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Micronutrient availability from steel slag amendment in peatmoss substrates

Altland, James E., Krause, Charles, Locke, James C., Zellner, Wendy L.
HortScience 2015 v.50 no.11 pp. 1715-1720
Geranium, NPK fertilizers, Pelargonium hortorum, Solanum lycopersicum, Sphagnum, ammonium nitrate, boron, chlorophyll, container-grown plants, containers, copper, floriculture crops, nitrogen, peat, perlite, potassium phosphates, roots, shoots, slags, soil amendments, steel, tomatoes, trace element fertilizers, zinc
The objective of this research was to determine the suitability of a steel slag product for supplying micronutrients to container-grown floriculture crops. Geranium (Pelargonium xhortorum 'Maverick Red') and tomato (Solanum lycopersicon 'Megabite') were grown in 11.4 cm containers with a substrate composed of 85 peatmoss : 15 perlite (v:v). A group of containers referred to as the commercial control (C-control) were amended with 4.8 kg.m(-3) dolomitic lime and fertilized with a commercial complete fertilizer providing macro and micronutrients (Jack’s 20N-4.4P-16.6K-0.15Mg-0.02B-0.01Cu-0.1Fe-0.05Mn-0.01Mo-0.05Zn) at a concentration of 100 mg.L(-1) nitrogen (N). Another group of containers, referred to as the micronutrient control (M-control), were amended with a commercial granular micronutrient package at 0.9 kg.m(-3) and dolomitic lime at 4.8 kg.m(-3). The M-control group was fertilized with 3.6 mM N (100 mg.L(-1) N) with ammonium nitrate and 2 mM potassium phosphate. A final group of containers were amended with 1.2, 2.4, or 4.8 kg.m(-3) of steel slag and fertilized with 3.6 mM ammonium nitrate and 2 mM potassium phosphate. Both control groups resulted in vigorous and saleable plants by the conclusion of the experiment. In both crops, chlorophyll levels, root ratings, and shoot dry mass were lower in all steel slag-amended plants compared to either control group. In geranium, foliar nutrient concentrations suggest Cu and Zn were limiting while B and Zn were limiting in tomato. Based on the results of this research, steel slag does not provide sufficient micronutrients, most notably B, Cu, and Zn, to be the sole source of micronutrient fertilization in container-grown crops.