Soil-biodegradable mulches (BDMs) can be applied using the same tools and equipment used to apply conventional plastic mulch with some modifications to take into account differences in material properties. Mechanical strength of polyethylene (PE) mulch is greater than that of BDMs. It is important to adjust the mulch tension when laying BDMs to avoid tears during the application process. Resources on this page provide guidelines on mulch laying so growers can properly apply BDMs on their farms.
Management of BDMs is similar to other mulches. However, significant rips and tears may need to be repaired if they occur shortly after application and have the potential to interfere with crop performance. Note, however, BDMs will naturally degrade over time and some breakdown is expected before soil incorporation at the end of the cropping season. This breakdown should not be perceived as a “mulch failure”, but is how BDMs are designed to perform.
Fact Sheets & Articles
- New! In-Field Biodegradation of Soil-Biodegradable Mulch
- Important Considerations for the use of Biodegradable Mulch in Crop Production (PDF)
- Mechanically Laying Soil-biodegradable Paper and Plastic Mulch (PDF)
- Mechanically Laying Mulches in Tissue Culture Raspberry (PDF)
- Soil Fumigation and Biodegradable Plastic Mulch Application (PDF)
- Using Mesh Bags to Assess Degradation of Soil-Biodegradable Plastic Mulches (PDF)
- A Guide to Laying and Tilling of BDM (video)
- Challenges of Removing and Recycling Plastic Mulch (video)
- Laying Biodegradable Mulch (video)
- Performance and Adoptability of Biodegradable Plastic Mulch for Sustainable Specialty Crop Production: Project Introduction (video)
- Rototilling in Biodegradable Mulch (video)
- Soil-biodegradable Mulch Breakdown in Soil: Role of Microbiology (video)
- Soil Sampling to Assess Biodegradable Mulch Fragments in the Field (video)
- Using mesh bags to assess degradation of soil-biodegradable plastic mulches (video)
- Biodegradable mulch films: their constituents and suitability for organic agriculture (PDF). American Society for Horticultural Science, Cowan, J., C. Miles, and S. Ghimire, August 7 – 11, 2016. Atlanta, GA.
- Ghimire, S., D. Hayes, J. Cowan, D. Inglis, L. DeVetter, and C. Miles. 2018. Biodegradable Plastic Mulch and Suitability for Sustainable and Organic Agriculture. Washington State University Extension Publication FS103E.