An agricultural project in Spain is testing the use of biodegradable plastic films from different polymers with the aim of boosting plant growth while improving soil quality in crop mulching.
In mulching, film, laid around a growing crop in the field with a small hole for the plant, helps to reduce water loss and prevents the growth of weeds, so cutting the cost of irrigation and herbicides.
But the project, being coordinated by Spain's Aitiip Technology Centre, aims to tackle mulching's residual challenges of recyclability and film disposal.
The ‘Life Multibiosol' project, funded by the European Union's ‘LIFE' sustainable agricultural practices programme, is conducting trials on biomulching materials at agricultural facilities near the northern city of Zaragoza.
Since May, trials have been carried out on 648 square metres of bio mulching materials, using 18 rolls of 10 different polymer films, each up to 20 microns thick. The films are being tested in fields with crops of tomato, pepper and cucumber.
Initial tests will establish levels of the film resistance, biodegrability and the effects of trace elements added to the film.
“This mulching does not need removal once the plant or fruit is harvested, since it is degraded in the soil and also provides trace elements improving land quality. It is easy, ecological and useful,” commented ‘Multbiosol' project coordinator Carolina Peñalva.
Under a second stage of the project, apple and peach trees will be covered with biodegradable plastic bio-bags. Samples of the plastic will be laboratory tested to check the degree of biodegradability and the quality level of the harvested products will then be analysed.
The ‘Multibiosol' project will be implemented not only in Spain, but also in France and Belgium by a multinational team of seven partners from three member states – Spain, Italy and Belgium.