The term plasticulture refers to the practice of using plastic materials in agricultural applications. – en.m.wikipedia.org
We use plastic to cover our bed tops for the majority of the farm. The plastic is laid in the spring and is buried about 4-6 inches on either side of the bed. It is a phenomenal way to control weeds around the plants, cutting down labor and increasing the overall health of the plant itself. It is important to control weeds specifically around the base of the plant to prevent disease and so the weeds do not out compete the plant for space and nutrients.
While there are many advantages to using plastic there are also many disadvantages. When lifting and removing plastic at the end of the year it is nearly impossible to remove it in its entirety. The plastic can easily rip causing pollution/ trash in the field, which is bad for the environment. That ripped plastic can also get into mowers and tractors causing mechanical problems. It is a lot of work taking the plastic out of the field at the end of the year, especially when the ground has already frozen.
There is research being done on biodegradable materials to replace plastic but unfortunately they are still out of most small farmer’s price range.
I am going to rethink the amount of plastic we use in the field next year so that we can be better stewards to the environment while also using different organic methods for weed control.