Submitted to: Journal of Environmental Horticulture
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/18/2015
Publication Date: 7/1/2015
Publication URL: http://handle.nal.usda.gov/10113/61876
Citation: Altland, J.E., Zellner, W.L., Locke, J.C. 2015. Substrate pH and butterfly bush response to dolomitic lime or steel slag amendment. Journal of Environmental Horticulture. 33(2):89-95.
Interpretive Summary: Steel slag is a byproduct of the steel industry. Similar to dolomitic lime, it is white to gray in color, available in a range of particle sizes, and useful for raising soil pH. A new steel slag material has recently been made available for horticultural uses. In addition to its use as a liming agent, steel slags typically have high concentrations of micronutrients and provide a source for plant-available silicon. The objective of this research was to determine how steel slag rates affects pH of pine bark substrates, as well as growth of butterfly bush, in comparison to dolomitic lime. Dolomitic lime resulted in higher substrate pH at rates from 0.6 to 4.8 kg.m-3 while the steel slag provided a greater pH reaction at rates higher than 4.8 kg.m-3. Butterfly bush grew well when amended with either dolomitic lime or steel slag, except the highest steel slag rate of 14.3 kg.m-3.
Technical Abstract: Steel slag is a fertilizer amendment with a high concentration of calcium oxide, and thus capable of raising substrate pH similar to dolomitic lime. Steel slag, however, contains higher concentrations of some nutrients, such as iron, manganese, and silicon, compared to dolomitic lime. The objective of this research was to determine the effect of steel slag rate on pH in a substrate composed of 80 pine bark : 20 sphagnum peatmoss (v:v), as well as growth and nutrient content of butterfly bush (Buddleja davidii ‘Pink Delight’). The base substrate was amended with either dolomitic lime (DL) or steel slag (SS) at rates of 0, 0.6, 2.4, 4.8, 9.5, or 14.3 kg.m-3. Substrates were filled into 12-L nursery containers and potted with a single butterfly bush per container. Dolomitic lime resulted in higher substrate pH at rates from 0.6 to 4.8 kg.m-3 while the SS provided a greater pH reaction at rates greater than 4.8 kg.m-3. Butterfly bush responded well to all but the highest SS rate applied. As the rate of SS increased to 14.3 kg.m-3, decreased Mg availability may have reduced shoot growth. Based on the results of this experiment, SS could be used as an alternative to DL. However, incorporation rates would need to be adjusted slightly higher for SS compared to DL to achieve a desired pH in the range of 6 to 6.5.