Growers to explore plastic-free alternatives in new trials

Farmer-led research is 'critical' to the exploration of sustainable alternatives for the industry
Farmer-led research is 'critical' to the exploration of sustainable alternatives for the industry

Growers are to explore alternatives to plastic mulch for weed control as part of a new on-farm trial to be more environmentally friendly.

The amount of plastic waste generated annually in the UK is estimated to be nearly 5 million tonnes, according to statistics.

Those in the horticultural sector are often reliant on plastic films to control weeds, but concern about their impact on the environment and soil when they degrade is growing.

To combat this, growers and researchers will lead a practical on-farm trial to test alternatives, such as biodegradable and non-plastic films.

Spearheaded by the not-for-profit group Innovative Farmers, it will commence on 26 September and is open to anyone in the sector.

Ben Raskin, Head of Horticulture at the Soil Association, said: “Farmers and growers face a big challenge when it comes to finding non-plastic mulches that really work for both farmers and the environment.

“Farmer-led research is critical to the much-needed exploration of sustainable alternatives.

“We are hopeful that by testing biodegradable and non-plastic materials in real-life on-farm, this field lab will identify whether more environmentally friendly and practical solutions exist.”

Trials have indicated that the biodegradable alternatives will be as effective as plastic – with the added benefit that they don’t need removal after harvest.

The field lab will put these indications to the test in real-farm settings. A wider project is also investigating the full life-cycle of the various materials to give a complete picture of their environmental impact.

The launch meeting will be held on Thursday September 26 at Ryton Organic Gardens, Coventry.