MOUNT VERNON, WA--Polyethylene plastic mulch offers a range of benefits and has become standard for growers of a variety of agricultural and horticultural crops. Despite the recognized benefits, the plastic mulches have serious drawbacks. For example, plastic mulches can typically be used for only one cropping season, after which they must be removed and disposed of, creating expensive and time-consuming processes for growers. The challenges and costs associated with recycling mean that plastic mulches often end up in landfills, buried, or burned on-site--practices that have grave environmental consequences. To mitigate these and other environmental and economic issues, professional growers are increasingly interested in the use of biodegradable plastic mulches as alternatives to traditional plastic mulches.
Studies have shown that biodegradable plastic mulch can perform comparably to polyethylene mulch in crop yield and quality, weed suppression, and overall function. Though most of the studies report satisfactory deterioration of biodegradable plastic mulch, both in-season and postharvest results show that deterioration varies depending on mulch material tested, cropping system, and climate. "Despite the positive results shown through research, the successful transition from nondegradable plastic mulch to biodegradable plastic mulch use in agriculture, ultimately, will be grower driven," said Jeremy Cowan, lead author of a study appearing in HortTechnology.
Cowan and colleagues Debra Inglis and Carol Miles evaluated three biodegradable plastic mulch products using subjective visual assessments of deterioration during the cropping season and a photographic method to monitor deterioration after the mulches were incorporated into the soil. The study was conducted at Washington State University's Northwestern Washington Research and Extension Center during two growing seasons.
The experiments were designed using randomized whol
|Contact: Michael W. Neff|
American Society for Horticultural Science