Lisa DeVetter won the ISHS Young Minds Award for the best oral presentation at XII International Rubus and Ribes Symposium: Innovative Rubus and Ribes Production for High Quality Berries in Changing Environments in Switzerland in June 2019.
Biodegradable and non-degradable plastic mulches increase raspberry yield. Growers and scientists alike within the field of horticulture are continually seeking ways to improve sustainable production of food crops. The application of plastic mulches is one way to enhance crop production through improved weed management and modification of soil temperature and moisture. However, the use of plastics in society is under scrutiny and end-of-life management of agricultural plastics is a growing concern that threatens sustainability. Biodegradable plastics are an alternative to non-degradable polyethylene and polypropylene plastic mulches. This research evaluated the application of biodegradable plastic mulches in floricane red raspberry in the Pacific Northwest (PNW). This two-year research project showed that biodegradable plastic mulches are comparable to non-degradable plastic mulches in a spring-planted ‘WakeTMField’ raspberry field. Furthermore, both biodegradable and non-degradable mulches increased yield by 34% and improved weed management compared to the non-mulched control, which represented growers’ standard practice. While raspberry growers in the PNW adopting mulch application as a tool to aid establishment of spring-planted raspberry, time will tell whether biodegradable mulches truly degrade according to US (ASTM D5988-18) and European standards (EN 17033). Regardless, this research highlights the application and potential of plasticulture for raspberry and other perennial fruit crops.