Submitted to: International Congress of Pesticide Chemistry Abstracts
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: April 30, 2002
Publication Date: August 4, 2002
Plastic mulch is commonly used in the production of vegetables and other row crops to control weeds, warm the soil and prevent soil from depositing on the crops. In the Mid-Atlantic region of the U.S., runoff from plastic mulch has been implicated in the failure of nearby shellfish hatcheries. USDA/ARS recently compared the environmental impacts of plastic mulch versus hairy vetch residue mulch. Runoff volume, soil loss, pesticide loads and toxicity from cultivation practices that utilize plastic mulch were greater than those observed from management practices with vegetative mulches (1, 2). Additional experiments suggested that copper hydroxide associated with soil particles was as a causative factor in the observed toxicity (3). Controlling soil loss should, therefore, decrease toxicity and reduce the negative impacts of runoff on surrounding ecosystems. Rye buffer strips between the plastic-covered rows were tested as a means to control soil loss. A two-year study was conducted comparing tomato production utilizing plastic mulch with and without buffer strips. Runoff volume and soil loss from plots with bare soil between the rows was 2x greater than the soil loss and runoff volume from buffer strip plots. No statistically significant differences were observed in harvest yields. Copper loads in runoff from buffer strip plots were nearly a magnitude less than the loads from plots without buffer strips. A corresponding reduction in toxicity was observed. Organic pesticide (chlorothanil, endosulfan, and fenvalerate) loads from the buffer strip plots were also significantly less.