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  • Author or Editor: Dale E. Linvill x
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A polyethylene mulch system that changes its predominant surface color from black to white in the field has been developed and used to grow tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill. cv. Mountain Pride) and squash [Cucurbita pepo var. melopepo (L.) Alef. cv. Dixie Hybrid]. The system uses a black photodegradable polyethylene mulch placed on top of a white nondegradable polyethylene mulch (photodegradable mulch overlay system). As the black photodegradable mulch degrades with increasing exposure to radiation, the white mulch surface is exposed. Differences among plastic systems in the percentage that breaks down may be explained by differential shading of the mulch by the vegetative growth of the crops. None of the formulations of the Plastigone brand photodegradable mulches in the photodegradable mulch overlay system had an effect on tomato or squash production. As the color of the system changed from black to white, soil temperatures under the mulch decreased. Tomato production remained unaffected in one of the two years as long as the mulch remained black for at least the first 20 days during that season. In year 2, the controlled mulch system color change affected neither tomato nor squash production relative to nondegradable white and black mulches used as controls.

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We have developed and field tested a plastic mulch system that changes color with season. The system uses a photodegradable polyethylene mulch placed on top of a degradable or nondegradable polyethylene mulch of a different color. As the top polyethylene mulch degrades with increasing exposure to sunlight, the color of the bottom polyethylene mulch is exposed. We have successfully evaluated the effects of a black photodegradable mulch placed on top of a white nondegradable mulch on mulch color transition, soil temperatures under the mulch, and the production of spring planted tomatoes. The mulch color system affected soil temperatures and average tomato fruit size, but had no effect on number of fruit produced. We have also produced and are field testing a coextruded polyethylene mulch with the desired black and white photodegradable colored layers.

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Commercially available polyethylene mulches were evaluated for their influence on spectral properties (absorption, reflection, and transmission) and soil temperature during the growing season. Vegetative growth and yield of bell pepper (Capsicum annuum cv. Keystone Resistant Giant No. 3) plants were evaluated for each mulch. Black plastic had the greatest absorption (95%) of photosynthetic photon flux (PPF; 400-700 nm). White plastic had the greatest reflection (6575%) of PPF and blue (400-500 nm) light. The Alor selective mulch had the greatest reflective far-red/red ratio (730-740/640-650 nm) of light. Clear plastic had the greatest transmission (90%) of PPF and blue light. Soil temperature was coolest under the white mulch (32 C) and warmest under the clear mulch (52 C) when measured at maximum soil temperature in the early afternoon (1400 to 1800 hrs). Vegetative growth and yield were greatest for plants grown on the white mulch treatment and lowest for plants grown on the clear mulch treatment.

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