Types of Plastic Used for Manufacture of Mulch Films

Black plastic, white plastic, and white-on-black plastic are the types most often used in the United States. Black plastic is usually used in the spring because it warms the soil and prevents the growth of most weeds. For late spring, summer, and fall crops, white or white-on-black plastics are used since these reduce the risk of crop damage from excessive heat. It is advisable, as a general rule, not to use black or clear plastic whenever daytime temperatures average more than 85°F at planting.

Removal of plastic mulch is time consuming and costly

Higher annual cost

Higher initial cost

Embossed plastic mulch is preferred by many growers because it has superior bed-hugging ability. It does not control weeds and, during late spring and summer growing seasons, excessive heat builds up under clear plastic mulch. Photodegrad-able plastic mulch is an alternative to conventional plastic mulch film, which poses retrieval and disposal problems. Although photodegradable plastic looks very much like other plastic mulch when it is installed, it can be broken down by ultraviolet sunlight. The actual rate of breakdown depends on several factors including temperature, the proportion of the plastic shaded by the crop, and the amount of sunlight received during the growing season.

Degradable plastic mulches with relatively precise degradation rates have only recently become available. In the past, rapid breakdown was a major problem. Now there are a number of formulations that have a breakdown period suitable for vegetable production in Georgia. New types of plastic mulch are continuously being developed and evaluated by many companies and researchers [56-59]. Low-density polyethylene is generally used in the manufacture of mulch films.

Photodegradable PE films have been made by incorporating varying concentration of certain metal organocomplex, for example, ferric dialkyl dithio carbamate, which acts initially as a UV stabilizer, and then becomes a catalytic activator of photodegradation [48].

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