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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Salinas, California » Crop Improvement and Protection Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #326934

Research Project: Genetic Enhancement of Lettuce, Spinach, Melon, and Related Species

Location: Crop Improvement and Protection Research

Title: Vermicompost affects soil properties and spinach growth, physiology, and nutritional value

Author
item Xu, Chenping
item Mou, Beiquan

Submitted to: HortScience
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/8/2016
Publication Date: 7/1/2016
Citation: Xu, C., Mou, B. 2016. Vermicompost affects soil properties and spinach growth, physiology, and nutritional value. HortScience. 51:847-855.

Interpretive Summary: The use of vermicompost or worm castings to improve soil fertility and enhance crop yield has gained considerable momentum due to its contribution to agroecological sustainability. The short-term effects of vermicompost, applied either as a soil amendment or as a drench, on soil properties and spinach plants (Spinacia oleracea L.) were evaluated in a greenhouse. Thirty-five days after transplanting, vermicompost amendments left high residual levels of nutrients, organic matter and carbon, and increased soil water holding capacity (WHC). Drench treatment increased soil nutrient contents and WHC. All vermicompost treatments, especially amendment at 10% rate, increased leaf number, area, fresh and dry mass (FM and DM), shoot FM and DM, root DM, and water use efficiency. Vermicompost also increased leaf chlorophyll content and photochemistry of mature leaves. All vermicompost treatments increased leaf succulence and the contents of carotenoid, protein and amino acid. However, vermicompost as soil amendment reduced the contents of other phytochemicals leading to lower antioxidant capacity. The results indicated that vermicompost improved soil fertility, prompted leaf production, delayed leaf senescence and enhanced spinach growth. It also favorably influenced spinach quality by increasing succulence and the content of carotenoid, protein and amino acid, although it, as soil amendment, it reduced flavonoid content leading to low antioxidant capacity.

Technical Abstract: The use of vermicompost to improve soil fertility and enhance crop yield has gained considerable momentum due to its contribution to agroecological sustainability. Short-term (35-days after transplanting) effects of vermicompost, applied either as a soil amendment (5% and 10%, v/v), or a drench (40 ml of vermicompost extract at 0, 14, 21 and 28 d after transplanting), on soil properties and spinach plants (Spinacia oleracea L.) were evaluated in a greenhouse. After harvesting, the amendments left high residual levels of nutrients, organic matter and carbon, and increased soil cation exchange capacity (CEC) and water holding capacity (WHC). Drench treatment of unamended soil increased soil nutrients, CEC and WHC. All vermicompost treatments, especially amendment at 10% rate, increased leaf number, area, fresh and dry mass (FM and DM), shoot FM and DM, root DM, and water use efficiency. Vermicompost increased leaf chlorophyll content, and photochemical efficiency, yield and electron transport rate of mature leaves, as well as increasing leaf succulence, and carotenoid, protein and amino acid content. Vermicompost soil amendment reduced phenolics and flavonoids, leading to lower antioxidant capacity, whereas drench treatment only decreased betacyanin content. Vermicompost improved soil fertility, and prompted leaf production, delayed leaf senescence, and enhanced growth of spinach. It also favorably influenced spinach quality by increasing leaf succulence and carotenoid, protein and amino acids content, although it, as soil amendment, reduced flavonoid content leading to low antioxidant capacity.