Black Degradable Plastic Mulch Evaluation
Black polyethylene plastic mulch provides many benefits to fruit and vegetable producers. It increases earliness by increasing spring soil temperatures, conserves soil moisture, and reduces pesticide usage by decreasing weed and disease pressure. Furthermore, during seasons of high precipitation, it protects fertilizer from leaching below the root zone. Unfortunately, polyethylene mulches do not degrade and must be removed from the field and discarded each season. This is a labor-intensive process whether it is done mechanically or by hand. Several degradable plastic mulches have been developed that are designed to be incorporated into the soil profile, eliminating the need for removal, with no negative impact on soil quality or health. However, these degradable plastics often do not meet degradation expectations (either degrade too quickly or degrade incompletely and require manual removal). The objective of this project was to evaluate several degradable mulches for storage life, ease of use, and influence on tomato production.