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Abstract

Biodegradable plastic mulch films (BDM) are an alternative to conventional polyethylene (PE) mulches. Like PE mulches, BDM offer multiple benefits for specialty crop production such as weed control, soil moisture conservation and yield improvement, with the additional benefit of being 100 percent biodegradable, with no formation of toxic residues (Miles et al., 2018). BDM do not have to be removed; rather, they will be tilled into the soil at the end of the season. These additional benefits offset challenges faced when using PE mulches such as 1) the negative environmental impacts associated with the way PE mulches are traditionally disposed of (e.g., landfilling, on-farm burning and stockpiling); and 2) costs associated with end-of-season activities such as plastic mulch removal and disposal. The disposal of PE mulches in landfills raises some concerns as the complete decomposition of these mulches in the soils could take more than 300 years, and this process could potentially form chemical byproducts that are harmful to the environment (Ghimire et al., 2018). Also, the disposal of PE mulches by open burning on the farm can release carcinogenic substances and other toxic particles into the air that are harmful to the environment and human health (Moore and Wszelaki, 2016). It is also important for farmers to understand the short-run economic implications of adopting BDM for their farm enterprises. Some of the economic information growers need to gather before making the decision to adopt BDM are listed below.

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