Composted Yard Waste as a Replacement for Pine Bark Mulch in Blueberry Production

Final Report for FS01-139

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2001: $9,800.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2003
Region: Southern
State: Florida
Principal Investigator:
Richard Nogaj
Harvest for Humanity
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Project Information


In the last decade more than nine pounds of solid waste per person were produced in the United States each day As the population increases, solid waste disposal will become more of a concern due to the difficulty of establishing new landfills, the potential for groundwater contamination from unlined landfills and opposition to burning. A partial solution to this problem is to compost high-volume materials like municipal trash and yard trimmings. Composting can be an attractive waste management option, since 30 to 60 percent of municipal solid waste materials can be composted in an environmentally safe manner.

Our goal was to promote composting and recycling by demonstrating that municipal solid waste, particularly urban plant debris (yard trimmings, etc.) can be used as a mulch and/or soil amendment in blueberry production in place of peat moss and pine bark. Successful blueberry production in Florida requires the addition of organic matter to the soil as well as application of mulch to the soil surface beneath the plants. Peat moss is normally used as the organic mater soil amendment and pine bark is used as the mulch. Using composted urban plant debris would eliminate the need for these materials, decreasing the need to mine peat or buy pine bark.

When southern highbush blueberry plants are grown on sandy soils, production improves if they are mulched with organic material, normally pine bark. In our work, plants under pine bark grew 77 percent larger canopies than plants under composted yard waste. Fruit yield was 39 percent greater with pine bark than yard waste. We have concluded that our blueberry plants prefer pine bark mulch to yard waste.


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  • Thomas A. Obreza


Participation Summary
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.