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International Journal of Horticultural Science and Ornamental Plants IJHSOP

Vol. 3(1), pp. 037-046, June, 2017. www.premierpublishers.org, ISSN: 2141-502X

Research Article

Influence of vermicomposted soil amendments on plant

growth and dry matter partitioning in seedling
Mavura Mcleo1, *Mtaita Tuarira1, *Mutetwa Moses2, Musimbo Ngenzile3
1Department of Horticulture, Faculty of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Africa University, Box 1320, Old Mutare,
2Alumni, Department of Horticulture, Faculty of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Africa University, Box 1320, Old

Mutare, Zimbabwe.
3Department of Environmental and Biological Sciences, Faculty of Science and Technology, Solusi University, Box

Solusi, Bulawayo.

The present experiment was undertaken to evaluate the effects of different vermicompost
substitutions for vlei soil in seedling nursery production. The experiment was laid out in a
Randomized Complete Block Design (RCBD) with three replications. Cucumber (Cucumis sativus)
seeds were planted in five treatment groups including without vermicompost, 25%
vermicompost, 50% vermicompost, 75% vermicompost and 100% vermicompost. Vlei soils were
incorporated into the experiment making up the different supplements. There was significant
(P<0.05) influence of vermicompost amendments. Tallest seedlings were recorded from
V50%(13.2cm) and V75%(12.6cm) and means from treatments V25%, V50% and V75% were
significantly higher than treatment V0%. Treatment V100% recorded the highest number of
leaves(5.88). Highest root fresh weight was recorded from V50%(2.16g). All treatments revealed
a significant difference amongst the treatments with V50% having the highest shoot dry weight
of 2.22g. The means for treatments V50% and V75% were significantly higher than the treatment
V0%. The highest fresh weight (11.31g) was recorded from V50%. All means for plant dry weight
with vermicompost amendments were significantly higher than no vermicompost treatment
(V0%). A ratio of 1:1 vermicompost and vlei gave the best results. These finding indicate that
instead of using vermicompost alone, its use in mixtures with vlei gives the same effect.

Keywords: Cucumber (Cucumis sativus), vermicompost, amendment, growth, vlei, shoot, root, weight.


The main goal of horticultural nurseries is to produce amounts of peat moss (Sphagnum spp.) (Raviv et al.,
quality seedlings with target morphological and 1986) or cocopeat (Khayyat et al., 2007; Nazari et al.,
physiological features that guarantee crop success after 2011) since it provides adequate aeration, moisture
transplanting. Post-transplant success after the nursery retention and support for the seedlings.
stage is strongly influenced by plant morphology factors
(Lazcano et al., 2009). Progressively more, nursery stock
is produced in containers due to market demands and
numerous production advantages, including greater *Corresponding author: Mutetwa Moses, Department of
production per surface unit, faster plant growth, higher Horticulture, Faculty of Agriculture and Natural
plant quality, and lack of dependence on arable land. Resources, Africa University, Box 1320, Old Mutare,
Nursery potting media usually contain substantial Zimbabwe. Email: mosleymute@gmail.com
Influence of vermicomposted soil amendments on plant growth and dry matter partitioning in seedling production
Mavura et al. 038

