Date of Award

1-1-2008

Degree Name

Master of Science

Department

Plant and Soil Science

First Advisor

Walters, Alan

Second Advisor

Chong, She-Kong

Abstract

AN ABSTRACT OF THE THESIS OF Marc A. Zucco for the Master of Science degree in Plant Soil and Agricultural Systems, presented on March 25, 2008, at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. TITLE: COMPOSTS AS FERTILIZER FOR SUSTAINABLE VEGETABLE PRODUCTION MAJOR PROFESSORS: Dr. SHE-KONG CHONG and Dr. ALAN WALTERS Composted organic materials have long been used as soil amendments, since they improve soil structure as well as provide a source of plant nutrients. Much research has shown that different types of composts are beneficial to crop growth and productivity. However, the influence of compost to soil ratios on crop yield has rarely been addressed. A greenhouse study was conducted to determine the optimal vermicompost application rates on tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) growth and productivity. The greenhouse experiments were conducted at the SIUC Horticulture Research Center (HRC). Three textural class soils (sandy, silt loam, and clayey) and seven compost treatments were evaluated that included soil mixed with (1) 0 g g-1 vermi-compost (VC) + no fertilizer (control); (2) 0 g g-1 VC with 35 kg ha-1 (2g per pot) of an inorganic 12-12-12 complete fertilizer (CF); (3) 0.05 g g-1 VC; (4) 0.10 g g-1 VC; (5) 0.20 g g-1 VC; (6) 0.40 g g-1 VC; and (7) 0.80 g g-1 VC. Results indicated that `Sunchief' tomato responded well in soils mixed with high rates of vermi-compost. Soils with higher rates of vermi-compost produced a taller plant with higher leaf number and chlorophyll content, and greater total dry plant mass compared to soils with lower rates of vermi-compost. Results also indicated that vermi-compost at a rate of 0.4 g g-1 to soil should be adequate to achieve optimal tomato plant growth and yields.

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