Vegetable and ornamental production is an intensive process that involves important implications for the sustainability. In this regard, substrates constitute a very important producing factor, because their contribution to enhance the input efficiency and, at the same time, for the reduction of environmental impact. However, the use of substrates determines some questions related to the finding, management, reutilization and disposal of materials. Recent studies on water and gases dynamics in the growing media, in addition of the previous researches on hydrological characterization, allow to clarify the rapid variations between air, water and nutrient relationship, typical of pot cultivation. The acquisition of these informations permits to meet the water and nutritive plant requirements and to manage more efficiently the hydric and mineral resources. The choice of material plays an important role for agronomic, economic and environmental sustainability. The use of some inorganic material of industrial source seems to be dependent to recycling strategies that reduce the strong environmental impact. For organic substrates, it would be necessary the 1) reduction of peat use, due to environmental policies on natural habitats and for its expensive cost in the countries where peat bogs don’t exist; 2) disposal the high volumes of waste organic materials. Real possibilities of using a new organic material as a replacement for peat, is related to the individuation of adequate volumes of renewable organic materials, locally available that should be recycled. Moreover, the cost of supplying and preparation should be also considered in comparison to the peat. Composts represent a valid opportunity for peat substitution, although in some substrates critical points related to the material variability, high salinity, phytotoxicity effects could arise. Nevertheless, the total substitution of peat seems not convenient, for agronomic qualities of this substrate and also because the agricultural use of peat is minimal considering the employ as energetic source. However, in some countries, like Spain and Italy, the high cost of peat importation makes the question of peat alternative important for economical aspect.
Keywords: growing media, mineral, organic, compost, environment protection