The use of peat involves the exploitation of non- waste and /or inadequate composting procedures. It is
renewable resources and the degradation of highly gorged that high levels of vermicompost substitutions
valuable ecosystems like peatlands (Robertson, 1993). may adversely affect plant growth, development and
However, in recent years, increasing consumer concern yield, especially at germination and seedling stages,
about issues such as food quality, environmental safety (Arancon et al., 2004; Roberts et al., 2007; Lazcano and
and soil conservation has lead to a substantial increase Dominguez 2010; Ievinsh, 2011). These adverse effects,
in the use of sustainable agricultural practices. For that although possible, are less likely to occur when
reason, in order to reduce costs, adopt more vermicompost is used as a potting amendment (Chaoui
environmentally-friendly practices and the parallel et al., 2003). Therefore, it must be used cautiously for the
increasing concern in waste recycling has led to the agricultural and horticultural activities (Ievinsh, 2011). So,
proposal of some organic materials of great interest such the determination of desirable and economical growth
as compost-like substrates for example vermicompost. inducing concentrations of vermicompost for reducing
The latter is a nutrient-rich, microbiologically-active costs of agriculture is critical (Ladan Moghadam et al.,
organic amendment that results from the interactions 2012). The present experiment was undertaken to
between earthworms (i.e. Eisenia fetida Savigny, evaluate the possible effects of different concentrations of
Lumbricus rubellus Hoffmeister) and microorganisms vermicompost on the growth and development of
under non-thermophilic, aerobic conditions (Edwards, cucumber seedlings.
1995). It is a stabilized, finely divided peat-like material
with a low C:N ratio, high porosity and high water-holding
capacity and is very useful for improving the mechanism MATERIALS AND METHODS
and nutrition of the plants (Domnguez, 2004;Kabiri
Khosh Sout, 2008:Yadav and Garg, 2015). Experimental design and Crop establishment
There are only few research studies that have examined
the responses of plants to the use or substitution of The experiment was carried out in the shade house at
vermicompost to soil or greenhouse container media Africa University Farm (AU) in Mutare, Zimbabwe;
(Buckerfield and Webster, 1998; Karmegam et al., 1999; located at 180 53 S, 320 35E and 1104m altitude. The
Edwards et al., 2004; Hashemimajd et al., 2004; Tognetti seeds of Cucumis sativus were used as test crop and the
et al., 2005; Argello et al., 2006; Mahdavi Damghani et vermicompost was purchased from Mutare Farm and city.
al., 2007; Nazari et al., 2008;Mirzaei et al., 2009; Vlei soil was sourced from the university premises. The
Ahmadabadi et al., 2011). Most of these studies characteristics of the vlei and the vermicompost media
confirmed that vermicomposts have beneficial effects on are shown below;
plant growth. Vermicomposts, whether used as soil
additives or as components of horticultural media, Vermicompost was used at five different amendment
improved seed germination and enhanced rates of levels (0, 25%, 50%, 75% and 100%) and seeds were
seedling growth and development (Murimba et al., 2015; planted in speedling trays. The vermicompost was
Mugwendere et al., 2015). amended into the planting media. The duration of the
Benefits of using vermicompost as a soilless substrate experiment went on for seven weeks. The experiment
amendment for container grown horticultural crops has was laid out in Randomized Complete Block Design
also been reported for a variety of reasons, including (RCBD) with three (3) replications and five (5) treatments
increased plant growth and flowering (Hidalgo and as follows;
Harkess 2002:Gupta et al., 2014) correspondingly
improved physical properties (Hidalgo et al., 2006) and Treatment 1: V0% - no vermicompost,
water use efficiency of production (McGinnis et al., 2005) Treatment 2: V25% - media amendment with 25% vermicompost,
as well as to provide liming equivalences (McGinnis, Treatment 3: V50% - media amendment with 50% vermicompost,
Treatment 4: V75%- media amendment with 75% vermicompost,
2007). Vermicompost also provides some, but not all,
Treatment 5: V100% - media 100% vermicompost.
essential plant nutrients maximize containerized crop
growth, thus an additional source of nutrients (i.e.
Data collection
Fertilizer) is needed (Atiyeh et al., 1999; Atiyehet al.,
2000a; Atiyeh et al., 2000b). The slowly and steadily
Destructive sampling was carried out seven weeks from
released nutrients by vermicompost into the rhizosphere
seeding. Six (6) representative seedlings from each
provide the suitable conditions for plant uptake (Ansari
treatment were selected randomly.
and Sukhraj, 2010).
Plant height: This parameter was measured on a regular
The use of compost in horticulture has occasionally been
interval which was after every two plants. During
shown to be limited by the high electrical conductivity and
measuring, a ruler was used and measuring was done
the excessively high amount of certain ions that cause
from the root collar to the apex of the plant or the growing
phytotoxicity (Garca-Gmez et al., 2002), as a
consequence of the chemical properties of the initial
Influence of vermicomposted soil amendments on plant growth and dry matter partitioning in seedling production
Int. J. Hort. Sci. Ornam. Plants 039

The characteristics of the vlei and the vermicompost media

Melich 3 extraction
Media pH Min. Initial N (ppm) P2O5 Exchangeable Cations (meq.%)
Vlei 6.1 2.05 16.7 0.31
Vermicompost 7.4 18.3 274.1 0.28

Figures not sharing a common letter differ significantly at 0.05 probability.

