Evaluation of natural and synthetic substrates for use in aeroponic systems
Aeroponic cultivation has become a very popular method of agricultural production. A synthetic material, rock wool is used widely as a growth medium. This research investigated cattail block production and compared its suitability as an alternative to rock wool based on the physical and chemical properties of substrates. The usefulness of cattail blocks for growing three plant types [arugula (Eruca sativa) N=18, lettuce (Lactuca sativa) N=18, and tomato N=21 (Solanum lycopersicum)] was compared with rock wool. In addition, the spent cattail block was compared with raw fibre to determine the possibility of further use. Analysis revealed that the germination performance of the cattail block was better than rock wool, and the difference was statistically significant, with p =0.00 for lettuce and tomato. The survivability (%) of arugula, lettuce, and tomato in aeroponics was better for cattail block than rock wool, and the difference was statistically significant (p<0.05). However, the fresh weight of plants was better for rock wool after 35 days of growth in the aeroponic system. The difference was not statistically significant for arugula at p>0.05, while for lettuce and tomato, the difference was statistically significant at p<0.05. The spent cattail block from the aeroponic system showed the possibility of reuse in the automobile and packaging industries. Finally, the cattail block demonstrated its suitability as growing media and would bring environmental benefits to rock wool.
aeroponics, growing media, cattail block, rock wool, germination, plant growth.