University of Florida Associate Professor Nathan Boyd is researching the potential benefits and economic impact of plasticulture production systems for cabbage. He is one of the researchers leading a study on development of weed management plans for Florida cabbage production.
“We are looking at the use of plastic mulches for weed control and cabbage production,” says Boyd. “We started this (study) because we were working with some of our local growers in the area, and weed control was a serious issue for them.”
Boyd explains that the growers were producing cabbage on bare ground. The researchers believed that the use of plastic mulches would benefit the growers in terms of weed control, fertility and water management.
“So for plastic mulch, the idea is, you basically take a single layer of plastic that stretches over a pre-formed bed of soil. So it’s been pulled together and pressed into a specific shape, and then you stretch the plastic over the top of that, and underneath the plastic you lay drip tape,” says Boyd.
The benefits of plastic mulch are reduced evaporation for better control of fertility movement and a lot less water use.
“We can puncture through the plastic, with the exception of nutsedge, so you significantly reduce the amount of pressure, which means you can use less herbicides, less equipment for cultivation and can improve efficiency overall,” says Boyd.
The downside to plasticulture is the disposal methods. The plastic has to be taken off the field by hand laborers. This leads to the question of how to dispose of the plasticulture.
Boyd says part of this research project has been looking at a biodegradable mulch. He explains that this mulch would not require removal from the field. “You can simply incorporate it into the soil when you’re done, and it’s broken down by microbes in the soil. We want to see if that would be an option for cabbage growers,” he says.
This two-year project is nearing the finish line. “We are just finishing up our second season of cabbage. We just finished the harvest a few days ago, as a matter of fact, so probably within a month or two we will be analyzing the results, having all the data entered and able to present the results to the growers,” says Boyd.
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