In 1999, more than 30 million acres of agricultural land worldwide were covered with plastic mulch, and those numbers have been increasing significantly since then. With the recent trend toward "going green", researchers are seeking environmentally friendlier alternatives to conventional plastic mulch.
Plastic mulch can provide earlier crop maturity, higher yields, increased quality, improved disease and insect resistance, and more efficient water and fertilizer use, but carries a high cost financially and environmentally when it comes to removing the estimated one million tons of mulch film used internationally each year.
Mathieu Ngouajio, of the Department of Horticulture at Michigan State University, led a study comparing black and white biodegradable mulch films in two thicknesses to traditional plastic mulch in the production of tomato. The results of the study were published in the American Society for Horticultural Science journal HortTechnology.
The lowest soil temperatures were identified with the white films, which is also associated with the white film's higher rate of degradation. Breakdown of white mulch occurred early and exposed the bed for weed growth, creating competition for nutrients between weeds and tomato. As the weeds grew, they tore the mulch, leading to further degradation. Furthermore, the weeds hosted a large insect population that reduced the quality of the tomato.
"The [conventional] LDPE mulch provided 100% weed control in both years, which confirms why this is the preferred mulch used by most vegetable growers," Ngouajio remarked. Weed control levels for both thicknesses of the black biodegradable mulch were more than 90%. Black biodegradable mulch performed well in the field, producing tomato crops similar to conventional mulch during both years of the study.
The study authors explain that there are three factors to be resolved before black biodegradable mulch can be seen as a viable replacement for conventional methods. First, more research is needed to produce mulch that can fully break down in the field. Second, biodegradable mulch must be able to withstand the stresses of being applied to fields by machine. Last, the price of biodegradable mulch needs to be economically acceptable compared to conventional mulch after factoring in the savings for removal and disposal.
Michael W. Neff | EurekAlert!
Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product
02.12.2016 | Purdue University
New findings about the deformed wing virus, a major factor in honey bee colony mortality
11.11.2016 | Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy