Mulching is technique used in the agricultural fields to provide a better environment for crop production as a physical barrier is created to reduce the evaporation of soil water. The implementation of this technique maintains oil structure, assists in controlling weed, and prevents crop from soil contamination. Mulching can be done by utilizing both organic and inorganic materials. However, the awareness regarding the adverse effects of inorganic mulching is rising. —
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Mulching done by utilizing inorganic materials, including black polyethylene, poses risks to human health and causes environmental hazards. Since inorganic mulching materials are produced using petroleum-based plastics, they are non-compostable and pollute the environment. About 0.4–0.6 million tons of plastic waste per year is generated in the European Union because of inorganic mulching. Attributed to all these factors, the demand for biodegradable mulch film is on the rise around the world.
As per a research conducted by P&S Intelligence, the global biodegradable mulch film market share reached a value of $34.1 million in 2016 and is expected to register a 9.4% CAGR in the coming years. This is because the waste produced by biodegradable or organic mulching is transformed into methane, carbon dioxide, biomass, or water and is not required to be disposed like the waste produced by inorganic mulching. The raw materials used for making biodegradable mulch are polylactic acid, polyhydroxyalkanoate, starch, and others (which include controlled degradation masterbatches and aliphatic-aromatic copolyesters).
Out of these, the largest demand was created for starch in 2016. Starch can be easily casted into films through the process of gelatinization and is considered as an ideal material for producing flexible and strong mulch films because of its high amylose content. Moreover, it does not degrade into harmful products after coming in contact with soil microorganisms. Due to these factors, starch is one of the most widely used raw materials for producing biodegradable mulch film.
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Geographically, the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region accounted for the largest volume share of the biodegradable mulch film market in 2016 and is predicted to retain its position in the near future as well. The reason for this is the rapidly growing population in countries including China, India, and South Korea, which is resulting in the surging need for increased food production. The rising population is further leading to the reduction of agricultural land, due to which the farmers are being compelled to produce more crop in the same agricultural landholding. All these aspects are further leading to the growing demand for biodegradable mulch film.
In addition to all this, the governments across the world are supporting and promoting the use of biodegradable mulch film. For example, according to the Council Regulation No. 2092/91 (European Commission, 1991), the farmers in Europe are not allowed to make use of inorganic mulching materials, including polyethylene, for producing crop. Moreover, as per the standards for degradation in compost (ISO 17088, ASTM D6400), approximately 90% of the organic carbon is required to be converted into CO2, leaving 10% of the organic carbon, which limits the adoption of inorganic mulching techniques.
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Name: Abhishek Kumar
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Organization: P&S Intelligence
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