Author: Zhang, H., C. Miles, B. Gerdeman, D. G. LaHue, and L. DeVetter
Source: Scientia Hort. 2021. 281:109975
Abstract: Perennial fruit crops are traditionally grown in systems without plastic mulch. However, there may be benefits to plastic mulch use and this review paper considers the use of plastic mulch in perennial fruit systems. Several studies have explored the use of non-biodegradable plastic mulches [polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP)] in perennial fruit production systems and have demonstrated the positive impacts they can have on plants largely through modification of the soil environment. Unfortunately, PE and PP mulches are difficult to dispose of due to contamination and lack of recycling facilities and contribute to plastic waste generation. Soil-biodegradable plastic mulches (BDMs) are alternatives to PE and PP mulches and are designed to be tilled into soil and degrade by soil microbial activity. A few studies have evaluated BDM in perennial fruit production systems and have shown similar impacts on crop growth as PE and PP mulches. The choice of plastic mulch (PE, PP, and BDM) to use in a perennial fruit production system will impact plant growth and productivity, the soil environment, and management of pests and diseases, as well as other soil fauna. Overall, there is no one-size-fits-all plastic mulch in perennial fruit production systems, and mulch choice should be based on the specific crop, growers’ horticultural goals and philosophies, climatic and soil conditions, expected mulch longevity, afford- ability, commercial availability, and the type of production system (e.g., conventional versus organic). BDMs are presently not widely used in perennial fruit crop production but could be a more sustainable option relative to traditional plastic mulches. Future research should continue to explore different plastic mulch options and investigate long-term impacts of plastic mulches in perennial fruit cropping systems.