Microplastics in Soil Ecosystem : Insight on Its Fate and Impacts on Soil Quality

Yang, Xiaomei; Guo, Xuetao; Huang, Shan; Xue, Sha; Meng, Fanrong; Qi, Yueling; Cheng, Wanli; Fan, Tinglu; Lwanga, Esperanza Huerta; Geissen, Violette


Plastic film has been intensively used in (semi-)arid agricultural regions, attributing to its great benefits of improving soil productivity and crop yield in China. However, plastic debris, as a consequence of film mulching, remains and accumulates in soil leading to severe soil quality problems, as well as environmental concerns especially the small fragmented particles referred to as microplastics (MPs). Though increasing attention has been aroused for MPs in the aquatic environment, the knowledge of MPs’ behavior and its effects on soil quality is extremely insufficient and urgently needed. In this study, we oriented the benefits of plastic film use, its contribution to agriculture productivity, and the effects of MPs on soil properties and its related soil quality indicators. Admittedly, the increasing trend of using plastic film made by light density of polyethylene would be continued in China, and the pieces of plastic particles would either be persistent and accumulated in soil layers or be slowly aging and degraded. The impacts of MPs on soil quality need more attention due to the limited studies available focusing on its fate and interactions associated with soil ecosystem services and environmental resilience. Although policies and agricultural extending services on plastic film application have been laughed for a few years, alternative materials used for producing environment-friendly film, plastic debris recycling, and solutions on pieced particle removal are the great challenges for sustainable farming. Thus, it is urgent to understand MPs’ effects on soil quality which is crucial for soil-plant system and soil pollution monitoring and prevention.