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Performance of sweet corn on biodegradable mulches

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Title: Performance of sweet corn on biodegradable mulches
Author: Zandstra, J.W.; Squire, R.C.
Abstract: Sweet corn growers use clear plastic mulch to warm the soil and advance corn maturity when planted early in the season. Disposal of the plastic at the end of the season is presently not a problem in Ontario, but it has become an issue in other vegetable production regions of North America. It has been estimated that in excess of 500 tons of agricultural plastic is disposed of yearly in Ontario; plastic mulches are a significant contributor to this total. Recently, biodegradable mulch films have become available, which break down through microbial activity in the soil. Data is required on the length of time the biodegradable mulch will last in the field, its soil warming potential, and its effects on crop growth, yield and quality. The objectives of this trial were to compare the performance of sweet corn on standard clear plastic mulch, bare soil, and 6 biodegradable clear mulches, to compare the soil heating of the biodegradable mulches to standard plastic mulch, and document the degradation of the mulches in a sweet corn crop.
Description: All of the degradable mulches warmed the soil to a similar degree as the standard plastic mulch, which was often significantly greater than bare soil (Table 1). Percent plant emergence did not differ among any mulch treatment (including bare soil) but at 14 days after planting, all mulch treatment resulted in taller sweet corn, when compared to bare soil (Table 2). All of the “Brampton” series mulches advanced maturity similar to standard plastic mulch, while other degradable mulches did not advance maturity when compared to the bare soil treatment (Table 2). FRC1R, EcoOne and Mater Bi Clear mulches increased cob weight when compared to other mulches, and sweet corn grown on EcoOne mulch had the greatest cob width (Table 4). All other harvest variables did not differ significantly across mulch treatments. Mater Bi clear mulch had the fastest degradation rate, followed by Eco One and FRC1R. The “Brampton” series of mulches all degraded at a similar rate, and degraded the slowest (Table 6).
Date: 2006

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