Liquid Organic Fertilizer Effects on Growth and Biomass of Lettuce Grown in a Soilless Production System


Demand for locally produced, organically grown leafy greens is increasing throughout the United States. However, due to lack of efficient organic fertilizers (OFs) for soilless substrates, organic greenhouse production of leafy greens may be challenging. Therefore, a greenhouse study was conducted to analyze the effects of six liquid OFs on growth and development of lettuce in a soilless system. Two experiments were conducted using a randomized block design, and treatments included six fish- or plant-based OFs: OF1 (5N–1P–1K), OF2 (2N–5P–1K), OF3 (3N–1P–1K), OF4 (2N–2P–2K), OF5 (4N–1P–1K), and OF6 (3N–3P–2K); one inorganic fertilizer treatment (IF, 24N–8P–16K); and one unfertilized control treatment. Fertilizer solutions were prepared at 2 dS m–1 and applied at 100 mL/plant. In Expt. 1, fresh biomass for IF-treated plants was 12% to 38%greater than OF treatments, whereas this difference ranged from 25% to 57% in Expt. 2. Similarly, leaf area values of IF-treated plants were 5% to 40% greater than OF treatments in Expt. 1, and the difference ranged from 28% to 90% in Expt. 2. A possible explanation could be greater availability of nutrients in the IF treatment compared with OF treatments. There was no significant difference among fertilized treatments for number of leaves and stem diameter. Based on the index-based ranking, fish-based (OF1) and fish- and plant-based (OF2 and OF6) performed well among different liquid OFs used in the study. Although the yield under OFs was less compared with that under IF, there is potential to reduce this yield gap by optimized fertility management of these fertilizers. Future research is needed to investigate the impact of optimized rate, timing, different placement, and additional nitrogen (N) sources of OFs on the soilless production of lettuce.


© American Society for Horticultural Science 2022. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.


Butterhead Lettuce, Chlorophyll Content, Growth Parameters, Plant-Animal-Based Organic Fertilizers, Water-Soluble Organic Fertilizers


Shaik, A., Singh, H., Singh, S., Montague, T., & Sanchez, J. (2022). Liquid Organic Fertilizer Effects on Growth and Biomass of Lettuce Grown in a Soilless Production System, HortScience, 57(3), 447-452.