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Using Sargassum Drifts As High-quality Compost

Monday, June 4, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Cindy Slone
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For Immediate Release



San Marcos, Texas--Using Sargassum Drifts As High-quality Compost

A study out of Texas State University tracks the degree to which massive drifts of sargassum can be converted into usable compost. Tina Waliczek, Jen Sembera, and Erica Meier dedicated months assembling data along Texas beach communities where the presence of sargassum drifts are considered an invasive eyesore and have calculable ill effects impacting that region’s tourism industry.

The results of their study are illustrated in their article entitled “Composting As An Alternative Management Strategy For Sargassum Drifts On Coastlines” published in the February issue of HortTechnology.

Sargassum is a particular type of seaweed that is common in coastal regions within the Gulf of Mexico, and is traditionally disposed of by being integrated into dunes along the shoreline or into landfills. But this particular seaweed contains potentially useful nutrients that could benefit plant growth on land. Diverting  this resource into compost could help beautify beaches as well as promote a greater stewardship directed toward minimizing the strain placed on overflowing landfill spaces.

Among the concerns realized by attempting to use sea matter applied to garden growth is the detrimental effect salt content can have on land-based plants. However, this study found that sargassum could be incorporated into compost piles with no detrimental effects because of high levels of salinity. “Since pre-washing of the seaweed did not impact the final compost produced in terms of improved quality, future studies may also attempt to identify the maximum amount and proper ratios of sargassum that can be used as a feedstock for compost creation,” Sembera noted.

The study used 12 cubic yards of sargassum as feedstock mixed with food waste and wood chips to create 72 cubic yards of workable matter. From this, the authors derived 25 cubic yards of stabilized compost. From that, they were able to test the quality of the resulting compost, and discovered sargassum-based compost was of either equal or higher quality than traditional or commonly sought compost; therefore its use in this manner proves to be a sensible way to manage the presence of this invasive species.

“When the amount of sargassum that arrives on the shoreline exceeds the amount that can be integrated into dunes, the biomass can be used as a feedstock to create compost valuable to the horticultural industry. The compost may even be considered a ‘boutique’ compost product due to the incorporation of seaweed, since seaweed has been marketed to horticulturalists as a liquid fertilizer,” Meier added.

The complete article is available on the ASHS HortTechnology electronic journal web site:, doi: 10.21273/HORTTECH03836-17  Or you may contact Tina Walicek of  Texas State University at or call her at (512) 245-2130 .

Founded in 1903, the American Society for Horticulture Science (ASHS) is the largest organization dedicated to advancing all facets of horticulture research, education, and application. More information at


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