A comparison trial of of vermicompost teas as hydroponic nutrient solutions against commercial fertilizers: identifying nutrients and plant production
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While vermicompost teas have many documented benefits, including increased plant growth and pest and disease suppression, less is known about the use of vermicompost teas as a source of nutrients in hydroponic systems. This experiment explored the application of vermicompost tea in hydroponically grown lettuce (Lactuca sativa), as compared with commercially fertilized plants. Lactuca sativa was grown hydroponically in floating rafts over two consecutive three-week cycles and was applied with commercial inorganic fertilizer, commercial organic fertilizer, or vermicompost fertilizer. Wet and dry above- and below-ground biomass, chlorophyll levels, root length were measured, along with levels of soluble nitrate and ammonium in each treatment reservoir. Average above-ground biomass, root length, and chlorophyll were significantly lower for vermicompost treatments as opposed to the other two treatments. Although the vermicompost treatment showed significantly lower plant production, mean nutrient levels were not significantly different except for ammonium and sulfate. More research is needed to further explore nutrient levels and plant production with vermicompost tea applications in hydroponic systems. Further studies may also indicate if vermicompost teas alone can enable yields that are similar to those experienced with commercial fertilizer applications or if a combination of vermicompost tea and an additional fertilizer application is necessary.