Since its introduction in the 1950s, black plastic (polyethylene plastic) mulch has been the primary tool used to reduce weed competition in both high tunnels and open fields, control water loss, raise soil temperature, increase plant production, and shorten harvest time.
Plastic mulch is commonly used to control weeds in the crop row, moderate soil temperature and conserve water in the plant root zone. There are many different colors and qualities of plastic mulch, and use varies depending on the season and crop being grown. There are also degradable mulches made of cornstarch and paper, and plastic mulches that are heat and/or light degradable.
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.