Sea fennel (Crithmum maritimum
L.), an emerging halophyte species, represents a nutritious and refined food product. In this study, the effect on yield and quality of potted sea fennel grown on three posidonia (Podisonia oceanica
(L.) Delile)-based composts (a municipal organic solid waste compost, a sewage sludge compost and a green compost) and a peat-based substrate was analyzed. Composts were used both pure and mixed with peat at a dose of 50% on a volume basis. We hypothesized that the halophytic nature of this plant might overcome the limitations of high-salinity compost-based growing media. The growth parameters, color traits and trace metals content (Cd, Co, Cr, Cu, Fe, Mn, Ni, Pb and Zn) of the edible parts were compared. Independently of the substrates, the average total and edible yields were 51 and 30 g plant−1
, respectively, while the average waste portion was about 41%. The use of posidonia-based compost did not affect the color traits of sea fennel plants as compared with samples grown on the commercial peat-based substrate. In general, potted sea fennel grown on both posidonia-based composts and commercial peat-based substrate appeared a good source of essential micronutrients. Only a weak reduction of Fe and Mn concentrations was observed in plants grown on posidonia-based composts, especially when used at the highest dose. Independently of the growing medium, the content of potentially hazardous trace elements (Cd and Pb) in the edible parts of sea fennel was always below the maximum admissible limits fixed by the European legislation. Results indicate that posidonia-based composts can be used as a sustainable peat substitute for the formulation of soilless mixtures to grow potted sea fennel plants, even up to a complete peat replacement.
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