Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The use of biodegradable mulch for tomato and broccoli production: Crop yield and quality, mulch deterioration, and growers' perceptions
by Cowan, Jeremy Scott, Ph.D., Washington State University, 2013, 224; 3587065
Abstract (Summary)

Biodegradable mulch may offer the benefits of polyethylene mulch for crop production with the added benefit of biodegradability. Four studies were carried out in Mount Vernon, WA to evaluate biodegradable mulch for tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.) and broccoli (Brassica oleracea var. italica) production. The first study compared four biodegradable mulch treatments: BioAgri, BioTelo, WeedGuardPlus (cellulose product), and SB-PLA-10/11/12 (experimental, non-woven fabric), to polyethylene mulch and bare ground in high tunnels and in the open field for tomato yield and fruit quality over three growing seasons. Biodegradable plastic films produced yields and fruit quality comparable to polyethylene. Moreover, high tunnels increased total and marketable fruit weight five and eight times, respectively, compared to the open field.

The second study quantified relationships among visual assessment parameters and mulch mechanical properties. Visual assessments and mechanical property tests of polyethylene, BioAgri, BioTelo, WeedGuardPlus, and SB-PLA-10/11/12, were made over three growing seasons. Regression analyses found the strongest relationship overall (r2 = 0.41) to be between the percent of initial breaking force in the machine direction and log 10 of percent visual deterioration. However, evaluating mulch products individually and increasing sample frequency are recommended for future research.

The third study evaluated three biodegradable mulch products, BioAgri, Crown 1, and SB-PLA-11, after soil-incorporation. The average area of recovered mulch fragments decreased for all mulch products over time. The number of mulch fragments initially increased for all mulch products, with the greatest number of Crown 1 and BioAgri fragments recovered 132 and 299 days after incorporation, respectively. At 397 days after soil-incorporation, the total area of recovered fragments of Crown 1 and BioAgri was 0% and 34% of the theoretical maximum area, respectively.

The fourth study used the diffusion of innovations framework to study perceptions about biodegradable mulch and employed the concept of "tactile space" to create sensuously rich learning environments wherein participants could interact with each other and the environment to evaluate biodegradable plastic mulch. Participants' perceptions about biodegradable mulch and attitudes toward adoption improved. Employing tactile space as a diffusion strategy may encourage non-representational learning to supplement and reinforce the knowledge claims being made at outreach/education events.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Miles, Carol A.
Commitee: Andrews, Preston K., Goldberger, Jessica R., Inglis, Debra A., Leonas, Karen K.
School: Washington State University
Department: Horticulture
School Location: United States -- Washington
Source: DAI-B 74/11(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Horticulture, Sociology, Materials science
Keywords: Biodegradable, Deterioration, Fruit quality, Mulch, Post-tillage, Tactile space
Publication Number: 3587065
ISBN: 978-1-303-24065-2
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