It may not be well known, but organic farmers – like their conventional farming neighbors – depend on plastic to grow a lot of food. “It’s spread over the ground as a form of mulch to suppress weeds, conserve water and aid plant growth,” reports Lisa Elaine Held in FERN’s latest story, produced in collaboration with NPR’s The Salt.
The problem is that plastic – under attack these days for the environmental problems it causes – ends up in landfills. “At One Straw, the plastic film used on just 30 productive acres in one year would stretch 36 miles in a straight line. Bigger organic operations like Lady Moon Farms, with farms in Pennsylvania, Georgia and Florida, spread it over thousands of acres,” Held writes.
One solution is biodegradable plastic, but so far that has not been an option for organic farmers because the current products on the market are made from petrochemicals. Under organic rules, only bio-based materials can be used.
Still, agrochemical companies that make the biodegradeable mulch and some farmers advocate for its use. Others are looking forward to bio-based mulches, which are moving closer to market, the story says.