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Video: How To Use Mulch Film
I don't want to weed - I will mulch
In many countries, huge land areas are covered with films. You can drive for a long time along the fields where various crops are grown under the films. These are vegetables, flowers, and fruit plants: cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, strawberries, apple trees, gooseberries, currants and much more. This agrotechnical method - soil mulching with films - has been used all over the world for decades. And it turned out to be economically very profitable for a number of significant reasons.
The word "mulching" comes from the English word mulch - covering something with straw or manure. Vegetable growers "spied" this process in nature. Indeed, in places not touched by the human hand, under trees, shrubs, other plants, the soil is always protected by a layer of dead leaves, needles, dead plant material.
One of the earliest mulching materials was a mixture of leaves and straw, which was spread around the plants to protect their roots from frost. Today the term "mulching" is understood as covering the soil surface with any material.
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Soil mulching provides the following effects:
- suppression and destruction of weeds without the use of herbicides;
- saving of manual labor for weeding;
- preservation of moisture in the soil;
- improving the temperature regime of the soil;
- protection of the root system of perennial plants from severe frosts in winter in the absence of snow;
- strengthening the biological activity of the soil;
- acceleration of the maturation of cultivated crops;
- increased productivity;
- saving fertilizers;
- suppression of the development of diseases of various cultures;
- preventing the formation of a soil crust.
Peat, manure, sawdust and various plant residues are used as mulch. Although these materials rot and form humus useful for plants, they, unfortunately, do not completely suppress the growth of weeds, which is one of the most important functions of mulching.
With the advent of polymer film materials, they have become very widely used for soil mulching. In many foreign countries, film mulching has become a common technological method for growing plants in open and protected ground. In the United States and other countries, film mulching is used on tens of thousands of hectares allotted for the cultivation of tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries, etc.
For many years, research on mulching with various films was carried out by Russian scientists, including the Leningrad Agrophysical Institute.
Films with different spectral characteristics are used for mulching. Translucent films not only do not suppress, but, on the contrary, contribute to the violent growth of weeds under mulch, which is permissible only in areas free from weeds, and for normal field conditions, preliminary treatment of the soil with herbicides is necessary.
Germination of seedlings and growth of weeds are practically not inhibited with a decrease in the transparency of the films from 80-99% to 45-50%. With a further decrease in transparency, weed growth slows down sharply, and upon reaching 5-10% transparency, annual weeds are destroyed. Perennial rhizomatous weeds (wheatgrass, sow thistle, bindweed, etc.) completely die off only at zero film transparency. Of all the films, only a very black opaque film is completely capable of suppressing weed growth.
Mulching significantly delays the evaporation of moisture from the soil and thus increases the temperature. In dry years, mulched soil contains more moisture than non-mulched soil. Coefficients of water consumption by plants on mulched soil are the lowest, therefore soil mulching is to a certain extent a substitute for irrigation.
With a dry soil surface in an open area, its temperature is always higher than under the film. Therefore, during dry periods of summer, black film mulch not only improves the water regime of the soil, but also reduces the temperature of the soil surface, which is a positive factor. In northern countries, they mulch the soil around plants, warming them, in southern countries, they save them from heat and strong evaporation of moisture.
Mulching prevents the formation of a soil crust, which is important for the emergence of uniform plant emergence and growth stability, since it restricts the supply of oxygen to the seedlings, causing the latter to suffocate. When growing perennial berry crops under black film mulch, soil compaction does not occur even after 4-5 years of continuous use. Mulching the soil with films reduces its compaction by precipitation, especially of the storm type.
This technique affects the enhancement of the biological activity of the soil, which largely determines its fertility. The film serves as a protective cover for representatives of useful soil fauna. When mulching with a film, the food regime improves: nitrate nitrogen accumulates in the upper layers of the soil (from the decomposition of weeds). Nitrification under the film continues even in autumn.
The content of humus increases in the soil and the vital activity of earthworms is activated, as a result of which it becomes looser and does not clog after rains and watering. When mulching increases the number of beneficial microorganisms in the soil, as well as their activity, the leaching of easily soluble nutrients decreases, because the film prevents the through-wetting of the soil with rainwater.
Some mulching substances, such as well-rotted manure and garden compost, provide plants with additional nutrition. However, it is impractical to replace fertilization with mulching, since plants may still feel a lack of nutrients. With film mulching, evaporation loss of moisture mainly occurs through the mounting holes.
At the same time, the planting holes serve for the penetration of rainwater into the soil. It was found that slots (longitudinal or transverse cuts of the film) better protect the soil from evaporation and promote better penetration of sediments into the soil than round, square or other shapes.
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In winter, mulched soil retains heat better, which is important when growing perennial plants. In frosty, snowless winters, beds covered with a film freeze less due to the fact that film mulch is a moisture-proof material that retains moisture vapors coming from deeper, warmer soil layers.
At subzero temperatures, moisture condenses on the inner surface of the film, forming a layer of friable frost, which is a kind of "artificial snowdrift" layer. Heat protection increases by 5-10 ° C compared to open soil. This is especially true for fruit trees on dwarf rootstocks, in which the frost resistance of the root system is not high enough, and for garden strawberries, the roots of which are at a shallow depth.
Mulching films have another valuable property, namely, to suppress the development of diseases of various crops, which is especially important for strawberries. Fighting strawberry gray mold has been an important task in film mulching applications. Research in the United States has shown that mulching the soil surface significantly reduces the number of nematodes.
A very important property of film mulch is the ability to suppress the growth of weeds without the use of herbicides. it is not selective in relation to weed species, destroys them in any phase of growth - from emergence to adult plants and does not pollute the environment.
After you have removed the film that has been on the soil for several months, the weeds will grow back even without loosening the soil. Sustainable suppression of weeds occurs only under a black film after many years of continuous use, for example, when mulching fruit and berry crops. For these crops, as a rule, films with a long life are used.
Also, black mulch film is used for the development of virgin lands. To do this, they simply cover the area overgrown with weeds with a film, and after 1-2 months they remove it - the earth is loose and there are no weeds, and it can be easily cultivated.
In this regard, the following requirements are imposed on the black mulch film: it must not transmit light, must be thin and elastic in order to adhere tightly to the soil surface, and so that the temperature (reaching 50-70 ° C) burns out the weeds under it. It is also important that the film is strong to contain the growth of weeds with sharp leaves.
With the help of mulching, you can significantly reduce the time you spend on caring for plants in your summer cottage (watering and weeding), and at the same time increase the yield. Various materials are used for mulching - both organic and polymer. They have a different structure and color and, accordingly, different properties that affect the growth and life of plants.
How to choose the right material for mulching can be found in the next issue.
In the picture: in neighboring Finland, black film is very widely used on strawberry plantations.