The majority of research on soil-biodegradable plastic mulch (BDM) has been focused on vegetable production systems. Scientists are now extending BDM research to fruit crops. Results on the performance of BDMs are variable because of variations in cropping systems, region, climate, soil conditions, and product formulation. Most of the research to date has reported comparable horticultural benefits (e.g., weed suppression, modification of soil temperature and moisture, and increased yield and fruit quality) compared to polyethylene (PE) mulch. Additionally, BDMs provide improved horticultural benefits compared to non-mulch systems.
There are three critical factors to consider when assessing the economic feasibility of adopting BDM compared to PE mulch. Those factors are: 1) Initial cost of BDM; 2) Removal and disposal costs of PE mulch (which BDMs do not have), and 3) cost of BDMs tillage (which PE does not have). The decision of using BDM depends on whether the overall economic and environmental benefits outweigh the additional costs associated with BDM application. Most research to date suggests BDMs are equal or more economically viable compared to PE and non-mulches systems.
Fact Sheets & Articles
- Biodegradable Plastic Mulch and Suitability for Sustainable and Organic Agriculture
- Collaborative Study on Biodegradable Mulch Can Create a Better Environment for All
- Dimensions and Costs of Polyethylene, Paper and Biodegradable Plastic Mulch (PDF)
- Dimensions and Costs of Soil-biodegradable Plastic and Polyethylene Mulches (PDF)
- Economic Feasibility of Using Alternative Plastic Mulches: A Pumpkin Case Study in Western WA (PDF)
- Growing Produce – Exploring Biodegradable Plastic Mulches in Red Raspberry
- Growing Produce – Plastic Mulches Give Raspberry Production a Boost
- Impact of Soil-biodegradable Plastic Mulch on Specialty Crop Production
- Mulch Use Flow Chart: Pumpkin
- Mulch Use Flow Chart: Raspberry
- Mulch Use Flow Chart: Strawberry
- Plastic mulches suppressed weeds and increased red raspberry yield in a spring-planted field
- WSU WAM – Application of Plastic Mulches in Raspberry – Year 1 Results
- 2018 WRRC Progress Report (PDF)
- 2017 WRRC Progress Report (PDF)
- 2007 Vegetable Horticulture Research Trial (PDF)
- 2006 Vegetable Horticulture Research Trial (PDF)
- 2005 Vegetable Horticulture Research Trial (PDF)
- 2004 Vegetable Horticulture Research Trial (PDF)
- 2003 Vegetable Horticulture Research Trial (PDF)
- Cowan, J.S., C.A. Miles, P.K. Andrews, and D.A. Inglis. 2014. Biodegradable mulch performed comparable to polyethylene in high tunnel tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.) production. J. Sci. Food Agric. 94:1854-1864.
- Dabirian, S., D. Inglis, and C. Miles. 2017. Grafting watermelon and using plastic mulch to control Verticillium wilt caused by Verticillium dahliae in Washington. HortSci. 52:349-356.
- DeVetter, L.W., H. Zhang, S. Ghimire, Watkinson, and C.A. Miles. 2017. Plastic biodegradable mulches reduce weeds and promote crop growth in day-neutral strawberry in western Washington. HortScience 52:1700-1706. Cover article.
- Ghimire, S., E. Scheenstra, and C. Miles. 2020. Soil-biodegradable mulches for growth and yield of sweet corn in Mediterranean-type climate. HortScience 55:317-325.
- Ghimire, S., A.L. Wszelaki, J.C. Moore, D.A. Inglis, and C. Miles. 2018. The use of biodegradable mulches in pie pumpkin crop production in two diverse climates. HortScience 53:288-294.
- Hayes, D.G., M.B. Anunciado, J.M. DeBruyn, S. Bandopadhyay, S. Schaeffer, M. English, S. Ghimire, C. Miles, M. Flury, and H.Y. Sintim. 2019. Biodegradable plastic mulch films for sustainable specialty crop production. In: Polymers for Agri-Food Applications (ACS Symposium Series, Volume 1114), Gutierrez, Tomy, Ed., Washington, DC, American Chemical Society, pp. 183-213. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-19416-1_11; ISBN: 978-3-030-19415-4.
- Tofanelli M. B. D., and S. E. Wortman. 2020. Benchmarking the agronomic performance of biodegradable mulches against polyethylene mulch film: A meta-analysis. Agronomy 10: 1618.
- Zhang, H., C. Miles, S. Ghimire, C. Benedict, I. Zasada, H. Liu, and L.W. DeVetter. 2020. Plastic mulches improved plant growth and suppressed weeds in late summer-planted floricane-fruiting raspberry. HortScience 55:565–572.
- Zhang, H., C. Miles, S. Ghimire, C. Benedict, I. Zasada, and L.W. DeVetter. 2019. Polyethylene and biodegradable plastic mulches improve growth, yield, and weed management in floricane red raspberry. Sci. Hort. 250:371-379.
- Zhang, H., L. DeVetter, E. Scheenstra, and C. Miles. 2020. Weed pressure, yield, and adhesion of soil-biodegradable mulches with pie pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo). HortScience 55:1014-1021.