Figure 1: Shows influence of soil media amendments on plant height.

Number of leaves: Number of leaves was counted from RESULTS

six plants from each treatment block and an average was
obtained. Plant height: Data regarding the influence of amending
Root weight (biomass): This parameter was measured the planting media with vermicompost is shown in Figure
after the samples had been destroyed as part of the 1. The means for the plant height as influenced by soil
plants fresh weight and dry weight. However, in order to amendments differed significantly (P<0.05). The tallest
measure specific root biomass from every sample crop, plants were recorded from V50% and V75% with a height of
the below ground growth was cut from the same point of 13.2 cm and 12.6 cm respectively. The shortest plants
each sampled crop and the fresh weight was measured were recorded from soil amendment treatment with no
for every treatment. Root samples from each treatment vermicompost (V0%). This means that vermicompost
were measured together using a sensitive balance. influenced plant height significantly relative to media with
Stem thickness: Stem diameter was measured with a no vermicompost amendment. However, at a much
Vernier caliper. All the plants were measured from the higher rate of vermicompost amendment there was a
same level to avoid redundant differences since the stem negative influence on plant height. This is shown by a
grows thinner as the plant grows vertically. decline in plant height at level V100%. Plant height from
Fresh weight (roots and leaves): Above ground growth treatments V25% and V100% did not differ significantly from
(stem and leaves) and below ground growth (roots) was one another. Mean plant height from vermicompost
separated and weighed separately and then dried at 650C amended media was 12.00 cm.
in an electric oven for 20 hours to a constant weight to
estimate plant components dry weights which were then Number of leaves: There was significant (P<0.05)
calculated as outlined below: influence of vermicompost amendments on the number of
leaves as shown in Figure 2. All treatments which were
Data analysis amended with vermicompost produced superior number
of leaves compared to no vermicompost application. As
GenStat Discovery 14th Edition was used for Statistical the vermicompost increased, the number of leaves
data analysis and means separated using the least increased as well, with V100% recording the highest
significant difference (LSD) at P=0.05. number of leaves (5.88). This means as the levels of

Influence of vermicomposted soil amendments on plant growth and dry matter partitioning in seedling production
Mavura et al. 040

Figures not sharing a common letter differ significantly at 0.05 probability.

Figure 2. Shows influence of soil media amendments on number of leaves.

Figures not sharing a common letter differ significantly at 0.05 probability.

Figure 3. Shows influence of soil media amendments on stem thickness.

vermicompost increased the number of leaves increased. statistically not significant from vermicompost
The lowest number of leaves (4.80) was recorded from amendments at levels V0% andV25%. The mean plant stem
V25% for treatments with vermicompost. The mean thickness from vermicompost amended media was 0.32
number of leaves from vermicompost amended media cm.
was 5.22.
Fresh weight of plant aerial parts: The comparison of
Stem thickness: Data regarding plant stem thickness is the treatment means revealed significant (P<0.05)
shown in Figure 3. Comparison of means for stem differences on the fresh weight of shoots (Table 2). When
thickness revealed significant (P<0.05) differences in the vermicompost was amended into the growth media there
media treatments applied. Stem thickness in treatments was a positive influence on fresh weight of the shoots.
V0% (0.26 cm) and V100% (0.28 cm) were not significantly The highest shoot fresh weight was recorded from V75%
different from each other. However, the means for (8.28g) while the lowest fresh weight was recorded from
treatments V25% (0.31 cm), V50% (0.36 cm) and V75% V0% (5.55g). The mean shoot fresh weight was 7.92g.
(0.35cm) were significantly higher than treatment with no
vermicompost amendment (V0%). The application of Fresh weight of plant roots: Data pertaining to fresh
vermicompost at much higher levels such as V100% has weight of the roots as influenced by amendments of
little influence since the means of stem thickness are vermicompost is shown in Table 2. The comparison of
Influence of vermicomposted soil amendments on plant growth and dry matter partitioning in seedling production
Int. J. Hort. Sci. Ornam. Plants 041

