Page Banner

United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


item Shogren, Randal
item David, Monica

Submitted to: Applied Horticulture Consulting
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/3/2006
Publication Date: 1/20/2007
Citation: Shogren, R.L., David, M. 2007. Biodegradable paper/polymerized vegetable oil mulches for propagation of tomatoes and peppers. Applied Horticulture Consulting. 8(1):92-94.

Interpretive Summary: New bio-based products from corn and soybeans are desirable since they provide new markets for surplus, renewable agricultural commodities and reduce use of imported petroleum. Past studies have shown that biodegradable mulch films made from paper coated with soybean oil gave good weed control and promoted growth of fruits and trees. One drawback to these films was surface oil, which could be messy to handle. It was found that epoxidized soybean oil and citric acid could be heat cured to give a non-tacky coating on paper. These new mulches were then tested in a vegetable garden and were found to be effective weed barriers, gave good yields of tomatoes and peppers and began to degrade after 3 months. Thus, these mulches are well suited for weed control for home gardeners and small farmers and eliminate the need to remove and dispose of a non-degradable plastic mulch. These results are important for scientists developing new uses for soybeans, processors of soy-based products and small farmers.

Technical Abstract: This project was undertaken in order to compare to efficacy of a biodegradable paper/cured vegetable oil mulch with newspaper/straw and bare soil for stopping weed growth and promoting vegetable yields in a community charitable garden (Plant-a-Row-for-the-Hungry). There are no significant differences in tomato or pepper yields between the different mulch types. The coated paper and newspaper/straw mulches were effective in preventing weed growth around the plants while hand weeding was required for the bare soil plots. After 3 months, there was slight degradation (a few cracks, holes) beginning for the coated paper mulches but not enough to allow noticeable weed penetration. Soil temperatures under the newspaper/straw mulches were about 5 degrees C cooler than under the coated paper mulches or bare soil. Thus, paper/oil mulch rolls appear to be a convenient and effective alternative to laborious hand weeding or spreading of newspaper and straw for vegetable gardening.

Last Modified: 06/28/2017
Footer Content Back to Top of Page