Large Scale Composting as a Means of Managing Water Hyacinth
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Water hyacinth is one of the most invasive aquatic species worldwide. It has been successfully composted in the past, but a large scale system had not been investigated to determine if all plant propagules are destroyed in the process. The intent of this study was to determine if composting is an effective means of managing water hyacinth while producing a quality compost product for the horticultural industry. The first objective of this study was to germinate seeds of water hyacinth by implementing germination tests that have shown success in related studies. It was found in this study that 62% (62/100) of water hyacinth seeds successfully germinated on filter paper media soaked in distilled water and placed in petri dishes held at a constant temperature of 80 degrees Fahrenheit for 14 days. The second objective of this study was to determine the temperatures at which water hyacinth seeds are rendered non-viable. This study found that water hyacinth seeds were rendered non-viable at temperatures at or above 135 degrees Fahrenheit. The third objective of this study was to develop a large-scale composting system at the Texas State Muller Farm that uses water hyacinth harvested from Spring Lake and nearby areas of the San Marcos River as a feedstock. This study created 11 compost piles derived from 22,000 pounds of water hyacinth, 20,000 pounds of food waste, 25,000 pounds of poultry litter, and 38,000 pounds of wood chips. The fourth objective of this study was to determine if the composting process renders water hyacinth seeds and propagules non-viable. Results of this study indicated that the composting process reached and sustained high enough temperatures to kill and fully decompose seeds and other propagules of water hyacinth. Therefore, water hyacinth can be composted without the potential danger of it spreading. The fifth objective of this study was to determine the quality of the compost produced. This study found that the quality of compost created from water hyacinth was in the acceptable to ideal ranges of given industry quality standards, though there was a learning curve by the student workers in the preparation of the piles using the large equipment. The sixth objective of this study was to determine how and if the removal of water hyacinth impacts water quality. This study did not indicate that the removal of water hyacinth impacted the water quality of the area either negatively or positively.