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J Sci Food Agric. 2014 Jul;94(9):1854-64. doi: 10.1002/jsfa.6504. Epub 2014 Jan 22.

Biodegradable mulch performed comparably to polyethylene in high tunnel tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.) production.

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Washington State University, Spokane County Extension, 222 N Havana St, Spokane, WA 99202, USA.



High tunnels in the cool climate of north western Washington state improve the growing environment for crops otherwise suited to warmer climates. Biodegradable mulch may improve the sustainability of high tunnel vegetable production if it performs comparably to polyethylene. Four biodegradable mulch treatments (BioAgri, BioTelo, WeedGuardPlus and SB-PLA-10/11/12) were compared to black polyethylene and bare ground in high tunnels and open field settings to assess the impact of production system and mulch treatment on weed control, tomato yield, and fruit quality.


Fewer weeds grew in high tunnels than in the open field. High tunnels increased total and marketable fruit yields and increased individual fruit weight. High tunnel production increased juice content and pH of tomato fruit, but decreased total soluble solids, titratable acidity, and total phenolics compared to the open field. All mulch treatments except SB-PLA-10 controlled weeds. BioAgri, BioTelo and polyethylene increased total yields by 20%, though marketability was reduced 14% compared to bare ground and WeedGuardPlus treatments.


High tunnels can improve tomato yield and affect fruit quality in north western Washington. Biodegradable plastic mulches performed comparably to polyethylene in weed control, tomato yield, and fruit quality and may, therefore, improve the sustainability of high tunnel vegetable production.


biodegradable mulch; fruit quality; high tunnel; marketability; tomato; yield

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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