Wortman Research Biodegradable Mulches

Greenhouse Growing
Wortman Research


Biomulch Incubation: This video shows the methods for measuring respiration produced in soil microcosms with various biodegradable mulches. Project funding provided by U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA NIFA) Organic Transitions Program (ORG) Award # 2016-51106-25711.

Biodegradable mulches, also known as biomulches, are increasingly popular among vegetable farmers due to concerns about the negative environmental impact of plastic mulch use and disposal. We are partnering with 3M Company to evaluate bio-based fabric mulches that provide season-long weed suppression, conserve soil moisture, and can be left in the field and incorporated into soil at the end of the growing season.

Our research goal is to identify post-incorporation management strategies that accelerate biomulch degradation in soil, and to determine the microbial drivers of biomulch degradation and the eventual fate of biomulch residues in the soil environment.

Assistant Professor Sam Wortman talks about using biodegradable alternatives to black plastic in the garden. (mp3 audio file)

Research Updates

Biodegradable Mulches

Managing Biodegradable Mulch Films: Lessons from the Lab, Greenhouse, and FieldDownload PDF

Biodegradable Mulches

Biodegradable mulch effects on soil physical properties and yieldDownload PDF

Funding sources:

  • North Central Region SARE Graduate Student Grant Program (PI, Ben Samuelson)
  • USDA NIFA Organic Transitions Program (award #2016-51106-25711)

Related publications:

  • Thompson, A. A., M. B. Samuelson, I. Kadoma, E. Soto-Cantu, R. Drijber, and S. E. Wortman. 2019. Degradation rate of bio-based agricultural mulch is influenced by mulch composition and biostimulant application.  Journal of Polymers and the Environment pp. 1-12.
  • Wortman, S. E., I. Kadoma, and M. D. Crandall. 2016. Biodegradable plastic and fabric mulch performance in field and high tunnel cucumber production. HortTechnology 26:148-155.
  • Wortman, S. E., I. Kadoma, and M. D. Crandall. 2015. Assessing the potential for spunbond, nonwoven biodegradable fabric as mulches for tomato and pepper crops. Scientia Horticulturae 193:209-217.
Biodegradable Mulches
Bio-based mulches in tomato