Growth and development of pepper are affected by humic substances derived from composted sludge

Autores: Azcona Saldias, Iñaki; Pascual Elizalde, Inmaculada; Aguirreolea Morales, Jone; Fuentes Ramírez, Marta; García-Mina Freire, José María; Sánchez Díaz, Manuel
ISSN: 1436-8730
Volumen: 174
Número: 6
Páginas: 916 - 924
Fecha de publicación: 2011
A greenhouse experiment was conducted to evaluate the effects of humic substances extracted from composted sewage sludge on growth, phenological development, and photosynthetic activity of pepper (Capsicum annuum L. cv. Piquillo) plants. Humic substances derived from composted sludge (HSS) were compared with those derived from leonardite (HSL). Two doses of both humic substances were assayed (200 and 500 mg C [L substrate](-1)) and compared with a control (C). HSS showed higher nitrogen content and a higher percentage of aliphatic carbon, as well as a lower content of aromatic and phenolic carbon than HSL. HSS significantly increased plant dry-matter production (up to 560%), plant height (86%151%), and leaf area (436%-1397%) during the early stages of pepper development. Net photosynthesis and stomatal conductance increased in the treatments with HSS (up to 48% and 63%, respectively) at the vegetative stage. In addition, HSS accelerated the phenological development of pepper plants, reducing significantly the number of days to flowering and ripening, which occurred 12 and 14 d earlier than in control plants, respectively. In general, the treatments with HSS and HSL did not markedly affect chlorophyll and nutrient concentrations in the leaves. At maturity, only small differences in total fruit yield, number of fruits per plant, and fruit size were observed between amended and control plants. The results suggest that the mechanisms through which HSS affected plant growth and development were not associated with an improved nutrient uptake. Although the identity of the growth-promoting factors remains to be found, the results suggest that they may be linked to the chemical structure of the humic substances.