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Organo-mineral fertilization in natural peatlands of the Quebec North-Shore, Canada: Dispersion in soil and effects on cloudberry growth and fruit yield

Valérie Hébert-Gentile, S. Kristine Naess, Léon-Étienne Parent, Line Lapointe
Acta agriculturæ Scandinavica 2011 v.61 no.sup1 pp. 8-17
Rubus chamaemorus, Sphagnum, crabs, fish meal, flowering, fruit yield, habitats, lichens, mineral fertilizers, mineralization, nutrients, organic fertilizers, peatlands, plant growth, potassium chloride, small fruits, soil, Quebec
Natural peatlands are an important source of berries in northern countries. One possible avenue to improve crop yield in natural peatlands is to apply fertilizers, ombrotrophic peatlands being very low in nutrients. In order to reduce the impact of this practice on an otherwise natural habitat, slow-release organic fertilizers might be more appropriate than mineral fertilizers. However, mineralization and dispersion of organic fertilizers in peatlands need to be determined along with their impact on crop yield. In the present study, we focused on cloudberry fruit that despite a high commercial potential is limited by low and variable yield. We thus tested the effect of an organo-mineral fertilizer in two peatlands on nutrient dispersion, plant growth, flowering frequency and fruit yield of cloudberry. The organo-mineral fertilizer, composed of crab and fish meal supplemented with potassium chloride, was applied annually for three years. The treatment was repeated in two natural ombrotrophic peatlands: one covered with lichen and the other a more typical sphagnum bog.The dispersion study indicated very limited dispersion of most nutrients. There was no effect of the fertilizer on cloudberry growth and fruit yield or on the nutrient concentrations of its tissues. We concluded that the fertilizer did not mineralize to sufficient extent. Mineralization of potential organic fertilizers would need to be tested in natural peatlands before being applied to cloudberry patches.