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Biodegradable Plastic Mulch

Transplanting tomatoes in biodegradable mulch test plots under high tunnel.
Transplanting tomatoes in biodegradable mulch test plots under high tunnel.

Biodegradable mulches are manufactured alternatives to plastic mulch and, ideally, provide the same benefits as plastic mulch (weed control, soil temperature moderation, soil moisture retention, and soil conservation). They also offer the added benefit of being 100% biodegradable, either in the field, soil or in composting, with no formation of toxic residues.


  • Lettuce grown through holes in biodegradable mulch ready for harvest. A fabric made directly from a web of fiber, without the yarn preparation necessary for...
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Plastic Mulch Resources

  • Effects of Mulch Color Color of mulch for eight different vegetable crops. The Pennsylvania State University.
  • Plastic Mulch Overview of what mulch is and a comparison of common types of mulch. Also, links to further information on mulches. The Pennsylvania State University.
  • Plastic Mulch & Drip Irrigation Includes detailed instructions for drip irrigation set-up, rates of irrigation, fertigation methods and quantities, double cropping suggestions, and cost estimates for a plastic mulch system. North Carolina State University Extension.
  • Use of Plastic Mulch Outline of advantages and disadvantages of using plastic mulch, and detailed instructions on plastic mulch application, planting, maintenance, and removal. Oklahoma State University Extension.

New Research

The University of Tennessee, Washington State University and Montana State University are studying the process of degradation, ease and acceptance of use, and economics of biodegradable mulches for specialty crop production. This multi-university and Extension partnership is determining whether the profitability and sustainability of specialty crop production can be increased through the adoption of biodegradable plastic mulches. Biodegradable mulches can provide the weed-suppression, water conservation, and crop yield benefits available through the standard practice of mulching with plastic, yet they may not require removal and disposal. Impact on soil, productivity, and farm economics are the focus. Read more…