Date of Graduation

12-2011

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Horticulture (MS)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Horticulture

Advisor

Michael R. Evans

Committee Member

Doug Karcher

Second Committee Member

Craig Rothrock

Third Committee Member

Garry McDonald

Keywords

Biodegradable containers, Cowpots, Cyclame, Ebb-and-flood irrigation, Peat pots, Subirrigation

Abstract

The objective for this research was to assess the efficacy of biodegradable containers compared to plastic containers for the production of long-term crops using a subirrigation system. Plastic and various biocontainers were used to grow `Rainier Purple' cyclamen (Cyclamen persicum L.) in ebb-and-flood benches. After 15 weeks, the physical properties of the containers were tested. The used plastic containers had strengths of 23.3, 23.5 and 21.9 g for the bottom, middle and top zones respectively. The peat, dairy manure and wood fiber containers had strengths of less than 2 kg for each zone. The peat, dairy manure, wood fiber and rice straw containers had used tensile strengths of 0, 0, 3.61 and 5.29 g respectively. Total water for wood fiber containers was significantly higher than plastic containers. Irrigation interval for plastic containers was significantly longer than for wood fiber containers. Plastic, bioplastic, solid ricehull and slotted ricehull containers had no algal or fungal growth. There were no significant differences between biocontainers and plastic containers for days to flower. All biocontainers except wood fiber had significantly higher shoot dry weights than plants grown in plastic containers. The plants grown in the plastic containers had root dry weights of 3.0 g. Solid ricehull, paper, wood fiber and coconut fiber containers had higher plant root dry weights than plastic containers. The bioplastic, solid ricehull and slotted ricehull containers would all be appropriate substitutes for plastic containers. These containers retained high levels of punch and tensile strength, had no algal and fungal growth, required a similar amount of water as the plastic containers and did not negatively affect plant growth. The peat, dairy manure, wood fiber and rice straw containers would not be appropriate substitutes for plastic containers because of the low used strengths, high percentages of algae coverage and shorter irrigation intervals. Paper and coconut fiber containers could be used to substitute for plastic. These containers retained high used strengths, similar total water usage amounts, and did not negatively affect plant growth. These containers had algae but it was less than 9% of the total container.

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