Skip to main content Skip to navigation

SCRI Project Description

This transdisciplinary research and extension project on Biodegradable Mulches for Specialty Crops Produced Under Protective Covers (Reference No: 2009-02484; funded by NIFA’s SCRI program investigated whether experimental spunbond nonwovens and leading commercially-available biodegradable mulches are of similar quality to conventional black plastic in both high tunnel and open field specialty crop production. Also investigated was biodegrade in the soil. During 2010–2012, a team of 17 scientists evaluated biodegradable mulches in a tomato production system in three diverse regions of the U.S.: eastern Tennessee, central Texas, and western Washington. In addition, the team evaluated the adaptability of six lettuce, strawberry and tomato cultivars to high tunnel production in these contrasting environments.

SCRI Annual Reports

2010 Report

2011 Report

2012 Report

2013 Report

SCRI Project Objectives


  • Study production of lettuce, strawberry and tomato in high tunnel versus open fields under three contrasting environments
  • Compare experimental and commercially-available biodegradable mulches to black plastic for specialty crop production
  • Better understand mulch biodegradation in soil, potential residues, and impacts on soil ecology and plant health
  • Calculate economic feasibility of producing specialty crops under high tunnels and with mulches in TN, TX, and WA, and develop risk management tools
  • Conduct life cycle analyses on biodegradable mulch production and utilization
  • Identify barriers to high tunnel and biodegradable mulch adaptation
  • Establish needed attributes for the next generation of high tunnels and biodegradable mulches for agriculture
  • Contribute to scientific literature on these issues



  • Promote high tunnel and biodegradable mulch product improvement and development
  • Familiarize agricultural professionals, high tunnel and biodegradable mulch manufacturers with specialty crop producer needs, standard definitions, and product challenges
  • Disseminate new information generated by the project to the public at large

Biodegradable Mulch Project Applies Textile Science to Agriculture

PULLMAN, Wash. – Researchers at Washington State University are working to develop a biodegradable mulch that would provide an alternative to costly and environmentally detrimental plastic mulch. The research project spans three states and five research institutions, said Debra Inglis, plant pathologist and project director. More.