Macro- and micro- plastics in soil-plant system : Effects of plastic mulch film residues on wheat (Triticum aestivum) growth

Qi, Yueling; Yang, Xiaomei; Pelaez, Amalia Mejia; Huerta Lwanga, Esperanza; Beriot, Nicolas; Gertsen, Henny; Garbeva, Paolina; Geissen, Violette


Plastic residues have become a serious environmental problem in the regions with intensive use of plastic mulching. Even though plastic mulch is widely used, the effects of macro- and micro- plastic residues on the soil-plant system and the agroecosystem are largely unknown. In this study, low density polyethylene and one type of starch-based biodegradable plastic mulch film were selected and used as examples of macro- and micro- sized plastic residues. A pot experiment was performed in a climate chamber to determine what effect mixing 1% concentration of residues of these plastics with sandy soil would have on wheat growth in the presence and absence of earthworms. The results showed that macro- and micro- plastic residues affected both above-ground and below-ground parts of the wheat plant during both vegetative and reproductive growth. The type of plastic mulch films used had a strong effect on wheat growth with the biodegradable plastic mulch showing stronger negative effects as compared to polyethylene. The presence of earthworms had an overall positive effect on the wheat growth and chiefly alleviated the impairments made by plastic residues.