Professional peat-free substrates for ornamental plant production are increasingly required by nursery growers. The most promising materials are green compost, coconut coir dust, and woody fiber used alone or in mixtures.
One of the major concerns is pH, usually higher than optimal. In this work, a method based on a three-step procedure was adopted to acidify three organic matrices alone or in mixtures and to individuate the most suitable product, between iron(II) sulphate 7-hydrate and elemental sulphur chips. Firstly, the determination of the buffering capacity by dilution with sulphuric acid was carried out to determine dosages. Afterwards, an incubation trial of 84 (iron(II) sulphate) or 120 days (sulphur chips) was conducted on matrices and substrate mixtures with calculated doses in a climatic chamber maintained at 21 °C. Iron(II) sulphate resulted not suitable because it caused a rapid, but not lasting, pH lowering and an excessive electrical conductivity (EC) increase.
Sulphur chips could instead guarantee an adequate and lasting pH lowering. These results were then validated in the open field trial on matrices and substrates. The proposed acidification methodology could be considered in developing new substrates, but the rapidity of pH acidification and EC increase on plant and mineral nutrition should be further investigated.
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Cacini, Sonia & Lonardo, Sara & Orsenigo, Simone & Massa, Daniele. (2021). Managing pH of Organic Matrices and New Commercial Substrates for Ornamental Plant Production: A Methodological Approach. Agronomy. 11. 851. 10.3390/agronomy11050851.