Organic substrate for transplant production in organic nurseries. A review

  • Jose Antonio PascualEmail author
  • Francesco Ceglie
  • Yuksel Tuzel
  • Martin Koller
  • Amnon Koren
  • Roger Hitchings
  • Fabio Tittarelli
Review Article


A transplant can be defined as a seedling or sprouted vegetative propagation material grown in a substrate or in the field, for transfer to the final cropping site. Nurseries use a range of growing media in the production of transplants, and the quality of a substrate may be defined in terms of its feasibility for the intended use and also according to the climatic condition of the production site. Peat is the worldwide standard substrate, but because of its origin and the increasing environmental and ecological concerns, new alternatives have been proposed for organic production. Here, we reviewed these new alternatives, assuming that the proposed growing media will need to respond in a proper way to specific plant requirements while also taking them into consideration to be environmental friendly, at the same time. Appropriate composting management combined with suitable feedstock material can produce substrates with adequate properties to develop transplants. Potential added-value benefits of particularized compost have been highlighted, and these include suppressiveness or capacity for plant pathogen control, biofertilization, and biostimulation. This added value is an important point in relation to the framework of organic agriculture because the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides is limited. Different permitted fertilizers are proposed by incorporating them by dress fertilization before planting or by foliar fertilization or fertigation during the seedling production phase. In this context, specific beneficial microorganism inoculation demonstrates better and quicker nutrient solubilization. Its inclusion during seedling production not only facilitates plant growth during the germination and seedling stages but also could bring efficient microorganisms or beneficial microorganisms to the field with the transplants. This review will help to bridge the gap between the producers of compost and the seedling plant producers by providing updated literature.


Beneficial microorganisms Compost Fertilizer Nursery Seedling Substrate 


Funding information

The authors of this publication acknowledge the financial support by COST Action FA1104. Jose Pascual also acknowledges the particular financial support of the Spanish National Project AGL2014-52732-C2-1-R.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© INRA and Springer-Verlag France SAS, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Soil and Water Conservation and Organic Waste Management, Centro de Edafología y Biología Aplicada del SeguraCSICMurciaSpain
  2. 2.Department of Organic Agriculture, Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of BariCentre International de Hautes Etudes Agronomiques MéditerranéennesBariItaly
  3. 3.Department of Horticulture, Faculty of AgricultureEge UniversityIzmirTurkey
  4. 4.Research Institute of Organic AgricultureFrickSwitzerland
  5. 5.Hishtil Plant NurseryNehalimIsrael
  6. 6.RMH ConsultingCarmarthenshireUK
  7. 7.Consiglio per la Ricerca in Agricoltura e l’analisi dell’economia agraria–Research Centre for Agriculture and Environment (CREA-AA)RomeItaly

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