Seaweed compost for agricultural crop production
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This study manipulated the carbon-to-nitrogen ratio (C:N) of seaweed composts by varying the proportion of high N green seaweed (Ulva ohnoi) and high C sugarcane bagasse to assess their quality and suitability for use in agricultural crop production. Seaweed-bagasse mixes that had an initial C:N ratio greater than 18:1 (up to 50:1) could be transformed into a mature compost within 16 weeks. However, only composts with a high seaweed content and therefore low initial C:N (18 and 22:1) supported a consistently high rate of plant growth, even at low application rates. Sugarcane grown in these high seaweed composts had a 7-fold higher total above-ground biomass than low seaweed composts and a 4-fold higher total above-ground biomass than sugarcane grown in commercial compost that did not contain seaweed. Overall, the optimal initial C:N ratio for seaweed-based compost was 22:1 which corresponds to 82 % seaweed on a fresh weight basis. This ratio will produce a high quality mature compost whilst also ensuring that a high proportion of the nitrogen (>90 %) in the Ulva biomass is retained through the composting process.
KeywordsMacroalgae Phosphorous Nitrogen Agriculture Salt Electrical conductivity
This research is part of the MBD Energy Research and Development programme for Biological Carbon Capture and Storage. The project is supported by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and the Advanced Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (AMCRC) funded through the Australian Government’s Cooperative Research Centre Scheme. We thank Jonathon Moorhead, Tom Mannering, Lewis Anderson and Giovani Del Frari for assistance with experiments and the Burdekin Productivity Services for supplying the sugarcane stalks.
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