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Plastic Mulching

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1. Plastic Mulching

  • Mulching is the process of covering soil around the plant root area with a view to insulate the plant and its roots from the effects of extreme temperature fluctuations.
  • The plastic films are easily available, easy to handle, transport & lay. This lead to the use of plastic films as mulches, which is today the most preferred material. Now a days LDPE and LLDPE plastic films are commonly used for mulching. LLDPE black colour mulch film is most popular, owing to the twin properties of down-gauging and better puncture resistance.

2. Benefits of Plastic Mulching

  • Conserves soil moisture
  • Moderates soil temperature by insulating the soil surface
  • Control weed growth under mulch film
  • Reduces soil compaction caused by equipment and people
  • Reduces soil erosion from wind or water
  • Prevents leaching of fertilizers
  • Reduces incidence of disease by protecting above-ground plant parts from splashes that carry soil-borne inoculum
  • Improves quality of produce, reduces fruit rot by eliminating contact between fruit and soil
  • Reduces winter injury by minimizing temperature variation, reducing water loss in plants and decreasing heaving of plant crowns and roots
  • Early Maturity
  • Provides conducive environment for plant growth
  • Improves seed germination
  • Improves productivity

3. Types of Plastic Mulches

  • Black mulches
  • Clear or transparent mulches
  • Two-side color mulches
  • Yellow/black
  • White/black
  • Silver/black
  • Red/black
  • Degradable mulches
  • Photo-degradable
  • Bio-degradable
  • By proper selection of plastic mulch composition – colour & thickness, it is possible to precisely control the soil environment.

1. Black Mulches

basic requirements in cow The black plastic film does not allow sunlight to pass through onto the soil. Thus, photosynthesis does not take place in soil in absence of sunlight below the black film. Hence, it arrests weed growth completely. The black plastic mulch is helpful in conserving moisture and controlling weed growth. However, it may increase the soil temperature

2. Clear or Transparent Mulches

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  • The transparent film will allow sunlight to pass through and the weeds will grow. However, by using herbicide coating on the inner side of film weed growth can be checked.
  • The transparent film is quite successful as soil solarization film for disinfecting the soil in order to reduce soil borne diseases and some weeds. This application is quite successful in nursery raising by solarising the beds before sowing seeds for nursery raising, which gives near 100% seed germination & disease free nursery.
  • While the black film has proved to be effective in plains to keep crop cool during summer, the transparent film is effective in hilly areas for raising soil temperature in cold climatic conditions during winter.

3. Two-side Colour Mulches

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  • Wavelength selective or photo-selective films (also called two-side coloured) are designed to absorb specific wavelengths of the sun’s radiation, which changes the spectrum of the sunlight passing through the film or being reflected back into the plant canopy.
  • These light changes can have a marked effect on plant growth & development. These films enable growers to control different plant properties such as leaf & fruit size , colour, root development, yield, branching, plant height, growth, inter node length, time of flowering, bloom size, strengthen plant stems, encourage fruit to grow lower down on plants, and aid in disease control by keeping insects away. The effects are warming of soil temperature, blocking weed growth, increasing color saturation of developing fruit & increasing carbohydrate transport to developing fruit.

4. Selection of Mulch Films

  • Selection of film colour depends upon the specific purpose to be achieved such as weed control, raising of soil temperature or cooling it down or disease control or enhanced plant growth etc. The film width should be such that the crop agronomic practices could be conveniently carried out. The width of 90 cm & 120 cm are more common. The aim is to make use of available width of mulch film in most effective manner.

Thickness of Film

In plastic mulching, the thickness of mulch film should be in accordance with type & age of crops. Economics suggest that the film thickness should be the minimum possible commensurate with desired life & strength. The recommended thickness of mulch films for different crops is as under:

Thickness (microns) Crops Recommended

7

Groundnut

20-25

Annual - short duration crops

40-50

Biennial - medium duration crops

50-100

 Perineal - long duration crops

Extent of Surface to be Covered under Film

%coverage Crops Recommended

20-25

All Creeper crops

40-50

Initial stage of orchard crops

40-60

Fruit crops & curcurbitacous

70-80

Vegetables, Papaya, Pineapple etc

90-100

Soil solarization

5. Indicative Cost of Plastic Mulching

  • On the basis of 80% coverage of area under the film, indicative cost of mulching for vegetable crops would be approximately Rs.20,000/- per ha i.e. Rs.2/- per m2. Similarly, on the basis of 40% area coverage for an orchard crop, indicative cost of mulching would be approximately Rs14,000/- per ha i.e. Rs.1.4/- m2.
  • As the Polymer prices change frequently for cost of plastic mulching would also keep on varying. However, the cost economics of plastic mulching is well establish in terms of off-setting the additional cost.

6. Crop Response to Plastic Mulching

The results of research studies carried out on plastic mulching by Precision Farming Development Centers (PFDCs) located in different agro climatic zones all over India have shown that plastic mulching is useful in increasing productivity from 25% to 70%.

