German chemicals firm BASF is expanding its line of biodegradable plastics from supermarket bags to a practical and economical solution for agricultural mulch: its new "Ecovio F Mulch" plastic. Designed to European standards EN 13432, the polymer has been awarded the OK Compost Home label by Belgian standards organisation Vinçotte, certifying that the material biodegrades at below industrial composting temperature (60° c). This means that by the end of harvesting, the film is almost completely decomposed and unlike its rivals can be composted in situ without needing to be recycled.
Ecovio F Mulch is a blend of a oil-based polyester (Ecoflex) and polylactic acid (PLA) derived from maize. The Ecoflex polyester-PLA blend means that tear-resistant mulching films, as thin as 10 microns, can be used. That is about half as thick and is a considerable saving in material compared to other films on the market.
These mulching films have been tested on many experimental sites in France and Spain. A 12 μ Ecovio film is preferred for crops with longer rotation cycles like melons, courgettes, watermelons, squash, and industrial tomatoes, while lettuce and other shorter rotation cycle crops do better with a 10 μ mulch. These thinner films have an undeniable economical edge over the more expensive 15 μ biodegradable mulches.
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