Note – The National Organic Program is considering an annotation change on the use of soil-biodegradable mulches in organic agriculture. Additional updates are pending, but passing of the annotation would still mean commercially available soil-biodegradable mulches are not allowed in organic agriculture.
Biodegradable plastic mulch films (BDMs) can serve as an alternative to polyethylene (PE) mulch in crop production systems. BDMs have the potential to be a more sustainable technology than PE mulch while providing similar benefits and additional advantages. In 2014, the USDA-AMS National Organic Program (NOP) included BDMs in the list of allowed synthetic substances. There are specific guidelines that BDMs must meet to be approved for use in certified organic systems. The organic standard (7 Code of Federal Regulations, Section 205.601) outlines these criteria. Currently, no commercially available plastic BDM meets all the criteria outlined in the organic standard regulation. Information provided on this webpage describe those criteria and highlight additional considerations regarding BDM use in organic systems. Biodegradable paper mulches are allowed, but some products may not meet the organic standard requirements. It is important to always check with an organic certifier before incorporating a new product into an organic production system to ensure that it is approved. Research findings are released annually and provide up-to-date information about the use and suitability of BDMs in organic agriculture.