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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.

USDA NIFA (logo)
Award nos. 2022-51181-38325, 2019-51181-30012 & 2014-51181-22382

Western Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) (logo)


WSDA Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (logo)

Washington Raspberries (logo)


Improving end-of-life management of plastic mulch in strawberry systems