Many growers over the years have asked for an alternative to plastic mulch because of concerns about the environment and the labor requirement for field removal. After several years of development and testing, Planters Paper mulch is now available. It comprises most of the benefits of black plastic film and has other advantages. Although it does not have the stretchability of plastic, it will hug the soil and has strength for mechanical installation.
Planters Paper is degradable. It does not have to be removed from the field at the end of the season. It contains no harmful ingredients and leaves no harmful residues in the soil. However, the paper has a tendency to prematurely degrade along the edges where it is secured with a layer of soil. Due to expansion when wet and shrinkage when dry, the paper tends to tear along the edges at the soil line. Then the paper is subject to lifting by wind. Therefore, additional soil should be added periodically to the edges to secure the paper.
When Planters Paper is used in limited quantities, the premature degradation can be reduced by the weighting the edges of paper with stones, bricks, etc. This method eliminates the soil along the edges.
Advantages of Planters Paper:
Crop response similar to that of black plastic mulch
Completely degradable -- till or disk in at end of season
Good weed control (including nutsedge)
Soil moisture retention and nutrient conservation - can be used with drip irrigation
Crops Suited for Planter Paper Mulch:
Vegetables: warm-season and cool-season crops that are transplanted and for direct-seeded crops that are seeded in hills such as cucumbers and squash
Use on a trial basis with any crop where black plastic mulch is used
Prepare the soil well. It should be smooth and pliable.
Do not lay the paper on dry soil. The beds should be firm.
To prevent tearing, adjust wheels on plastic laying machines so that they do not stretch the paper.
Reduce the speed of the tractor when laying paper.
Paper is more fragile than plastic; therefore when making holes through the paper with a bulb setter, a quick, sharp jab reduces tearing. Also, when the paper is in contact with a firm, flat soil surface, there is less risk of tearing at planting.