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- Author or Editor: Katherine E. Dentzman x
Although agricultural plastic mulches can have significant horticultural benefits for specialty crops such as strawberry (Fragaria ×ananassa), there can also be significant economic and environmental costs. In particular, polyethylene (PE) plastic mulch requires labor and financial investments for removal and disposal. Micro- or nanoparticles may persist in soil and negatively affect microbial activity, physical soil properties, and nutrient availability. A possible alternative to PE mulch is biodegradable plastic mulch, which has similar horticultural benefits but does not need to be removed from the field at the end of the growing season. Biodegradable plastic mulch can be tilled into the soil, where it is converted by soil microorganisms into water, carbon dioxide, and microbial biomass. Although horticultural and environmental research into the impacts of PE and biodegradable plastic mulch is ongoing, it is also important to understand farmers’ practices and perceptions related to these mulches. We conducted a survey of strawberry growers in three growing regions of the United States: California, the Pacific Northwest, and the Mid-Atlantic. Our results indicate several regional differences, with California farmers being more likely to have used biodegradable plastic mulch, and growers from California and the Pacific Northwest being more likely to perceive negative impacts of PE mulch compared with growers in the Mid-Atlantic. Regardless of region, a majority of growers were interested in learning more about biodegradable plastic mulch. We conclude with several suggestions for biodegradable plastic mulch development and outreach that may promote strawberry growers’ adoption of this technology.