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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Houma, Louisiana » Sugarcane Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #322533

Research Project: Integrated Crop, Soil, and Water Management Systems for Sustainable Production of Sugarcane for Bioenergy Feedstock

Location: Sugarcane Research

Title: Sugarcane bagasse ash as a seedling growth media component

Author
item Webber Iii, Charles
item White, Paul
item Petrie, Eric
item Shrefler, James - Oklahoma State University
item Taylor, Merritt - Oklahoma State University

Submitted to: Journal of Agricultural Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/26/2015
Publication Date: 1/1/2016
Publication URL: http://handle.nal.usda.gov/10113/61986
Citation: Webber III, C.L., White Jr, P.M., Petrie, E.C., Shrefler, J.W., Taylor, M.J. 2016. Sugarcane bagasse ash as a seedling growth media component. Journal of Agricultural Science. 8(1):1-7.

Interpretive Summary: In 2014, the eleven sugarcane mills in Louisiana processed 380,000 ac and 12.8 million tons of harvested sugarcane, producing 1.5 million tons of raw sugar (brown sugar), and an estimated 3 million tons of the fibrous plant residue called bagasse. Bagasse is the fibrous material remaining after removing the sucrose, water, and other impurities (filter mud) from the sugarcane delivered to the mill. Louisiana sugarcane mills use a portion of the sugarcane bagasse for fuel producing over 22,500 tons of sugarcane bagasse ash (SBA) as a by-product. Sugarcane mill owners, operators, and associated researchers have investigated and employed various uses for SBA. The purpose of this research was to investigate the use of SBA as an amendment to soilless planting media for the production of vegetable seedlings. The SBA was combined by volume with a commercial soilless growing media into 5 combinations (0%:100%, 25%:75%, 50%:50%, 75%:25%, and 100%:0%, SBA and growing media, respectively). Squash var. ‘Straightneck’ and cantaloupe var. ‘Magnum Hybrid Melon’ were planted in each of the 5 different planting mixtures with each treatment repeated 4 times and each experiment repeated twice. The research indicates that the addition of SBA enhanced squash and cantaloupe seedling growth depending on the percentage of the ash added to the growth media. Squash plant stalk lengths and plant total fresh weights (stalk, leaves, tops, roots, and total plant) overall responded best at the 75% SBA. Squash dry weights were consistently greater for all treatments where SBA to the soil media compared to adding no SBA. The 25% and 50% SBA media produced the greatest cantaloupe leaf fresh weights. Cantaloupe leaf dry weights followed a similar trend, where the 25% and 50% SBA media produced greater plant weights with lesser yields compared to the 75% and 100% SBA. This data suggests that the 75% SBA and 25% SBA were certainly suitable potting media combinations for squash and cantaloupe seedling production, respectively. Further research should investigate the impact of adding starter fertilizers to the SBA amended media to further enhance the growth of the squash and cantaloupe seedlings. Additional plant species should also be evaluated for their response to SBA amended growth media.

Technical Abstract: In 2014, the eleven sugarcane mills in Louisiana processed 153,783 ha and 11.6 million mt of milable sugarcane, producing 1.3 million mt of raw sugar, and an estimated 2.7 million mt bagasse. Louisiana sugarcane mills use a portion of the sugarcane bagasse for fuel producing over 20,411 mt of sugarcane bagasse ash (SBA) as a by-product. The purpose of this research was to investigate the use of SBA as an amendment to soilless planting media for the production of vegetable seedlings. The SBA was combined by volume with a commercial soilless growing media into 5 combinations, 0%:100%, 25%:75%, 50%:50%, 75%:25%, and 100%:0%, SBA and growing media, respectively. Squash var. ‘Straightneck’ and cantaloupe var. ‘Magnum Hybrid Melon’ were planted in each of the 5 different planting mixtures with each treatment repeated 4 times and each experiment repeated twice. The research indicates that the addition of SBA enhanced squash and cantaloupe seedling growth depending on the percentage of the ash added to the growth media. Squash plant stalk lengths and plant fresh weights (stalk, leaves, tops, roots, and total plant) overall responded best at the 75% SBA. Squash dry weights were consistently greater when SBA was combined with the soilless media compared to 0% SBA. The 25% and 50% SBA media produced the greatest cantaloupe leaf fresh weights. Cantaloupe leaf dry weights followed a similar trend, where the 25% and 50% SBA media produced greater plant weights, while lesser yields were observed at the 75% and 100% SBA levels. This data suggests that the 75% SBA and 25% SBA are certainly suitable potting media combinations for the squash and cantaloupe seedling production, respectively. Further research should investigate the impact of adding starter fertilizers to the SBA amended media to further enhance the growth of the squash and cantaloupe seedlings. Additional plant species should also be evaluated in their response to SBA amended growth media.