Mulch Calculator
 
An interactive "mulch calculator" assists farmers in determining the quantity of mulch needed and provides cost comparison to polyethylene plastic mulch.
The Economics of Adopting Biodegradable Plastic Mulch Films
 
   The questions farmers should ask and have answered when considering adoption of biodegradable plastic mulch are the focus of this University of Tennessee fact sheet. Product cost, disposal cost, end-of-season labor implications, and other economic factors are addressed.
 
​​Biodegradable Plastic Mulch and Suitability for Sustainable and Organic Agriculture
    
   Biodegradable plastic mulch (BDM) offers crop production benefits similar to polyethylene (PE) mulch but is designed to be tilled into the soil after use, thereby eliminating waste and disposal challenges associated with PE mulch use. This Washington State University fact sheet explains the use of plastic mulch in agriculture, what plastic BDMs are made from, and what constitutes biodegradability. It also provides information about the suitability of plastic BDM for organic agriculture.
 
  
  Oxo-degradable plastic mulch is a re-emerging alternative to biodegradable plastic mulch and conventional plastic mulch. However, oxo-degradable plastic is not biodegradable in field conditions; fragments will remain in the soil or surrounding environment for decades, where they become micro or nano particles that are pollutants in soil and water systems. There is a call to ban oxo-degradable plastic packaging in the U.S. and EU because it poses risk to our environment.
 
  
  Biodegradable mulches are not EPA-approved tarps for soil fumigation. This fact sheet explains the limitations of biodegradable mulch use in soil fumigation systems.
 
   Strawberry growers often use polyethylene plastic mulch films and, consequently, may be potential early adopters of biodegradable plastic mulch films. The report presents the results of a survey of strawberry growers that assesses this potential, as well as opinions about conventional and biodegradable plastic mulch and information about strawberry production practices and farm decision making.
   Plastic mulch provides many benefits to growers, but is it sustainable? This fact sheet  gives a brief overview of how polyethylene (PE) mulch is being disposed of currently and what sustainable options are available.
 
   Soil carbon, in the form of living microbes, litter and humus, provides many benefits to crop growth. This fact sheet provides a basic overview of soil carbon and addresses how the USDA Specialty Crop Research project, Performance and Adoptability of Biodgradable Mulch for Sustainable Specialty Crop Production, will determine how biodegradable plastic mulches are contributing to soil carbon.
biodegradable mulch row at field trial site
   This Washington State University factsheet provides an overview of mulch roll dimensions, weights, costs, and number of rolls needed per acre based on bed spacing. 
   This Washington State University factsheet offers brief instructions on laying paper and plastic mulch film using raised bed mulch layers.
   The methods to assess and quantify deterioration and biodegredation of biodegradable plastic mulches are explained in this fact sheet. The USDA Specialty Crops Research project, Performance and Adoptability of Biodegradable Mulch for Sustainable Specialty Crop Production, is using these methods to assess the performance of biodegradable plastic mulches.
   Endophytes are organisms that exist in association with plant hosts, in foliage and/or roots. These relationships range from symbiotic to pathogenic. This fact sheet describes what endophytes are and how they contribute to overall plant health. Future research will explore the role of endophytes in cropping systems that use biodegradable mulch.
What Is the Technology Adoption Working Group and Why Is It Necessary?

    The Technology Adoption Working Group of the USDA SCRI project focused on biodegradable mulches gathers information on grower experiences and opinions to share with the scientists designing and testing biodegradable plastic mulch products.

[pdf file]

   This presentation offers an overview of biodegradable plastic mulch, an update on its status with respect to organic production systems, and preliminary results of one year of field testing conducted by the USDA SCRI research project, Performance and Adoptability of Biodegradable Plastic Mulch for Sustainable Specialty Crop Production. 
Biodegradation – Putting Biology to Work    

    Biodegradation is the process by which microorganisms decompose compounds. These microbes are key to breaking down biodegradable mulches when they are tilled into the soil. Learn more through this fact sheet.

[pdf file]
    This fact sheet provides an overview of the physical, chemical and biological soil properties measured to determine soil quality and changes to it. Soil quality is a measure of how well a soil provides nutrients and water for plants and other organisms, cleans and filters water, and recycles essential plant nutrients.
    This paper explains the selection of pumpkins for the USDA SCRI project in which we are assessing the performance of biodegradable mulches in crop production.
Biodegradable Mulch Film for Organic Production Systems

    This fact sheet outlines the rule established by the USDA-AMS National Organic Program defining requirements for a mulch film to be considered biodegradable and biobased. 
 ​
Glossary of Terms Related to Biodegradable Mulch Films

     With terms from "additive" to "transdisciplinary" and lots in between, this resource helps the user navigate the terminology associated with biodegradable plastic mulches and the USDA SCRI project studying their performance and adoptability.

[pdf file]
glossary_resized.jpg
Biodegradable Mulch Products
 
    This resource identifies commercially available biodegradable mulch products, including paper and plastic types. The list is intended to help identify sources of mulch products and relevant contact information. It is neither exhaustive nor intended to be an endorsement of any product.