7. Subsidy on Plastic Mulching

Being capital intensive, the Government of India has provided subsidy @50% of permissible system cost of Rs.20,000/ha i.e. a net subsidy of Rs.10,000/ per ha for the adoption of mulching by farmers with a ceiling of 2 ha per beneficiary the under National Horticulture Mission (NHM) and Horticulture Mission for North Eastern & Himalayan states (HMNEH) and other related schemes. These schemes are implemented through Horticulture Department in respective states

8. Laying of Mulch Films

basic requirements in cow Plastic films are laid before crop planting or transplanting. This includes preparation of seed bed, spread of mulch film and anchoring of edges of the film. These operations, if done manually, become very time consuming, costly & tedious. Therefore, tractor mounted mulch laying machines have been developed and are in use.

8.1. Laying of Mulch Film in Vegetable Crops

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  • Thin film of 20 to 25 microns is used for mulching short duration crops like vegetables. Required length of film for one row of crop is taken and folded at every one metre or required spacing of the crop along the length of the film.
  • Round holes are made at the centre of the film using a punch or a bigger diameter pipe and a hammer. Alternatively, a heated pipe end could be used. In case the plant spacing is less than one metre, required number of holes could be made as per the spacing of the crop.
  • For example, if the plant spacing is 45 x 45 cm, the folding could be done at every 45 cm along the length of the film. The holes are punched on two spots of the face of the film. Alternatively, the folding may be done at every 90 cm and four holes could be punched. In case of machine laying the punching of holes is done by the machine.
  • One end of the mulch film is anchored in the soil and the film is unrolled along the row of planting.
  • Till the soil well and apply the required quantity of FYM and fertilizer (make the furrows if required) before mulching.
  • Mulching could be taken up before or after planting.
  • Mulch film is then inserted into the soil on all sides to keep it intact. Seeds are sown directly through the holes made on the mulch film.

8.2 Laying of Mulch Film Transplanted Crops

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  • In case of transplanted crops, the seedlings could be planted directly into the hole. In case the transplanted plants are not erect and steady, care should be taken to see that the saplings do not fall on the mulch film. This would lead to burning and mortality of the tender plants.
  • In such cases, it is advisable to mulch after the establishment of the plants (after 3 to 7 days of transplantation when the plants are steady and erect).
  • For mulching established seedlings, one end of the film along the width is buried in the soil and the mulch film is then unrolled over the saplings. During the process of unrolling, the saplings are held in the hand and inserted into the holes from the bottom side, so that it could spread on the top side.
  • In case the mulch film needs to be used for more than one season, the plant is cut at its base near the film and the film is removed and used.

Irrigation practices

The best way of irrigating mulched crops is through drip irrigation. Under drip irrigation, the laterals are kept under mulch film. Irrigation and fertigation could be carried out without any problem. In flood irrigation, the channels are made along the un-mulched area and irrigation is carried out. Irrigation through sprinklers is also possible.

Application of Fertilizer

In case of drip or sprinkler irrigation, fertilizer application is done in liquid form through drip or sprinkler irrigation system. However, under flood irrigation, all fertilizers & soil-applied chemicals are usually placed in or on bed before mulch is applied.

Removal & Disposal of used Mulch Films

Non-degradable mulch films do not disintegrate in the soil. Therefore, after use, mulch film should be removed & disposed off properly so as to avoid any plastic pollution problems.

8.3 Laying of Mulching Film in Fruit Crops

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  • Mulching area should preferably be equivalent to the canopy of the plant (larger the canopy, larger the area of mulching and vice versa). Required size of mulch film is cut from the mulch roll. Maintain equal length and breadth. Cut the film using a scissor from the middle from the middle of one side to the centre of the mulch film. Cut the film in star shape as illustrated. The film could be cut either in the field or in a clean, neat place and carried to the field.
  • Clean the required area by removing stones, pebbles, weeds etc. Till the soil well and apply a small quantity of water before mulching.
  • Open the film from the cut portion and insert the tree/plant in between the cut portion and cover the entire area. The cut portion of the film should be overlapped upto 6 inches and the overlapped end should be buried in the ground. The overlapped portion of the film could also be sealed using a plastic tape or by using metal hooks made out of 1mm binding wires as shown in the illustration.
  • Semi circular holes could be made at the four corners of the film in order to facilitate water movement. The position of the slit or opening should be parallel to the wind direction. It should not be placed perpendicular to the wind direction as this could facilitate entry of air through the opening and result in tearing of mulch film.
  • Cover the corners of the film with 4-6 inches of soil on all sides to keep the film in position.

Mulching in Fruit Crops

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9. Response of Plastic Mulch on the yield of Crops

S.No. Crop Thickness of Mulch film (micron) Increase in yield (%)

Vegetables

1

Chilli

25

50-60

2

Potato

25

35-40

3

Cauliflower

25

40-50

4

Tomato

25

45-50

5

Capsicum

25

35-45

6

Okra

25

50-60

7

Brinjal

25

30-35

Fruits

1

Apricot

100

100 30-35

2

Peach

100

100 30-35

3

Guava

100

100 25-30

4

Kinnow

100

100 45-50

5

Pomogranate

100

100 35-40

6

 Strawberry

25

40-50

Others

1

Sugarcane

50

50-55

2

Areca nut

50

25-30

3

Ground nut

07

60-70

Source: Based on Research Findings of PFDCs

10. Few Mulch Film Processors

Few Mulch Film Processors Click Here

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