Twelve months after first application on beds (and then being buried in the soil for six months), biodegradable mulch can be easily broken into small pieces.
Photo: AVRDC


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Polyethylene sheeting is widely used in vegetable growing to create optimum mulch conditions for seedlings. However, it is a considerable environmental hazard. The World Vegetable Center has tested a biodegradable alternative, which is simultaneously labour- and time-saving, arriving at the result that it is promising but not yet practical.

Mulch is a commonly used technology in small-scale vegetable horticulture in Southeast Asia as it helps to control weeds, conserves soil moisture and increases soil temperature which generally has a positive effect on vegetable yield and quality. Also, by reducing direct contact with the soil surface, the proportion of marketable produce (e.g. green leafy vegetables) can be increased, and post-harvest quality may be improved thanks to reduced soil-derived microbial contamination and the reduction of pesticide inputs for controlling weeds. There are different types of mulch, including rice straw and straw matting, but plastic mulch technology has been widely used and promoted by AVRDC – The World Vegetable Center since its establishment in 1973. Plastic of various thicknesses and colours is widely available on the open market and is used by farmers who can afford the additional input cost. In Taiwan it retails at around 0.07 US dollars (USD)/m2 for material of 35 micrometres thickness which is affordable but yet is a significant contribution to overall costs of production.

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