Feasibility of paper mulches in crop production: a review

T Haapala, P Palonen, Antti Korpela, J Ahokas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Mulching has become an important practice in modern field production. Plastics are the most widespread mulching materials, and especially black polyethylene is used almost everywhere due to its low price and proved positive results in production. Together with its still growing popularity, there is increasing concern about the environmental effects of using such vast amounts of plastics in agriculture without solutions for sustainable and safe disposal of the material. There have been several attempts to try to find safe and environmentally friendly alternative materials to replace plastic mulches. The use of biodegradable films is increasing because they can be left safely in the field after harvesting, but they are not very durable and are much more expensive than plastics. Another alternative is paper. This article reviews the published research on paper mulches and discusses the opportunity that they offer for solving the problems of the immense use of plastics in agriculture and the associated environmental threat. Different mulching materials have been used for different agricultural and horticultural species in different climatic environments, and results vary according to the chosen approach, growing practices, conditions and species, so generalizations are hard to make. One advantage of paper mulches is that they do not create the disposal problems that plastic films always and partially degradable bio-films often do in long-term use. Paper mulches break down naturally after usage and incorporate into the soil. Laying paper mulches in large scale farming is a problem to be solved. The quality of the paper needs to be adapted or improved for mulching purposes, and its price needs to be more competitive with that of plastic mulches. The review shows that there is considerable potential for using paper mulches in agriculture and horticulture.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)60-79
Number of pages20
JournalAgricultural and Food Science
Volume23
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2014
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Keywords

  • Paper mulch
  • crop growth
  • yield
  • soil temperature
  • soil moisture

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