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Crop production on raw muck left after the harvest of sphagnum peat Barber, Louie Edward


In the lower Fraser Valley area of British Columbia there are located considerable areas of low-lying peat lands. These lands consist of light yellowish-brown sphagnum moss, averaging three feet in depth, which is harvested and sold to the horticultural and poultry industries. Underlying this surface layer of sphagnum moss is a darker, heavier, more humified layer averaging three to four feet in depth. The material of which this lower layer is composed is known as "muck", a term used to refer to soils containing a high percentage of organic matter, but in which the original plant remains are no longer capable of being identified. Over the period of the last twenty years the raw sphagnum moss has been removed leaving exposed the layer of heavy black muck. Since the original sphagnum moss will take many years to grow in again, these lands which have been cleared must either remain useless and vacant, or some method of reclaiming them for agricultural purposes must be found. Accordingly, research was directed toward finding the most practical and expeditious means of bringing this muck land into production. During the summer of 1949, a field test was carried out in an effort to discover the most essential steps to be taken. Five plot treatments were used, consisting of: control; lime only; manure only; fertilizer only; and lime, manure and fertilizer together. A number of vegetable crops were used as indicators of response and included onion, celery, corn, lettuce, cabbage, potatoes, pea, beet and tomato. The results of this field experiment were very striking and obvious. The only plot from which a good growth response was obtained was from the plot receiving the combination treatment of lime, manure and fertilizer. Other treatments were not sufficiently better than the control to recommend their use. Following the field test, a greenhouse test was carried out during the winter of 1949 to 1950. This test consisted of nineteen different treatments in which nitrogen, phosphorous, potash, boron, copper, sodium chloride, manganese, and lime were used in various combinations. In all cases, lime gave increased yields over plots receiving no lime, no matter what the mineral treatment happened to be. It was concluded that the most important feature in reclaiming muck soils was the use of lime to correct the high acidity, which is the primary limiting factor. Because of the low content of phosphorous and potash in muck soils, the addition of these two elements is also of great importance. From the results of these experiments, it may be said that the addition of minor elements will give no response until the more limiting factors of acidity and major element deficiency have been corrected.

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