Composting Invasive Plants in the Rio Grande River

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The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of whole-plant composting on the viability of seeds and other propagules of the invasive plant species waterhyacinth, waterlettuce, hydrilla, and giant reed while producing a valuable compost product. Invasive species were subjected to preliminary germination and growth tests and oven mortality tests to evaluate whether species distribution was via seeds, vegetative propagules, or both, as well as whether the composting process had the potential, through the high temperatures obtained, to kill seeds and other propagules. Germination and growth tests determined the means by which invasive species spread. Oven tests determined the temperatures at which unscarified and scarified seeds and propagules were rendered inviable. Achieving temperatures of at least 57.2 C was necessary within constructed compost piles to effectively kill the plants without the danger of redistribution. In the field, the study successfully developed a large-scale composting operation using invasive plant species as the primary feedstock. Analysis of field-scale composting showed final materials were within satisfactory to ideal levels for samples analyzed by the U.S. Compost Council's Seal of Testing Assurance Program and were, therefore, a valuable compost product.


Giant reed, Arundo donax L.; hydrilla, Hydrilla verticillata (L. f.) Royle; waterhyacinth, Eichhornia crassipes (Mart.) Solms; waterlettuce, Pistia stratiotes L.

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