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ISSN : 1598-5504(Print)
ISSN : 2383-8272(Online)
Journal of Agriculture & Life Science Vol.50 No.1 pp.137-146

Effects of formulation including pretreated wood as a component of a growing media for tall fescue(Festuca arundinacea)

Myung-Suk Choi, Si Young Ha, Ji Young Jung, Ji Su Kim, Jeong Bin Nam, Jae-Kyung Yang*
Division of Environmental Forest Science, Institute of Agriculture & Life Science, Gyeongsang National University, Jinju, 52828, South Korea
Corresponding author: Jae-Kyung Yang
December 24, 2015 February 16, 2016 February 17, 2016


This experiment was designed to assess the physical and chemical properties of growing media substituted with a range of increasing concentrations of pretreated wood and to relate these properties to plant growth responses. For preparing the growing media, each material was combined with rural soil, peat, perlite and pretreated wood. Physicochemical properties studied were similar to ideal substrate ranges for plant growth on growing media, including pretreated wood. Physical properties were also well maintained over time. In comparison to plants growing in 100% rural soil, tall fescue(Festuca arundinacea) in the prepared growing media achieved better growth, especially when using the 50% rural soil + 50% PPW(peat + perlite + pretreated wood, 3:1:6(w/w/w)) and 30% rural soil + 70% PPW (peat + perlite + pretreated wood, 3:1:6(w/w/w)), and showed improved germination percentage. We confirmed the potential use of growing media, including pretreated wood. Furthermore, our results show a correlation among the physicochemical properties of tall fescue(Festuca arundinacea); physical properties were significantly influenced by germination and aerial parts. The root length of physicochemical properties was correlated with bulk density and organic compound (p<0.01).


    Gyeongnam National University of Science and Technology
    No. S211215L020430


    Growing media have received much attention from the research community in the past few decades. With renewed concern about our rural soil resources, particularly rural soil degradation, growing media are increasing in appeal as a means to reduce losses and maintain economic returns(Atiyeh et al., 2001; Ostos et al., 2008). Further, rural soils classified as having poor physical conditions are those that require development of growing media to maintain conditions favorable for plant growth(Letey, 1985). In the conventional cultivation of plants, regardless of being indoor or outdoor, naturally produced soil has been used as the medium for storing and supplying the nutrients, air, and moisture necessary for raising plants. It is now well known in the art that artificial media can be used for the germination, rooting and propagation of plants. Media such as peat moss, vermiculite, perlite, wood bark, sawdust, certain types of fly ash, pumice, plastic particles, glass wool, and certain foams are commonly used, or have been disclosed in the literature, either alone or in various admixtures with each other and/or soil.

    Waste wood chips and the waste papers are representative base materials of growing media(Kim & Kim, 2010). Numerous studies have demonstrated that these organic residues, after proper composting, can be used instead of rural soil with very good results as growing media(Odlare et al., 2008). One of the organic residues used successfully as a plant growing media is the compost from green residues. Devitt et al.(1990) noted similar results for tall fescue(Festuca arundinacea) when using rural soil mixed with sewage sludge. Nektarios et al.(2011) reached similar conclusions for plant growth(tall fescue) when comparing a mixture of olive mill with rural soil. Aamlid & Landschoot(2007) confirmed similar germination of creeping bent grass, hard fescue, and Chewing’s fescue in an experiment with a 50% rural soil/ 25% spent mushroom substrate(v/v) mixture compared with 100% rural soil. Nowadays, Sarah et al.(2016) confirmed biochar and compost amendments could facilitate plant growth on soil.

    Recent research showing the successful use of wood material substrates among various organic materials for plant growing has gained considerable interest from growers and substrate manufacturers (Jackson et al., 2010). Wood fiber substrates have higher air volume compared to peat-based substrates, but have similar total pore space and volume weight, unlike other organic materials such as white or black peat(Gruda & Schnitzler, 2001). In addition, wood material has the advantage of long-term moisture sustain ability(Claire et al., 2013). Gruda and Schnitzler(2004) reported that wood fiber substrates are a good alternative for peat.

