Horticulture, Environment, and Biotechnology

, Volume 60, Issue 6, pp 895–911 | Cite as

Influence of physical properties of peat-based potting mixes substituted with parboiled rice hulls on plant growth under two irrigation regimes

  • Seunghyun Choi
  • Lizhen Xu
  • Hye-Ji KimEmail author
Research Report


This study was conducted to investigate the effects of physical properties of peat-based substrate mixtures partially substituted with parboiled rice hulls (PRH) on plant growth and performance. Thirteen substrate mixtures were formulated by substituting 0, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, or 70% peat with either parboiled ground rice hulls (GRH) or whole rice hulls (WRH) (by volume) in commercial potting mix (CPM) containing 70% peat, 20% perlite, and 10% vermiculite. All substrate mixtures consisted of mainly medium-sized (2.0–0.25 mm) particles. However, regardless of the mixing ratio, GRH significantly increased the medium-sized particles especially with diameters of 2.0–0.71 mm, while WRH increased both the medium- and coarse-sized (> 2.0 mm) particles. A higher mixing ratio of PRH increased air space and decreased container capacity but to a greater extent by WRH compared to GRH. Similarly, bulk density was increased with a higher mixing ratio of both types of PRH, but to a greater degree by GRH. Total porosity of GRH-containing substrates was similar to that of CPM within the range of 30–70%. The substrate mixtures containing PRH did not have the same physical properties as the CPM at any mixing ratio, but the values of some GRH-containing mixtures were within or close to the suggested ranges for greenhouse substrates. Considering the maximum substitution of PRH for peat, the substitution with 40% GRH (GRH-40) was selected for a plant growth study in comparison to CPM. Petunia (Petunia × hybrida) ‘Easy Wave Neon Rose’ and zinnia (Zinnia elegans) ‘Benary’s Giant Golden Yellow’ were grown in pots containing CPM and GRH-40 at two irrigation levels: high (25–30%, by volume) and low (20–25%). Overall, shoot DW of both plant species was reduced in GRH-40, but root DW was maintained similar to those in CPM. The low irrigation level more significantly reduced shoot DW of petunia grown in CPM than in GRH-40, relative to their counterparts with the high irrigation level (20 and 7%, respectively); however, root growth of plant species grown in GRH-40 was either maintained or tended to be maintained even at the low irrigation level compared to their high irrigation counterparts. The water use efficiency of plants grown in GRH-40 was not significantly different from those in CPM regardless of irrigation level. These results indicate that GRH-40 provides desirable physical properties and water release characteristics, allowing more available water for plants under low irrigation levels than CPM. We concluded that substituting peat with 40% GRH in a commercial potting mix is a sustainable approach to produce petunia and zinnia.


Alternative substrates Soilless growing media Greenhouse Container production Water holding capacity 



This research was supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Hatch/Multi State Project NE-1835 Resource Optimization in Resource Optimization in Controlled Environment Agriculture; Purdue University Research Funds. We are grateful to Rob Eddy, Michael Russell, Nathan Deppe, and Dan Little for their technical assistance; Dr. Jong-Myung Choi for his support on constructing porometer systems.

Author’s contribution

SC conducted the experiments, collected data, undertook data analysis and interpretation, and drafted the manuscript. LX conducted the experiments, collected data, assisted in data analysis and interpretation, and contributed to the manuscript. HK coordinated and supervised the research, performed critical revisions, and completed the final version of the manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Supplementary material

13580_2019_179_MOESM1_ESM.docx (67 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 66 kb)


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Copyright information

© Korean Society for Horticultural Science 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Horticulture and Landscape ArchitecturePurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA

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