Table 1. Characteristics of the vermicompost

Shoot Root
Treatments Fresh weight Dry weight Fresh weight Dry weight
(Grams) (Grams) (Grams) (Grams)

V0% 5.55a 0.66a 1.27a 0.24a

V25% 6.40b 0.85b 1.22a 0.30a
V50% 9.15d 2.22e 2.16b 0.79c
V75% 8.28c 1.83d 1.82b 0.63b
V100% 7.84c 1.25c 1.82b 0.24a
Mean! 7.92 1.54 1.76 0.49

Significance * * * *
LSD0.05 0.76 0.1712 0.4618 0.0949
CV 5.4 6.7 14.8 11.4
*denotes significance at P<0.05. Figures not sharing a common letter in a column differ significantly at 0.05 probability.
this is the average for treatments with vermicompost amendment.

Figures not sharing a common letter differ significantly at 0.05 probability.

Figure 4. Shows means of influence of treatment on fresh weight of whole plant.

means on root fresh weight shows significant (P<0.05) dry matter. The lowest shoot dry weight among the
differences. Treatments V0% and V25% were not treatments with vermicompost amendments was V25%
statistically different from each other and produced the which recorded a mean dry weight of 0.85g. Treatment
lowest root fresh weight of 1.27g and 1.22g respectively. V0% had an average shoot dry weight of 0.66g. Mean
The highest root fresh weight was recorded from V 50% shoot dry weight from vermicompost amended media
(2.16g). However, the means for treatments V75% (1.82g) was at 1.54g.
and V100% (1.820g) did not differ significantly from V50%.
These results reveal that there is no benefit that can be Dry weight of root: Comparison of the treatment means
derived from media amendment beyond level V50%. The regarding root dry weight was significant (P<0.05). The
mean fresh weight from vermicompost amended media data for the root dry weight is presented in Table 1. The
was 1.76g. means for treatments V50% (0.79g) and V75% (0.63g) were
significantly higher than the treatment with no
Shoot Dry weight: Data regarding shoot dry weight is vermicompost amendment V0%. However, means for
shown in Table 1. The analysis of the means shows a treatments V25% (0.30g) and V100% (0.24g) did not differ
significant (P<0.05) difference in shoot dry weight. All significantly from treatment V0%. These results reveal that
treatments revealed a significant difference amongst the at lower levels of media amendments (V25%) and much
treatments with V50% having the highest shoot dry weight higher levels (V100%) have no influence on dry weight of
of 2.22g. Beyond this level (V50%) of media amendment plant roots. Mean root dry weight from vermicompost
there is no further benefit can be derived towards shoot amended media was 0.49g.
Influence of vermicomposted soil amendments on plant growth and dry matter partitioning in seedling production
Mavura et al. 042

Figures not sharing a common letter differ significantly at 0.05 probability.

Figure 5. Shows means of influence of treatment on dry weight of whole plant.