    We also reported previously that pretreated wood can potentially be used in the development of growing media(Jung et al., 2015). We confirmed that the pretreated wood has rural soil-like qualities and can be used as a rural soil. However, we did not practically confirm the variation in physical properties and the effects of tall fescue(Festuca arundinacea) growth when pretreated wood is mixed with rural soil. Therefore, we believe that the results of this study are essential for the development of a growing media to rural soil. Tall fescue(Festuca arundinacea) was chosen because of its ease of establishment, low maintenance and soil tolerance.

    By analyzing the results of this experiment, the following questions were answered: (1) Does the mixture of pretreated wood differ from the un-mixed rural soil in physicochemical and tall fescue(Festuca arundinacea) growth properties? (2) What are the physicochemical factors influencing tall fescue(Festuca arundinacea) growth? The objective of this research was to evaluate which growing media, including steam explosion treatment residuals, are suitable for use in tall fescue cultivation, with the focus being on effects of the growing media on physical property variation and tall fescue growth according to mixing ratio of rural soil and growing media, including pretreated wood.

    Materials and Methods

    1Pretreatment of wood chip

    The steam explosion treatment of fresh oak wood material(Quercus variabilis Blume, from Organic Park Landscape, Seo-gu, Gwangju, South Korea) was carried out in a custom-built batch pilot unit based on Masonite technology and equipped with a 20L reaction vessel. The reactor was charged with 10kg(dry matter) of feedstock per batch and heated to the desired temperature(225°C) with saturated steam for 5min. The steam-exploded oak wood was collected in a cyclone, and after cooling to about 40°C it was filtered for liquid and solid recovery.

    2Growing media preparation

    Rural soil(from Cheonwang Mountain, Miryang, Gyeongsangnam-do, Korea brown rural soil, with nutrient content and water retention property), peat, pretreated wood, and perlite, which are common substrate materials, were mixed in different ratios(Table 1). We then measured their water holding capacity, bulk density, porosity, pH, electrical conductivity(EC), and organic compounds in the laboratory to determine the basic physicochemical properties of different formulas of substrates. A randomized block design was used, with four replications for each treatment.

    3Physical and chemical properties of growing media

    The relevant physical properties of the growing media are water holding capacity, bulk density, and porosity, and the chemical properties are pH, EC, and organic compounds(Lemaire, 1995). The water holding capacity and porosity of substrates were measured using the methods of Verdonck and Gabriels(Verdonck & Gabriels, 1992). The bulk density of the substrates was determined according to the methods of De-Boodt et al.(1972). The pH and EC were reacted in water extracts of all substrates (sample: distilled water ratio of 1:5), and measured using an Orion(Cambridge, Massachusetts) pH meter and EC meter, respectively(Jeong et al. 2008). The organic compounds of the substrates were determined by a muffle furnace at 550°C according to ISO 1171-1981. The measurements were carried out for three replicates, and values are an average of the three replicates. The results are expressed as mean values ± standard deviation(SD) for three replicates.

    4Screening of optimal ratio

    The range method comprehensively considers the advantages and weaknesses of various items, ranks and assigns values to them, and finally analyzes the values as a single index(Li et al., 2014). In terms of physical properties, the ideal substrate bulk density should be less than 0.8g/cm3 and the ideal is 0.4g/cm3. Generally, plants will grow well if the porosity is more than 85% and water-holding capacity is 60%. In terms of chemical properties, the substrate pH, EC, and organic compounds should be suitable for the cultivated plants; pH, EC, and organic compounds at 5.2–6.3, less than 0.5, and more than 80%, respectively, promote the growth of most plants in general.

