Biodegradable FilmOrganic™ mulch film : A profitable solution for farmers

In this blog, we explain why FilmOrganic mulch is the most economical way, the most efficient in terms of workforce efficiency, therefore the optimal choice to increase the agricultural yield.

It’s well known that mulch film helps increase productivity. Our films are used on hundreds of millions of acres throughout the country to block weeds and preserve moisture. These are important agronomic benefits that lead to an increased year-to-year productivity.

Why are more and more producers adopting FilmOrganic biodegradable mulch? Because the use of plastic polyethylene (PE) mulch, a technology from the 1980s, has at least four major disadvantages:

1) PE mulch creates pollution. The disposal of PE mulch results in real environmental impacts. For example, it takes more than 300 years for PE to decompose in a landfill. Burning it is not much better since it releases hundreds of toxic carcinogenic compounds into the atmosphere and it is known, the consequences of micro-plastics found in the environment could be the worst consequence of the pollution caused by PE.

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2) PE mulch is expensive. The cost associated with end-of-season activities for removal and disposal is quite high, it can easily reach as much as $300 to $400 per acre in most cases. Even though the acquisition cost is relatively low, don’t kid yourself into thinking you’re getting a deal! The total cost is more than double its purchase cost. This material is therefore very expensive;

3) PE mulch contaminates farmland. Why? Because PE is chemically inert. And since it is virtually impossible to fully remove PE plastic from a field, plastic residues are still found in the soil and remain there for decades. Some of the most productive soils are thus affected by the pollution produced by plastics, especially heavy soils.

4) PE mulch takes lots of labour. A PE mulch field requires a long cleaning task, which usually occurs at the worst time of the year, just after harvest. In market garden production, the cleaning of a field can in fact limit the yield, since the foreign labour is busy removing the plastic from the field instead of harvesting more, before returning to their country. A hemp farmer, for example, will clearly prefer to transport and dry his precious crop than to spend days or even weeks cleaning a field, which is an unnecessary waste of time.

Forward thinking producers use FilmOrganic™ biodegradable mulch to optimize their
performance and save time and money.

According to a recent study conducted at Washington State University, FilmOrganic mulch is just as effective at blocking weeds than is PE mulch, but without any of the usual drawbacks. Physical degradation, weed control, soil temperature, soil moisture, and yield were assessed in relations to inert PE plastic mulch. As expected, FilmOrganic black film provided durability, reduced weeds and increased yield.

Furthermore, in humid conditions, FilmOrganic black mulch provides an important advantage as compared to black PE. Indeed, tests have shown that soil moisture is about 10% lower with FilmOrganic black mulch as compared to black PE.

1) Excellent soil durability throughout the growing season, expressed as a percentage of soil exposure (PSE). In the fall, the FilmOrganic mulch PSE was only 2.6%. Weeds therefore can not germinate.

Professor Carol Miles of Washington State University writes:

‘’Mulch degradation was rated visually in the center 1 m of each plot, between plants 3 and 4, two times per month (approximately days 1 and 15 of each month) during the crop season. Mulch degradation was assessed as percent soil exposure (PSE) where 0% represents completely intact mulch and 100% represents fully exposed soil.(…) PSE was low for treatments throughout this study except for Clear BDM, which started to split 15 June potentially due to warm temperature (Fig. 2). Black PE and WGP had a higher PSE than Black BDM on 15 June (P = 0.03) due to bird damage. On 13 Sept. PSE for Clear BDM was 63%, while in contrast, the average PSE for all other mulch products in this study was only 2.6% (P = 0.03). ‘’

2) Weed reduction. The quantity of weeds was put under study and checked three times. First, on June 22nd, three weeks after the film was installed, and then mid-season on August 9th, and finally on September 14th, three days before the harvest. Weeds were: chickweed (Stellaria media), lady's thumb (Persicaria maculosa), amaranth (Amaranthus retroflexus), shepherd's purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris) and grass.