Whole plant fresh weight: There were significant highest number of leaves which is in line with Dintcheva
(P<0.05) differences among the means for the treatments and Trinkoska (2012) who alluded that all vermicomposts
investigated (Figure 4). Treatment V0% and V25% were not cause greater production of leaves than the control.
statistically different and they recorded the lowest fresh Mugwendere et al. (2015) ascribed a lower cumulative
weight of 6.82g and 7.62g respectively. The highest fresh number of leaves in treatments with no vermicompost
weight was recorded from V50%. Means for the fresh amendment mediatothe low nitrogen level. The number
weight of treatment V100% and V75% were not statistically of leaves was proportional to the increase in
different from each other. The mean fresh weight from vermicompost concentration. Rakesh (2010) also
vermicompost amended media was 9.67g. These results concluded that the mean plant heights of the treatments
reveal that lower levels (V25%) of media amendment has of vermicompost were significantly greater than the mean
no positive influence on whole plant fresh weight while plant height of the control, in this case V0%. This supports
beyond levelV50% the influence will start to decline. results revealed in Figure 1 where all mean plant heights
are significantly (P<0.05) different in favour of
Whole plant dry weight: Data for means of whole plant vermicompost. However, these results contrast with
dry weight is shown in Figure 5. Comparison of the those reported by Moreno-Resndez et al. (2005) who
means for the whole plant dry weight shows that there did not record differences in height of tomato plants var.
were significant (P<0.05) differences. All means for plant Flora - Dade, developed on substrates with different
dry weight with vermicompost amendments were levels of vermicompost and sand, when compared with
significantly higher than no vermicompost treatment sand fertilized with nutrient solution.
(V0%). The highest plant dry weight was recorded from
treatment V50% (3.01g) followed by treatment V75%, V100% The amendment with vermicompost on the growth media
and V25% which recorded plant dry weight of 2.46g, 1.49g supplies additional nutrients for plant growth. Atiyeh et al.
and 1.15g respectively. Mean plant dry weight from (2001) reported greater growth in the tomato seedlings
vermicompost amended media was 2.03g. grown in substrate containing 50% of vermicompost
without application of synthetic fertilizers. Pour et al.
(2013) attributed the physiological changes observed in
DISCUSSION vermicompost treated plants to the humic substances
and nutrients. Sahni et al. (2008) also confirmed that
The results have revealed the significant impact of vermicompost contains considerable amounts of humic
vermicompost on the growth and development of substances and had improved effects on the plant
cucumber shoots as measured within a period of seven nutrition. With respect to plant height, Rodriguez et al.
weeks. Data from this experiment and that in the (1998) highlight that greater height promotes the
literature reviewed affirm to the fact that vermicompost development of a greater number of leaves and
has a positive impact on whole plant fresh and dry chlorophyll.
weight, stem thickness, plant height and the number of
leaves among other parameters measured. The significant p-value for the whole plant fresh weight
implies that the impact of vermicompost amendment on
Vermicompost affected the leaf characteristics including vlei soil was positive. Zaller (2007) states that adequate
the number of produced leaves. V100% treatment had the root and aerial biomass of tomato transplants guarantee
Influence of vermicomposted soil amendments on plant growth and dry matter partitioning in seedling production
Int. J. Hort. Sci. Ornam. Plants 043

