Clinoptilolite has been successfully used in growing media for containerized horticultural and floricultural production. However, limited data exist on the effects and interaction between particle size and organic nutrient enrichment of the clinoptilolite. One granular (1-3 mm) and micronized (< 30 µm) clinoptilolite was added to quartz sand, an inert growing substrate, at two doses (0.1% and 3% v/v), without or with addition of wine vinasse as nutrient source at four concentrations (0 mgF×Lsubst-1, 10 mgF×Lsubst-1, 100 mgF×Lsubst-1 and 1000 mgF×Lsubst-1) to evaluate their effect on root growth for five days or the appearance of the second true leaf.

Root mucigel was produced in zones where clinoptilolite particles adhered to the root surface. Microscopic analysis of isolated roots showed the increase of secondary roots and the proliferation of root hairs in maize treated with both micronized and granular clinoptilolite, with the contemporary production of root mucigel in zones where zeolite particles adhered to the root surface. It is hypothesized that the enhanced production of mucigel by root cells can favour not only the penetration of roots into the inert substrate, but also the solubilization of organic matter and nutrient availability, in particular when micronized clinoptilolite was present in the growing medium. Therefore, micronized clinoptilolite behaved as a sort of a “physical stimulant” for roots during seedlings, promoting, as a consequence, maize shoot development. Effectively, the highest increase in shoot growth was observed at the highest dose (3% v/v) of micronized zeolite, with the optimal rate of organic fertilizer (100 mgF×Lsubst-1).

Keywords: Clinoptilolite, maize, mucigel, organic fertilizer, root, wine vinasse.
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