Evaluating Paper Mulch For Commercial Vegetable Production

The recent trend toward eco-friendly production techniques has resulted in a second look at biodegradable paper mulches, which are manufactured from renewable resources and do not have to be removed from the field after harvest. Timothy Coolong from the University of Kentucky’s Department of Horticulture published a report on paper mulches in HortTechnology that may give vegetable producers viable alternatives to polyethylene.

Paper-based mulches have been used in agriculture since 1914, but some paper mulches deteriorate rapidly under field conditions, reducing their effectiveness. Paper mulches have other limitations; since they are heavier than polyethylene, transportation costs are higher, and paper mulches are inherently more expensive than polyethylene.

Coolong’s research evaluated the performance of four readily obtainable papers compared with traditional black plastic using conventional plastic laying equipment and a water wheel transplanter. The experiments were conducted in Lexington, KY, over two growing seasons using yellow squash. Crop yield and quality, weed biomass, soil temperatures under the mulch, and mulch degradation were evaluated. Four paper mulches — 50-pound kraft paper, 50-pound polyethylene-coated kraft paper, 40-pound white butcher paper, and 30-pound waxed paper — were compared with 1-mil black polyethylene mulch in two weeding treatments (bare-ground hand-weeded and bare-ground nonweeded).

In the fall 2007 experiment, butcher paper and polyethylene-coated kraft paper controlled weeds as well as black plastic mulch. However, in spring 2008, black plastic mulch provided superior weed control compared with other mulches. Yields among waxed, butcher, and polyethylene-coated kraft papers were similar to black plastic mulch in 2007, though yields in paper mulch plots were significantly less than plastic mulch in spring 2008. Coolong observed that most of the paper mulches were able to be placed with a plastic mulch layer, but were not well-suited for use with a water wheel transplanter.

“Our results suggest that in some situations, paper mulches may provide a more sustainable alternative to traditional black plastic mulches. Results with the polyethylene-coated kraft paper suggest that efforts to combine paper with biodegradable films to create mulches may prove worthwhile,” observed Coolong. He cautioned that although paper mulches can be effective, cropping conditions and the environment will influence effectiveness, adding that “if paper mulches are ever to be used on a large scale, they will have to be used in conjunction with mulch laying equipment and perhaps mechanical transplanters”.

The complete study and abstract are available on the American Society of Horticultural Science HortTechnology electronic journal web site: http://horttech.ashspublications.org/cgi/content/abstract/20/2/319.

