15.06.2015

The early break-up of the biodegradable mulch reduced its ability to control weeds and retain soil moisture. Evidently therefore, to use this technology effectively one needs to calculate the likely rate of decay better and then choose a mulch composition quality and thickness to last for the entire growing season of the crop.

The ambient temperature also affects the rate of degradation of the mulch, which progresses faster at higher temperatures because of greater soil microbial action on the mulch. If the mulch degrades too soon, as was the case in this trial, then its agronomic effectiveness is compromised. After harvest, burying the material in soil for a further six months allowed the mulch to degrade into very small fragments which could then easily be incorporated into the soil at the next cultivation.

In this initial test, the material has not yet proven satisfactory for use by farmers in its current state and in tropical conditions, but we conclude that the new mulching material does have a future potential and the concomitant environmental benefits justify further research in this area.