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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Converting insect colony waste into a potting susbstrate.

Authors
item Reed, Stewart
item Epsky, Nancy
item Heath, Robert
item Joseph, Ricardo

Submitted to: American Society of Agronomy Meetings
Publication Type: Other
Publication Acceptance Date: November 4, 2007
Publication Date: November 4, 2007
Citation: Reed, S.T., Epsky, N.D., Heath, R.R., Joseph, R. 2007. Converting insect colony waste into a potting susbstrate. American Society of Agronomy Meetings.

Interpretive Summary: Interpretive Summary A study was initiated to determine if the semi-solid insect colony waste product and vermiculite used in insect rearing could be combined and used as a growth substrate for plants. The semi-solid larval diet was washed through the vermiculite used as an insect pupation substrate. The resulting material was drained and air-dried for approximately seven days. This material was tested as a potting substrate in two studies. In the first study radish (Raphanus sativus L.) was grown in either a commercial potting mixture or in blends of colony waste (CW) and equal parts compost plus peat (CP) in ratios of 100:0, 80:20, 60:40, 40:60, 20:80 and 0:100 CW:CP. In the second study squash was grown in CW:sand (S) in ratios of 0:100, 20:80, 30:70, 50:50, 70:30, 80:20 and 100:0. Nutrient analysis revealed low amount of P and Ca in colony waste. Nitrogen, K, Mg, Zn, Fe and Cu contents were high enough to support optimum plant growth for at least one growing season. Shoot dry weights of radish plants grown in 80:20, 60:40 and 40:60 CW:CP were higher than the ones produced with the commercial mix. Root dry weights were highest in the 80:20 CW:CP treatment. Overall, radish plants grown in 60:40 and 80:20 CW:CP mixtures performed best. Shoot and root dry weights were higher in squash plants grown in 50:50 and 20:80 CW:S ratios. Both shoot and root dry weights were highest in the 20:80 CW:S treatment. No substance in the CW appeared to be detrimental to plant growth. As a potting substrate, there were no differences in plant performance between the 100:0 CW:CP and 0:100 CW:CP or the commercial mix. The insect colony waste can be used as a part of a potting mix.

Technical Abstract: Rearing insect generates both a solid and semisolid waste that is generally discarded in landfills. A study was initiated to determine if the semi-solid insect colony waste product and vermiculite used in insect rearing could be combined and used as a growth substrate for plants. The semi-solid larval diet was wash through the vermiculite used to line cages. The resulting material was drained and air dried for approximately seven days. This material was tested as a potting substrate in two studies. In the first study radish (Raphanus sativus L.) was grown in either a commercial potting mixture, 100% colony waste (CW), 100% equal parts compost plus peat, and 80%, 60%, 40% or 20% CW with equal parts compost and peat for a total of 70 pots. In the second study squash was grown in CW:sand in ratios of 0:100, 20:80, 30:70, 50:50, 70:30, 80:20 and 100:0. Colony waste mixes of 80% and 100% had radish germination rates equal to that of both the commercial potting mix and 100% peat/compost (0%CW). Radish plants grown in CW/compost/peat mixtures of 80%, 60% and 40% CW resulted in shoot dry weights higher than that produced in the commercial mix and significantly higher than the 100%, 20% and 0% CW. Squash plants grown in 20:80, 50:50 and 30:70 CW:S developed more nodes than those grown in only sand (0:100 CW:S). Both shoot and root dry weights for squash were highest in the 20:80 CW:S ratio treatment. No substance in the CW appeared to be detrimental to plant growth. As a potting substrate there were no differences in plant performance between the CW, the commercial mix or a peat:compost mix.

Last Modified: 9/10/2014
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