Professor Miles writes:

‘’To measure weeds under the mulch, the mulch was cut between plants 1 and 2 for the first measurement, between plants 4 and 5 for the second measurement, and between plants 3 and 4 for the third measurement. For measurements 1 and 2, after weeds were measured the mulch was laid back over the bed, covered with soil on both sides, and the mulch was secured with duct tape to hold it in place. Percent of weeds by species were recorded, then weeds were clipped at the soil surface, dried at 60 °C for 48 h, and total dry weight was recorded. Weed pressure was low for the three weed collection dates for all treatments. ‘’

The raw data is summarized here below.

Treatment Early season (Jun. 22nd) Mid season (Aug. 9th) Late season (Sept. 14th)
FimlOrganic Black 0 0 0
Black PE (1.25mil) 0 0 0

Chart 1. Weed pressure under the mulch as measured at WSU

As you can see from this chart, there were no weeds under the FilmOrganic black mulch.

3) Better control of soil temperature and especially moisture level.

The plots in this study had a loamy soil with a pH of 6.5 and 2.7% organic matter. Soil temperature and humidity were recorded three inches below the mound bed using Onset Computer Corp. sensors. (Bourne, MA) and data loggers.

The soil temperature measured three inches below the mound bed was on average 1°F lower than that of a black PE film. This is because the FilmOrganic mulch surface is brighter than PE black mulch, which is satin-finished. For example, FilmOrganic mulch reflects more light and solar energy to the plant than it absorbs and transmits heat to the earth.

In humid conditions, the difference is about 2°F whereas in dry conditions there is no difference in temperature. Generally, plants will be less stressed because the roots will stay cooler.

b. Soil moisture: lower moisture in humid climates

i. Humid conditions: 10% less soil moisture for healthier roots.

Good news for heavy land or humid summer producers! The results of this test demonstrate that in humid conditions, the FilmOrganic mulch keeps the soil 10% less moist compared to PE plastic. In humid regions, drier soil means healthier roots and healthier plants.

Specifically, during the month of June 2018 in Washington State, 1.4 inches of rain fell and the loamy soil was on average 10% more humid with PE plastic than with FilmOrganic mulch.

ii. Dry conditions: no difference.

There was no rainfall between July 12th and August 11th 2018. And results from this study show that during this time, there was no difference in soil-moisture as measured by the sensors and data loggers. So even though the only water source was through drip irrigation, the FilmOrganic black mulch and black PE plastic behaved in the same way as for soil moisture.

4) The yield is higher thanks to the mulch.

The purpose of this study was to verify the production yield of the "Cinnamon Girl" pumpkin. This variety was selected for its short vine and to maximize fruit contact with mulch. However, the study showed that there was no difference in performance between FilmOrganic black mulch and the PE plastic. Both produced about 27 kg of marketable pumpkins, more than 10 kg more than mulch-free.


Optimize your agricultural yield with biodegradable FilmOrganic mulch


Biodegradable FilmOrganic mulch is the most economical, least laborious and most effective way to control weeds, thereby increasing yield. It provides excellent durability on the mound throughout the growing season, making it an effective physical barrier against weeds. Tests conducted at Washington State University in the summer of 2018 also prove that the humidity level of the earth in humid conditions is about 10% lower with FilmOrganic® black mulch compared to inert PE plastic and no difference in dry conditions, which is excellent. This confirms that field irrigation by drip is maximized, regardless of the type of mulch chosen in dry conditions. However, the roots under the FIlmOrganic mulch will be healthier and less likely to suffer from disease.

FilmOrganic mulch is biodegradable in the soil. Producers avoid the painful task of collecting and disposing of old soiled plastics after the harvest. They can focus all their efforts on what they do best - grow beautiful fruits, vegetables or premium natural oils!

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Check out our next blogs detailing the total cost of using FilmOrganic™ mulch over polyethylene mulch.