Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Science


Plant and Soil Science

First Advisor

Walters, Stuart


The vermicomposting of coffee grounds shows great promise for urban areas and university campuses. Several studies have examined using coffee grounds as a substrate for vermicomposting, however, little is known about its effect on plant growth, yield and quality. Therefore, two studies were conducted to assess these effects on greenhouse spinach and field grown bell peppers. Coffee vermicompost (VC) was utilized in a greenhouse spinach study over two spring growing seasons (2011 and 2012). Coffee VC was added to a 1:1:1 (peat, soil, sand) medium by volume (0, 25, 50 and 75%) in 4.5 L clay pots and seeded with `Bloomsdale Longstanding' spinach (Spinacia oleracea). Growth parameters evaluated were fresh leaf weight (FLW), leaf area (LA), spinach plant height, number of leaves, fresh leaf ascorbic acid (AA) and dry leaf nitrate (DLN). In 2011, the highest FLW, LA, number of leaves, AA and nitrate content were seen at the 75% VC application rate. Many parameters were correlated: The FLW and the VC application rate (r=0.41, P<0.0001); the AA content in leaves and the VC application rate (r=0.60, P<0.0001); and the AA and nitrate content in leaves (r=0.45, P=0.011). In 2012, the greatest FLW, height and number of leaves were observed at the 50% VC application rate; the highest nitrate content at 75% VC application rate, with no difference in AA content. A field study was conducted over three seasons (2009–-2011) to compare four treatments (coffee VC, dairy compost, standard fertility (SFT) and no treatment) for their effects on growth, yield, and AA content of bell peppers. Coffee VC and dairy compost were applied to beds at the rate of 22 t/ha and SFT was applied as 212 kg/ha 12:12:12 (N:P:K). Parameters evaluated were total number and weight of marketable and cull (unmarketable) pepper fruits, plant height, leaf chlorophyll index, and fresh fruit AA content. There were no differences detected for pepper fruit yields or AA content, however, plant height and chlorophyll index were greater for the VC and SFT treatments than for the compost and control treatments. These results indicated that coffee VC can improve the yield of greenhouse spinach and that the AA content does not decrease with higher VC application rates, even as nitrate content increases. Results of the bell pepper field study indicated that the coffee VC treatment produces similar growth, yield and AA content as SFT.




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