Many farmers worldwide use padded polyethylene (PE) films in the cultivation of industrial tomatoes, the most cultivated vegetable in the world, to increase yields, as they allow the control of weeds, soil temperature, and water consumption. However, although padded films should be removed from the surface at the end of the harvest, it is often impossible to remove them completely and, as they are not biodegradable, the excess particles accumulate in the soil.
To solve this problem, BASF is offering producers ecovio® M 2351, a biodegradable plastic for quilted films made with ecoflex® polybutylene adipate-terephthalate (PBAT) and other biodegradable polymers obtained from renewable raw materials. This new material not only increases the yield of horticultural crops between 15% and 50% but - since it's biodegradable - it also leaves no contaminating residues.
In addition to reducing water consumption and improving weed control, this material allows the crops to be more resistant against fungal diseases, be harvested earlier, achieve better quality, higher Brix index, and being more homogeneous. Therefore, sustainable agriculture can go hand in hand with efficient food production, with higher yields and high quality.
A study by ETH Zürich, from Switzerland, has shown that plastics made with polybutylene adipate-terephthalate (PBAT) serve as food for soil microbes, such as bacteria and fungi. This means that the PBAT degrades in a natural way and, unlike the PE, it disappears from the soil. Consequently, the biodegradable padded films that remain in the soil contribute to improving the quality of the soil, the development of roots, and the plants' growth. The ecovio® M 2351 material is the first material certified as biodegradable in the field according to the European standard DIN EN 17033. The use of padded films made with ecovio® is also accepted in organic farming in many countries.
Farmers have been using biodegradable padding plastics made with ecovio® for more than six years since their introduction to the market in 2012. "We offer our support to farmers in many countries to use quilted films made from this material," stated Dirk Staerke of the Department of Marketing of Biopolymers for Agriculture at BASF. “According to FAO, until 2050 world agricultural production must increase by 70% in order to feed a population that, by then and according to forecasts, will have reached 9,000 million people. Biodegradable plastics can help overcome this challenge without leaving contaminant residues on the ground.”