In a new study, researchers experimented with a sustainable, plastic-free type of mulch: soybean-oil coated sand.
The study was published by the Social Science Society of America.
Researchers say the new mulch, if commercialized, may be useful to the nursery industry and other commercial producers who currently rely on plastic mulch to regulate soil temperature, reduce weeds and minimize water loss. The experiments, they say, may also pave the way for further research into alternative mulches.
Initial experiments showed soil treated with the soybean-oil coated sand had 96% less water loss through evaporation compared to bare soil, which researchers call a victory.
“I think a lot of industrial-level farmers could really benefit from this research in the long term,” said Jesse Barnes, lead researcher in the study and a doctoral student studying sustainable agriculture at the University of Nevada.
According to Barnes, in many parts of the U.S., about 90% of agricultural mulch used is