Helping Plant Nurseries Reduce Runoff


Researchers performed a laboratory study on pine bark-based potting medium and two ingredients nurseries often add to it: dolomite and micronutrient fertilizer.

You may have heard how excess nutrients, such as phosphorus, can run off of crop fields. This can cause harm when the nutrients end up in rivers and lakes. However, there are other sources of excess nutrients you might not think of, such as the pots nursery plants come in.

Before being shipped to farmers and garden centers, many tree crops and ornamental plants are grown in pots at nurseries. The growers apply fertilizer with nutrients, including phosphorus, to the plants in containers.

Phosphorus runoff, including that from container-grown plants, can be harmful to water quality. Because of this, researchers are looking into ways nurseries can keep phosphorus where it belongs - in the pots. Jacob Shreckhise of the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service has been looking into this problem.

“Specialty crops, including ornamental plants, small fruits, and fruit trees, may spend all or a part of their life in a pot or container,” explains Shreckhise. “Growing plants in containers saves space, helps with shipping and handling, and requires no arable land. These containers are usually filled with peat or bark instead of soil. Because peat and bark provide very little nutrients, plants are given fertilizer that release nutrients slowly over time.”

Continue reading at American Society of Agronomy

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