Source: American Society for Horticultural Science

Leave a Reply

2 comments on “Evaluating Paper Mulch For Commercial Vegetable Production

Featured Stories
Production
March 1, 2017
Iran Is Moving All Vegetable Growing Into Greenhouses
Iran will be converting all its vegetable farms to greenhouses within 10 years, The Financial Tribune reports. Its agriculture minister Read More
Florida red grapefruit samples
Grapefruit & Specialty
March 1, 2017
Is South Korea a Grapefruit Market Goldmine?
Researchers are finding high demand for the tart citrus, opening the door for opportunistic Florida growers to fill the need. Read More
Fruits
March 1, 2017
Prepare for Takeoff of Horticultural Technology [Opinion]
While agricultural technology has been talked about for a while, it seems like it's time to put on your seatbelts and prepare for takeoff. Read More
honeybees
CEU Series
March 1, 2017
CEU Series: Be Aware of Bees When Applying Pesticides
As a pesticide applicator, it is your duty to reduce risks for pollinators. Read More
Fruits
February 28, 2017
Growers’ Help Wanted on Spotted Wing Drosophila Survey
National project needs input on how the nasty pest affected your farms in 2016. Read More
Citrus
February 28, 2017
Trump Set to Ditch Controversial Water Rule
WOTUS could be on the way out after an executive order calls for a top-to-bottom review. Read More
Farm Management
February 28, 2017
Key Cabinet Picks Likely Good News for Growers
National Potato Council's John Keeling weighs in on how President Trump's picks for to head up EPA and Department of Agriculture will impact vegetable growers. Read More
Fruits
February 27, 2017
Warm February Concerning, But Fruit Growers Shouldn’t Panic
While maps produced by the U.S. Geological Survey do show spring appears to be arriving early, Extension experts don’t expect a repeat of 2012. Read More
Nuts
February 27, 2017
Using Drones To Scout Almonds From Above
At California State University, Fresno, scientists are studying how drones can save almond growers water — and help them use less labor too. Read More
UF/IFAS researcher Cristina Pisani examines ailing avocado tree
Crop Protection
February 27, 2017
New Discovery Smells Like Victory for Florida Avocado Growers
Scientists find naturally occurring repellent that could keep disease-carrying beetles at bay. Read More
The Latest
Production
March 1, 2017
Iran Is Moving All Vegetable Growing Int…
Iran will be converting all its vegetable farms to greenhouses within 10 years, The Financial Tribune reports. Its agriculture minister Read More
Grapefruit & Specialty
March 1, 2017
Is South Korea a Grapefruit Market Goldm…
Researchers are finding high demand for the tart citrus, opening the door for opportunistic Florida growers to fill the need. Read More
Fruits
March 1, 2017
Prepare for Takeoff of Horticultural Tec…
While agricultural technology has been talked about for a while, it seems like it's time to put on your seatbelts and prepare for takeoff. Read More
CEU Series
March 1, 2017
CEU Series: Be Aware of Bees When Applyi…
As a pesticide applicator, it is your duty to reduce risks for pollinators. Read More
Fruits
February 28, 2017
Growers’ Help Wanted on Spotted Wing Dro…
National project needs input on how the nasty pest affected your farms in 2016. Read More
Citrus
February 28, 2017
Trump Set to Ditch Controversial Water R…
WOTUS could be on the way out after an executive order calls for a top-to-bottom review. Read More
Farm Management
February 28, 2017
Key Cabinet Picks Likely Good News for G…
National Potato Council's John Keeling weighs in on how President Trump's picks for to head up EPA and Department of Agriculture will impact vegetable growers. Read More
Fruits
February 27, 2017
Warm February Concerning, But Fruit Grow…
While maps produced by the U.S. Geological Survey do show spring appears to be arriving early, Extension experts don’t expect a repeat of 2012. Read More
Nuts
February 27, 2017
Using Drones To Scout Almonds From Above
At California State University, Fresno, scientists are studying how drones can save almond growers water — and help them use less labor too. Read More
Crop Protection
February 27, 2017
New Discovery Smells Like Victory for Fl…
Scientists find naturally occurring repellent that could keep disease-carrying beetles at bay. Read More
Nuts
February 27, 2017
Getting to the Root of Devastating Stone…
Armillaria root rot is a death sentence for trees and replant sites; however, researchers are looking to breed fungus-resistant rootstocks to make replanting economically feasible. Read More
Berries
February 26, 2017
Advantages to Growing Southern Highbush …
Growers in some regions where temperatures don’t get too low could consider the benefits of Southern highbush varieties. Read More
Grapes
February 26, 2017
Winegrowers See Total Sustainability in …
Sonoma County Winegrowers eyes 2019 to become the U.S.’s first completely sustainable wine region. Read More
Fruits
February 25, 2017
Let’s Stand Up for Science
Yes, there’s an art to agriculture, but its very definition is the science of farming, so you have a deeply rooted connection to scientists. Read More
Citrus
February 25, 2017
Citrus Research Investments Yielding Pos…
Despite still having mounds of wood to chop, grower, federal, and state programs collectively are making a dent. Read More
Fruits
February 25, 2017
Major Challenges to the Fruit Industry A…
Don’t underestimate the need for research, as innovation is becoming an urgent necessity for our future. Read More
GenNext Growers
February 24, 2017
New Mobile Apps for Farmers to Grow on t…
Thanks to the latest in software technology, real-time decisions can be made with one swipe of your finger. Read More
GenNext Growers
February 24, 2017
In-The-Field Learning Invaluable for Gen…
Annual tour allows Florida's future farming leaders the chance to have open and honest discussions with CEOs and managers and tap into their knowledge. Read More