Soil-biodegradable mulch films are a promising solution to replace conventional polyethylene-based mulch films, the use of which has led to negative environmental impacts. Soil-biodegradable mulch films are specifically designed to be incorporated into the soil at the end of the cropping cycle and are expected to be biodegraded by soil microorganisms. The biodegradability of such products must be tested under laboratory-controlled conditions following international standards, although these can fail to represent real environmental conditions where mulch films are used. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of soil refinement on the degradation rates of three different commercial soil-biodegradable mulch films after their incorporation into the soil. The hypotheses were that: i) soil refinement (i.e., ploughing followed by grubbing) creates more favourable conditions for film biodegradation compared to ploughing alone; and ii) different mulch films show different degradation rates. An open-field, completely randomised design was applied to test the effects of soil refinement by ploughing to 0.35 m depth without and with subsequent grubbing to 0.15 m depth twice. Three commercially available soil-biodegradable mulch films were sampled in 2020 (i.e., two Mater-bi-based, one Ecovio-based) at the end of courgette growing season (similar to 3 months) when films were still lying above ground and were later buried at 0.2 m depth inside mesh bags. Biodegradation rates of the sampled films were assessed with the indirect indicators of film weight loss and surface area loss at similar to 2-month intervals over 314 days. The results showed that soil refinement significantly accelerated the degradation of the three tested mulch films by 14% and 17% according to the loss of weight and surface area indicators, respectively. One Mater-bi-based film showed higher degradation rates compared to the other two films. Future studies are needed to quantify the time needed for these different mulch films to be completely biodegraded. Such studies should follow standards for laboratory incubation and/or in-field quantification of residual polymers in the soil over time.
Soil refinement accelerates in-field degradation rates of soil-biodegradable mulch films / Bianchini, M; Trozzo, L; D'Ottavio, P; Giustozzi, M; Toderi, M; Ledda, L; Francioni, M. - In: ITALIAN JOURNAL OF AGRONOMY. - ISSN 1125-4718. - ELETTRONICO. - 17:3(2022), pp. 1-10. [10.4081/ija.2022.2044]