    5Comparison of pot experiment responses

    Pot experiments were carried out to evaluate the potential use of pretreated wood as a growing media in tall fescue(Festuca arundinacea) production in the open air(average temperature: 26°C; overhead flooding: once a month). The suitability of the pretreated wood as a potential growing media was studied in a pot experiment using tall fescue(Festuca arundinacea) and the different growing media(Table 1) as treatments. The tall fescue(Festuca arundinacea) was selected for this study due to its strong resistance to low temperatures(Zhao et al., 2013) and its ability to withstand poor environmental conditions (Xiao et al., 2014). As a result, tall fescue is a good candidate(Chekol & Vough, 2002). Fifty seeds of tall fescue(Festuca arundinacea) were sown into each pot(100mL capacity). The pots were watered daily and the growth characteristics were measured three months after sowing. The aerial parts(soil surface, cm) and root length(underground part, cm) were measured using digital Vernier calipers. Seed germination, length of aerial parts, and root length were recorded daily. Three months later, the numbers of seedlings that had germinated were counted, and the germination percentage in each potting mixture was determined.

    6Correlation analysis

    The data values from the physical property experiments were compared with the tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea) growth properties of the pot experiments by correlation analysis. The aim was to determine whether the methods used in the physical property experiments might be an effective means of predicting the effect of tall fescue(Festuca arundinacea) growth from these substrates. Pearson analysis(R program, i386 3.2.2 version) was performed for each substrate and variations were assessed based on variations in the physical property and experiment time.

    7Statistical analysis

    Data were analyzed using SAS statistical software comparing data means to Duncan’s test. Duncan’s multiple comparison range test was used to determine significant differences between the means.

    Results and Discussion

    1Comparison of physicochemical properties of different formulas

    As seen in Table 2, the bulk density, pH, and EC of formulas show a decreasing trend, while water holding capacity, porosity, and organic compounds show an increasing trend with the decrease of rural soil. As the mixed substrate ratio increases, so does the water holding capacity. Abad et al.(2001) and De-boodt & Verdonck(1972) defined the requirements of an ideal substrate: it should exhibit 0.4g/cm3 bulk density and 85% porosity. Bulk density values were within the ideal range for two of the mixed substrates(M50, M100). High bulk density values have the disadvantage of increasing the transportation costs and reducing porosity and air capacity(Corti et al., 1998). The substrate that most closely approaches the definition of an ideal substrate is M50, but its porosity is below the ideal range. For M75 and M100, the porosity value falls inside the ideal range. Tejada & Gonzalez(2005) demonstrated that an increase in the organic compound content of rural soils increases rural soil structural stability and rural soil bulk density. According to Bunt(1988), the optimal pH range of growing media and mixes for growing plants is 5.2–6.3. The different formulas have few differences in pH(Table 2), and are less than pH 7, meaning they are acidic substrates. This is because pretreated wood is essentially acidic and will reduce the pH of rural soil whether it is in neutral or acidic rural soil. The EC values were below the established limit(0.5dS/m) for an ideal substrate(Abad et al., 2001). The EC values were similar to the ideal range in two of the mixed substrates(M75, M100). Higher EC values could be a limiting factor for plants sensitive to high salinity(Benito et al., 2005).

    We confirmed the maintenance of physical properties by testing the rural soil for three months. Figure 1 shows that water holding capacity, bulk density, and porosity were maintained over the three month period in a rural soil mixed with 50% and 75%(w/w) formulation made from pretreated wood (M75, M100). The greatest change in physical property was found for all substrates in the variant with a mixed ratio. M100 had the lowest change of value in physical properties for the variants with pretreated wood. In both the short-term and long-term cases, the growing media-scale with pretreated wood combination best reproduced the substrate physical property variation of growing conditions.

    2Screening of optimal ratio

    Table 2 presents the physicochemical properties of four formulas through comparison with the above data and according to the range method. For the bulk density index, the average bulk density of formula M50 was 0.4g/cm3, scoring 10 points, and the average bulk density of formula M0 was 1.1g/cm3, scoring one point. The scores of other tests for each index were obtained by comparing the differences between themselves and the outstanding value in proportion. Because the range analysis method is simple, it is a common way to deal with multi-index problems. Given that the importance of each index is roughly the same, the total score for each test is obtained by adding the scores of all indicators. The main basic index scores and the comprehensive scores of the four formulas are shown in Table 3.

    In Table 3, the formula M75 had the highest score of 34.6 points, and the formula M50 (score: 31.5 points) could also satisfy water holding, bulk density and porosity requirements for tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea) growth.

