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Mulch Matters

Nov 27, 2023

In today's podcast episode, we are joined by two special guests, Lisa DeVetter, Associate Professor in the Department of Horticulture at Washington State University, and Markus Flury, Professor in the Department of Crop and Soil Science at WSU. As key leaders of a national project titled "Improving End-of-Life Management of Plastic Mulches in Strawberry Systems", they share their insights and goals for the project. Lisa discusses her interest in soil biodegradable mulches and the sustainability concerns surrounding plastic mulches, emphasizing the need for data-driven solutions to optimize production efficiencies and environmental conditions. Markus, a soil scientist, highlights his background in soil remediation and the transition from studying biodegradable plastics to micro- and nanoplastics. Together, they lead a multidisciplinary team aiming to evaluate the impacts of various mulch technologies on horticultural, soil, sociocultural, and economic variables. Lisa and Markus express their hope to advance science and provide sustainable solutions, fostering informed policies and practices for growers. They emphasize the importance of training the next generation of scientists and collaborating across disciplines to address the challenges posed by plastic mulches. The discussion also touches on the historical use of mulches, the benefits of plastic mulches in agriculture, and the environmental impact and challenges associated with conventional polyethylene mulches. Ultimately, the project seeks to support the transition to more sustainable end-of-life outcomes for plastic mulches in strawberry systems and potentially other horticultural systems globally.

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