iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry


Composted sewage sludge as an alternative substrate for forest seedlings production

Mônica Moreno Gabira (1)   , Richardson Barbosa Gomes da Silva (2), Fernanda Pacheco de Almeida Prado Bortolheiro (2), Caroline de Moura D’Andrea Mateus (2), Roberto Lyra Villas Boas (2), Sergio Rossi (3-4), Miguel Montoro Girona (5-6), Magali Ribeiro da Silva (2)

iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry, Volume 14, Issue 6, Pages 569-575 (2021)
doi: https://doi.org/10.3832/ifor3929-014
Published: Dec 16, 2021 - Copyright © 2021 SISEF

Research Articles

The production of forest seedlings with adequate morphological and physiological characteristics is essential for the success of plantations. Substrates and irrigation are the major factors determining seedlings’ growth. Substrates made of urban and agricultural residues are a sustainable alternative to peat-based substrates. In this study, we evaluated how composted sewage sludge substrates affect the growth and gas exchange in seedlings of Cedrela fissilis Vell. Seedlings were produced under daily irrigation depths of 6, 9, and 12 mm, and on different substrates. The substrates were based on sewage sludge composted with Eucalyptus bark or sugarcane bagasse, and a commercial substrate based on peat, involving a double factorial design with 12 treatments (3 irrigation depths × 3 substrates). Both physical and chemical characteristics of substrates were analyzed, and morphological traits and gas exchanges of seedlings were measured. Sewage sludge-based substrates presented different characteristics according to the material it was mixed. Eucalyptus bark provided higher bulk density (0.19 g cm-3) and lower total porosity (75%) to the substrate, while sugarcane bagasse increased macroporosity up to 60%. Seedlings produced in sewage sludge-based substrates presented a height up to 17.8 cm and stem diameters of between 8.39-10.29 mm. Higher shoot and root dry mass was obtained in sewage sludge-based substrates with irrigation depth of 9 mm, which were 3.71 and 2.01 g, respectively. Photosynthetic carbon assimilation varied between 2.26 and 3.23 µmol CO2 m-2 s-1, and water use efficiency varied from 2.058 to 3.395 µmol CO2 (mol H2O)-1, with the highest values being obtained in seedlings produced in sewage sludge-based substrates with irrigation depth of 6 mm. Our results demonstrate that sewage sludge-based substrates are an efficient alternative to commercial peat-based substrates for seedling production.


Agricultural Residues, Cedrela fissilis, Forest Nursery, Gas Exchange, Irrigation, Plant Growth, Silviculture, Solid Wastes

Authors’ address

Mônica Moreno Gabira 0000-0001-8755-9496
Federal University of Paraná - UFPR, Forestry Sciences Department, Curitiba, Paraná (Brazil)
Sergio Rossi 0000-0002-9919-0494
Département des Sciences Fondamentales, Université du Québec à Chicoutimi (UQAC), Chicoutimi, QC G7H 2B1 (Canada)
Sergio Rossi 0000-0002-9919-0494
Key Laboratory of Vegetation Restoration and Management of Degraded Ecosystems, Guangdong Provincial Key Laboratory of Applied Botany, South China Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Guangzhou (China)
Miguel Montoro Girona 0000-0002-6916-3639
Groupe de Recherche en Écologie de la MRC-Abitibi, Institut de Recherche sur les Forêts, Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue - UQAT, Amos QC J9T 2L8 (Canada)
Miguel Montoro Girona 0000-0002-6916-3639
Grupo de Análisis y Planificación del Medio Natural, Universidad de Huelva, dr. Cantero Cuadrado 6, 21004 Huelva (Spain)

Corresponding author

Mônica Moreno Gabira


Gabira MM, Silva RBG, Bortolheiro FPAP, Mateus CMDA, Boas RLV, Rossi S, Girona MM, Silva MR (2021). Composted sewage sludge as an alternative substrate for forest seedlings production. iForest 14: 569-575. - doi: 10.3832/ifor3929-014

Academic Editor

Werther Guidi Nissim

Paper history

Received: Jul 15, 2021
Accepted: Oct 21, 2021

First online: Dec 16, 2021
Publication Date: Dec 31, 2021
Publication Time: 1.87 months

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