Working with farmers to phase out plastic mulch

As well as trialling alternatives to plastic film mulch, we are working with and providing technical support to farmers who are conducting their own trials of alternative materials and methods. Organic-PLUS partners Coventry University and Soil Association in the UK, are working with the Innovative Farmers scheme which is open to both organic and non-organic farmers, encouraging them to come together to solve common problems.

Ben Coode Adams taking measurements of young blackcurrant plants

On 2nd July 2020, Judith Conroy, Organic-PLUS project manager and researcher in the project’s SOIL workpackage visited grower Ben Coode Adams at Coggeshall Hall Farm in Essex, South-East England. Ben is a participant in the Innovative Farmers’ Alternatives to Plastic Film Mulch field lab and planted hundreds of blackcurrant cuttings in the spring through a variety of mulches. It was the day before harvest was due to start, but today’s job was to assess the young plants: heights, percentage weed cover and number of losses were the main measurements recorded.

Blackcurrant cuttings grown through chipped wood

Mulches being trialled by Ben include a biodegradable film and chipped wood from the farm (some newly chipped and some left for 1 year before use) as well as an unmulched control. It will be interesting to see the results and we are particularly excited to see how the fresh and 1 year old chipped woods perform as on-site sourced farm ‘systems solutions’ to replace plastic mulch.

Also at the farm were the Soil Association’s Dan Iles and Rebecca Swinn, making a film about the Innovative Farmers programme and the benefits of collaboration between researchers and farmers – we look forward to sharing the film once it is complete.

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