an improved ability to exploit soil resources and higher Borji et al., (2014) also showed that treatment with 50%
photosynthetic capacity. The potential consequences are vermicompost and 75% vermicompost had the greatest
enhanced crop yield and improved fruit quality. Trinkoska impact on plant stem diameter compared with other
and Dintcheva (2012) also advances that, the best shoot treatments. V50% and V75% are statistically in same level
fresh weights and lengths were due to amending the as in the case of V0% and V100% revealing the significance
medium with Bio humus MM which is more like of using vermicompost to ameliorate soil media.
vermicompost. More than a few studies which are in Vijayakumari and Hiranmai (2012) divulges that
concurrence with the findings of the current study have vermicompost in the form of poultry manure has an edge
been done to find the influence of vermicompost on plant over the control which used inorganic fertilisers because
biomass (Singh et al., 2010; Wang et al., 2010; Warman application of organic manures might have supplied N, P
and AngLopez, 2010; Arancon et al., 2008). Since and K nutrients through-out the crop growth period as
vermicompost contains considerable amounts of humic slow released nutrients. Nethra et al. (1999) observed
substances (Atiyeh et al., 2002) and had improved effects that the maximum plant height and number of leaves of
on the plant nutrition (Sahni et al., 2008), its utilization China aster (Callistephuschinensis) were high after
may induce various physiological changes. The humic application of 10 t/ha vermicompost. This is attributed to
substances present in vermicompost could contribute to better growth of plants and higher yield by slow release of
improved germination, seedling elongation, biomass nutrients for absorption with additional growth promoters
allocation, fruit morphology and chemical properties of like gibberellin, cytokinin and auxins, when using organic
three tomato varieties (Zaller, 2007) and cucumber inputs like vermicompost. This is also representative of
(Atiyeh et al., 2002). what is in the results as the maximum leaf number and
height is directly proportional to increase in vermicompost
Instead of using vermicompost alone, nursery growers concentration.
can benefit from using the vermicompost mixed with vlei
or sand soils as these bequeathed the same effect
(Murimba et al., 2015). Results from this current CONCLUSION
investigation also show that best characteristics were
obtained from both substrates for optimum productivity The enhanced plant growth may be attributed to various
which is observed in the treatment V50%. A similar study directand indirect mechanisms, including biologically
by Gondek (2003) revealed that the highest dry shoot mediated mechanisms such as the supply of plant-growth
yields of rape grown were produced in the objects where regulating substances, and improvements in soil
vermicomposts and untreated tannery sludge were biological functions. Stimulation of plant growth may
applied, implying that the two substrates have to be depend mainly on the biological characteristics of
mixed to improve growth of the crop. An apparent vermicompost, the plant species used and the cultivation
increase in winter rape root dry mass yield (as compared conditions. With reference to results obtained, it seems
to yields from mineral treatment and farmyard manure) that the application of vermicompost at suitable quantities
was found as the consecutive effect of untreated tannery is beneficial and advantageous for plant growth and
sludge and vermicompost. A study by Edwards (1995) development. The integration of vlei soil and
revealed that earthworm cast increases plant dry vermicompost at optimum levels resulted in the formation
biomass. This correlates to results observed where of substrate that enhances growth and development of
increase vermicompost was directly proportional to nursery plants. Vermicompost is part of the answer to
biomass assimilated. However, in this case, nutrient promote plant growth and development probably via the
assimilation is increasing at a decreasing rate at higher modified nutrition and metabolismand reduced time to
vermicompost proportions as shown by the decline in dry transfer seedlings from nursery to field. Smallholder
weight in treatments V75% and V100%. Above 50% farmers can therefore integrate vermicompost and vlei
concentration of vermicompost. Karmegam and Daniel soil at the level of 50% as the most effective treatment to
(2010) observed a decrease in effect on most of the improve growth and development of seedlings higher
parameters. For instance, whole plant fresh weight, stem high levels may have adverse effects.
thickness and plant height decreased at high levels of
vermicopost confirming its deleterious effects on crop
grown in large quantities. Singh et al. (2010) reported
similar findings in tomato and lettuce where specific leaf ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
weight showed decreasing pattern by increasing the
amounts of vermicompost. Shoot dry weight decreased at We wish to extend many thanks to Mrs A. Mavura for
an increasing rate of vermicompost with the biggest value funding this research. Our gratitude also goes to the
attained at V50% subsequently decreasing to V75% and Faculty of Agriculture and Natural Resources and Mr T.
V100%. Masaka for supporting this work.

Influence of vermicomposted soil amendments on plant growth and dry matter partitioning in seedling production
Mavura et al. 044

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Mavura et al. 046

allocation, yields and fruit quality of three tomato

varieties. Scientia Horticulturae, 112, 191-199.

Accepted 29 June, 2016.

Citation: Mavura M, Mtaita T, Mutetwa M, Musimbo N.

(2017). Influence of vermicomposted soil amendments on
plant growth and dry matter partitioning in seedling
production. International Journal of Horticulture and
Ornamental Plants 3(1): 037-046.

Copyright: 2017. Mavura et al. This is an open-access

article distributed under the terms of the Creative
Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted
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provided the original author and source are cited.

Influence of vermicomposted soil amendments on plant growth and dry matter partitioning in seedling production