    3Planting effect test

    The objective was to test different formulas with pretreated wood for growing tall fescue. Figure 2 shows that by using the formula M50(rural soil: PPW= 50:50), the growth of the tall fescue cultivated using the pretreated wood was clearly higher than that using the M0(100% rural soil). The aerial parts and root length of tall fescue for different formulas are presented in Fig. 3. After three months, the aerial parts and root lengths of tall fescue(Festuca arundinacea) grown using formulas M25, M50, and M100 showed results similar to those when using rural soil. M75 is the highest formula in aerial parts and shows a significant difference from other formulas. Additionally, we confirmed in germination tests using growing media with different combinations of peat, perlite, and pretreated wood that increasing percentages of formulation resulted in similar germination percentages.

    4Correlation analysis

    Considering the key physical and chemical properties of rural soil, it is necessary to separate factors that directly or indirectly affect plant growth (Letey, 1985). The results of a correlation analysis involving physical and chemical properties and the calculated indices of tall fescue(Festuca arundinacea) growth properties are presented in Table 4. Bulk density(r= -0.89, p<0.01) was the most correlated with germination, and the aerial part was the most correlated with organic compound(r= 0.66, p<0.01). Interestingly, the physical properties were more correlated with tall fescue(Festuca arundinacea) growth properties than with chemical properties, excluding organic compounds. Akhter et al.(2004) found a correlation between increased water holding capacity of substrates and increased seed germination rates. Jordan et al.(2008) reported that the bulk density values were negatively correlated with plants obtained from the two separate harvests at a p<0.05 level, conveying the importance of a low growing media bulk density in the establishment and growth of vegetation.

    With the popularity of growing media and decreasing availability of rural soil resources, using a growing media must be the development trend in tall fescue(Festuca arundinacea) cultivation. This study shows that the physical properties of mixed substrates(water holding capacity, bulk density, and porosity) have great influence on seed germination. Using peat, perlite, and pretreated wood as base materials in various formulations results in good performance and stability similar to that observed when using 100% rural soil and promotes tall fescue growth. Moreover, the cleanliness, good appearance, and environmentally friendly nature of pretreated wood add to its promise as a tall fescue(Festuca arundinacea) cultivation growing media.


    This study was carried out with the support of “Research Center for Ecological Restoration in Damaged land(project No. S211215L020430)” provide by Korea Forest Service, South Korea and partially support of Gyeongnam National University of Science and Technology Grant 2013, Korea.



    Variation of physical property in rural soil with pretreated wood based materials application 3 month periods. M0: Rural soil(100%); M25: Rural soil(75%) + PPW(25%); M50: Rural soil(50%) + PPW(50%); M75: Rural soil(25%) + PPW(75%); M100: PPW(100%).


    Germination of tall fescue(Festuca arundinacea) seed grown in different formulation. Germination values with different letters indicate statistically significant differences(p < 0.05) by Duncan’s test. M0, M25, M50, M75 and M100: see the note in Fig. 1.


    Aerial part and root length of tall fescue(Festuca arundinacea) in different formulation. In each letter, values with different letters indicate statistically significant differences(p < 0.05) by Duncan’s test. M0, M25, M50, M75 and M100: see the note in Fig. 1.


    Treatments in rural soil amendment mixtures between composition and rural soil applied in the study.

    1PPW : Peat + Perlite + Pretreated wood, 3:1:6 (w/w/w)

    The different formulas and their basic physicochemical properties

    1M0: Rural soil(100%); M25: Rural soil(75%) + PPW(25%); M50: Rural soil(50%) + PPW(50%); M75: Rural soil(25%) + PPW(75%); M100: PPW(100%).
    2IS: Ideal substrate
    3Abad et al.(2001)
    4De-Boodt and Verdonck(1972)

    The basic indicator scores and comprehensive score of different formulas

    1M0, M25, M50, M75 and M100: See the note in Table 2.

    Correlation table for the water holding capacity and the initial properties of the substrates used.

    1ns: p>0.05;


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