The current increase in food demand combined with the decrease of arable land puts pressure on agriculture to improve production yields. Agriculture films and more particularly mulching films serve this purpose since they allow weed suppression, reduce moisture loss from the soil, increase soil temperature and provide protection against erosion. These combined advantages lead to a reduced necessity of chemical weed control, a reduction of water consumption as well as faster crop development, thus answering societal and farmer needs.
The major drawback, however, of most current commercial agriculture films are the problems associated with their disposal. Non-degradable polymers (such as the commonly used polyethylene), tend to accumulate as plastic waste, creating a serious problem of plastic waste management. Therefore concerns about pollution associated with the use of non-renewable and non-degradable materials combined with changing regulation, call for green material alternatives in the field of agricultural films. Biobased and biodegradable mulching films are already known and commercially available. However, both their performances, which are still to be improved, and their too high price are hampering their adoption.
The project's objective is to develop a sprayable mulch formulation to be used for weed control and acceleration of plant growth. This liquid formulation should be able to form a polymer network that is impenetrable for weeds but permeable for moisture and is biodegradable with time in/on soil following EU standards currently under development.
Preliminary research shows that a combination of bio-based materials and proprietary technology from Industrial Partner provides a possible solution as a technical and cost effective biodegradable sprayable cover material. This project also aims at demonstrating the concept with at least two specific crops in different European geographical areas, namely the Netherlands and Switzerland.