge-based compost allowed: maintenance of the commercial value of seedlings; reduction of the amount of peat used in the substrate; a need for only half the amount of macronutrient fertilizer applied in the basal fertilization; and omission of micronutrient fertilization.

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