Alternatives to plastic film mulch

Investigating alternatives to plastic mulches

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Field Lab Timeline

    2/13/2020 12:00:00 AM
  • Objectives agreed

    Objectives agreed
  • 3/20/2020 12:00:00 AM
  • Group and methods confirmed

    Group and methods confirmed
  • 4/9/2020 11:00:00 PM
  • Demonstration workshops/ webinars

    Demonstration workshops/ webinars
  • 7/30/2020 11:00:00 PM
  • Application of mulches (depending on crop)

    Application of mulches (depending on crop)
  • 9/14/2020 11:00:00 PM
  • Data Collection & Analysis

    Data Collection & Analysis
  • 10/31/2020 12:00:00 AM
  • Open day

    Open day
  • 3/15/2021 12:00:00 AM
  • Data Collection & Analysis

    Data Collection & Analysis
  • 3/30/2021 11:00:00 PM
  • All data collected

    All data collected
  • 4/2/2021 11:00:00 PM
  • Final Project Meeting

    Final Project Meeting
  • 4/14/2021 11:00:00 PM
  • Final report

    Final report
For further information hover over the above milestone marks
  • Discussion

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  • Achievements

    May 2020

    Protocol pack - how to run your own trial

    Instead of physical workshops to help instruct the group on data collection and mulch laying, the researchers and coordinator have created a how-to guide and an instructional videos.

    If you are exploring non-plastic mulches and would like to follow the protocols of this trial, login to download the guide in the 'Documents' section of this page. This includes tips for laying biodegradable mulch.

    Milestone: Demonstration workshops/ webinars

    March 2020

    Group and methods confirmed

    Ten growers have signed up to trialing alternative mulches on a range of crops including brassicas, onions, lettuce, beetroot, spinach, leeks, onions, blackcurrants and young top fruit trees.

    There is also a range of mulches being trialed by the group: Woodchip, grass, cardboard, under-sown mulches, green waste, straw, hay, wood, compost, biodegradable film and paper against the control of black film or woven plastic.

    All of the farmers will collect data on the following parameters:

    - Weeds
    - Yield
    - Qualitative observations
    - Costs

    Many have chosen to also collect data on soil moisture and pest/disease damage, and a few will measure crop development, microbial activity (measured through respiration rate) and soil nutrients.

    Milestone: Group and methods confirmed

    February 2020

    Objectives agreed

    Growers, gardeners, mulch suppliers and researchers met at Garden Organic to agree on the objectives and methods for the trial. There was a wide representation of growers, including (soft fruit) crops; field vegetables; small-scale farms and protected cropping.

    The group discussed the following:

    - The type(s) of mulch to trial - each farm will decide on which mulches they would like to trial, but they include compost, woodchip, starch-based materials, hay and cardboard
    - The size of the trial area - ideally 20-30-metres strips, replicated in several growing spots to generate meaningful data (less for small farms)
    - When the mulches should go down - this depends on the mulch and crop
    - What, data growers can/want to collect - the priorities are weed cover, crop performance and pest damage (measured on a scale of damage), but where possible, the growers would like to also consider soil moisture, and soil health (most likely via a low-cost solution such as a worm count). Cost and time will also be considered in the final results

    Milestone: Objectives agreed

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