April 19, 2018

Biodegradable Mulch

One of the objectives with our annual day-neutral strawberry system was to compare biodegradable mulch with standard white on black plastic mulch.  During the 2017 growing season, we compared Bio360 biodegradable compostable black mulch film with our standard white on black plastic mulch.

As stated from the manufacturer’s website, Bio360 is made of Mater-Bi®, a plastic that is completely biodegradable and compostable and used in the manufacturing of products having a low impact on the environment. Temperature, humidity, and microorganisms in the ground transform Bio360 into water, carbon dioxide, and biomass. There is no toxic residue left.

For us at the WCROC, the Bio360 biodegradable mulch had the same mechanical and physical characteristics as the white on black plastic mulch.  We installed the Bio360 on a 6” raised bed with a plastic mulch machine.  Visibly, the Bio360 didn’t have quite as tight a fit on the raised bed as the standard white on black plastic mulch.  Without this tight fit or slight air gap between the Bio360 and the soil, strawberry transplants initially appeared to have a more difficult time growing through the slit/opening in the Bio360.  This led to slightly reduced number of live plants coming through the Bio360 mulch.

Removing Bio360 mulch

One of our grower collaborators was Aaron Wills from Little Hill Berry Farm in Northfield, MN (as seen in the picture).  At his farm, we installed one low tunnel row of day-neutral strawberries with the Bio360 mulch and one row with the white on black plastic.   We found that the Bio360 held up quite well, suppressed weeds and didn’t start breaking down until the end of the growing season at all four of our grower sites.  Since Little Hill Berry Farm grows on organic land, they had to remove the Bio360 mulch from the field because currently Bio360 is not Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) listed or approved for certified organic production.  The rule is if you are growing on certified organic land you need to remove this mulch from the field at the end of each growing season.

More information about biodegradable mulch product testing can be found through the Cornell University Department of Horticulture, Ithaca, NY.

Funding for this project provided by the Agricultural Growth, Research, and Innovation Grant through the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.