Performance of Palak (Beta vulgaris var. bengalensis Hort.) as influenced by organic inputs, microbial consortium and packaging materials

Abstract
The experiment was carried out on Palak (Beta vulgaris var. bengalensis Hort.) during 2019-20 and 2020-21 at the Experimental Farm, Department of Horticulture, Assam Agriculture University, Jorhat to assess the Performance of Palak (Beta vulgaris var. bengalensis Hort.) as influenced by organic inputs, microbial consortium and packaging material. The field experiment was conducted in Randomized Block Design with nine treatments and three replications. The treatments were T0 (Control), T1 (Rockphosphate + Microbial Consortium), T2 (T1 + Compost @ 2.5t ha-1), T3 (T1+ Compost @ 5t ha-1), T4 (T1 + Vermicompost @ 2t ha-1),T5 (T1+ Vermicompost @ 4t ha-1), T6 (Enriched compost @ 1.5t ha-1),T7 (Enriched compost @ 3t ha-1) and T8 (FYM @ 20t ha-1 + NPK @ 80:60:0 kg ha-1). After harvesting the palak plants were packed in two packaging materials i.e., S1 (Wet hessian cloth) and S2 (Wet muslin cloth) to improve the shelf-life. This experiment was laid out in Factorial Completely Randomized Design. Pooled analysis over two years revealed that the maximum plant height (35.90 cm), numbers of leaves per plant (21.43), leaf area (292.91cm2), whole plant weight (51.26g), yield (2.97kg m-2) was observed in T8. However, a similar trend was followed in T7 and the leaf blade petiole ratio was seen best in the same treatment. In the case of the quality parameters, the highest ascorbic acid (70.54mg 100-g), iron content (15.71mg 100-g), total carotenoid content (3.87mg 100-g), and total phenol (23.29mg 100-g) was obtained in T7. T8 recorded the maximum moisture content (89.76%), chlorophyll content (1.63mg g-1), crude fibre content (11.53%), oxalate content (575.31mg 100-g) and T5 obtained the highest ash content (7.86%). Soil physicochemical and biological characters showed significant differences among the treatments. The treatment,T7 recorded the best for all the soil parameters viz., soil pH (5.70), organic carbon (1.45%), available N (289.57kg ha-1), available P (64.50kg ha-1), available K (138.91kg ha-1), microbial biomass carbon (408.39μg g-1 soil 24hr-1), dehydrogenase activity (118.26μg TPF g-1 soil 24hr-1), phosphomonesterase activity (64.33μg p-nitrophenol g-1 soil 24hr-1), bacterial population (6.48log cfu g-1 soil) and fungal population (3.80log cfu g-1 soil). The result showed that post-harvest characters viz., physiological loss in weight, yellowing percentage and decaying percentage increase with the increase in storage period. The treatment, S1T7 (Wet hessian cloth + T7 (Enriched compost @ 3t ha-1) showed a minimum loss in physiological loss in weight (3.39%, 7.17%, 12.30%, and 15.14%) and yellowing percentage (3.60%, 5.49%, 8.54%, and 11.37%) during all the storage of 2nd, 4th, 6th and 8th days. However, S2T7 (Wet muslin cloth + T7 (Enriched compost @ 3t ha-1) observed minimum decaying of 1.73% and 3.45% during the 6th day and 8th day of storage. The combined treatment S1T7 (Wet hessian cloth + T7 (Enriched compost @ 3t ha-1) shows the best from all the other treatments and lasted the longest in aspects of freshness. Thus, S1 can be considered better packaging material for enhancement of shelf-life and treatment T7 exhibited best with a longer shelf life of 8 days. The cost economics was observed to be superior in T8 with a 4.41 benefit-cost ratio followed by T7 (4.40). Hence considering, the positive effect on growth yield, quality, shelf-life, and soil health, T7 (Enriched compost @ 3t ha-1) is considered the best organic inputs to reap better quality, longer shelf life, better soil health, and higher economic return. Packaging material, S1 (Wet hessian cloth) appeared to be the better packaging material for shelf-life enhancement of palak leaves.
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