December 1, 2007
Chinese ladder brake fern (Pteris vittata) has potential for use as a biofilter for arsenic-contaminated groundwater. However, little research has been conducted on growing ferns hydroponically, especially for months at a time. The purpose of this experiment was to determine the effects of hydroponic nutrient solution concentration and aeration on Pteris vittata growth. Individual fern plugs in net pots were suspended in 10%, 20%, or 30% strength Hoagland’s #1 solution from polystyrene sheets fl oating in 11-L tanks. Half the tanks were aerated and half were not. Solution electrical conductivity increased with increasing Hoagland’s solution strength, and pHs were higher in the aerated than in the non-aerated tanks. Root dry masses were not affected by solution strength, but frond and rhizome dry masses increased linearly with increasing Hoagland’s solution strength. Dry masses of all three plant parts were generally greater in the aerated tanks. Frond water use (mL·cm–2) was reduced by aeration while water use effi ciency (g dry wt·L–1) was increased. Hoagland’s solution strength had no effect on these latter two parameters. Pteris vittata was successfully grown hydroponically in low-strength nutrient solutions selected to reduce the chances of secondary contamination to water sources upon release by fertilizer components. While not essential, aeration of the nutrient solution was beneficial.