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Plastic ground cover mulches in high tunnel settings, 2015


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by Jerry Untiedt, Untiedt's Vegetable Farm, Inc.

Presented at the 2015 Minnesota Statewide High Tunnel Conference.

Published in: Education
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Plastic ground cover mulches in high tunnel settings, 2015

  1. 1. Plastic Ground Cover Mulches in High Tunnel Settings Jerry Untiedt Untiedt’s Vegetable Farm, Inc. Waverly, MN
  2. 2. Plasticulture: “The Future of Farming” How can you get 2-3x more crop per acre using half as much water as conventional farming methods? NRCS Data Sheet • If the government says it, it must be true • Short history of plastic mulches • Growth pattern of the practice • Where in the world the growth has occurred Plasticulture-That’s How!
  3. 3. Why to consider plastic mulches? • $$- Earlier production • $$- Reduction or elimination of weeding • Cleaner Fruit- no soil to fruit contact • More efficient water and fertilizer usages • More effective soil wetting on lighter soils • Control of many soil born disease pathogens • Reduction of soil erosion- water and wind • Possible double and triple cropping
  4. 4. Polyethylene Mulches: Considerations • Costs • Embossed vs. non- embossed • Roll Sizes • Thicknesses of mulches
  5. 5. Personalities of Various Plastic Films • Clear Embossed Film – First to arrive on the production scene – Warmest of all mulches – Poor weed barrier – Least expensive – Will present some evaporation • Black Embossed Film – Second to arrive in the industry – Relatively low cost – Excellent in blocking weed growth – Slows evaporation substantially – Does warm soil
  6. 6. Personalities of Various Plastic Films • Red Embossed Film – Warms faster than black – Some trials indicate yield increases in tomatoes and peppers – Perhaps glossier fruit? – Cost is about 50% over black
  7. 7. Personalities of Various Plastic Films • White on Black – Maintains a cooler soil for cool soil loving crops (lettuces and strawberries) – Excellent reflectivity – Excellent weed barrier – Cost is higher, 30-40% over standard black.
  8. 8. White on Black
  9. 9. Personalities of Various Plastic Films • Green Embossed Film – Heats soils faster than black and red – Good weed barrier – Said to maintain more heat at night (lower radiation) – Best used on early crops to avoid scalding
  10. 10. Photo Degradable Embossed Films • Black and clear available • Variable degradation time frames • Subsoil film must be brought to surface to degrade • No mfg. guarantees breakdown periods
  11. 11. Biodegradable Films • Mostly available in black • Leaves no residues or toxicities • Substantial labor savings as no lifting and retrieval • No recycling or landfill dilemma • Newer brand, “Bio 360” is both biodegradable and compostable • Bio 360 approved by USDA National Organic Program • Must be tilled into soils to biodegrade
  12. 12. Groundcover Thoughts • Not a polyethylene film, but necessary in tunnel settings. – Dust preventer – Weed barrier – In case of SWD, allows floor to be cleaned – Costs about $.05/ft
  13. 13. Final Thoughts • Recycling vs. Landfills • Growing is generally more enjoyable than selling- BE CAREFUL!
  14. 14. QUESTIONS?