Mater-Bi mulch film for processing tomato
Industrial tomatoes are the Mediterranean crop for excellence. Italy is the main European producer with more than 75,538 hectares in cultivation (Source: ISTAT, 2017), followed by Spain and Portugal.
The pioneer in this sector has been the Navarre region, in Spain, where now 80% of the mulching films used are biodegradable. In Italy the first major consortium to use MATER-BI mulch film in the Nnorth of Italy was CIO - the Consorzio Interregionale Ortofrutticoli. Increasing quantities of biodegradable film have been used in the south of Italy, in Apulia and Campania.
What drives the introduction of biodegradable films in agriculture?
In the Spanish region of Navarre approximately 2000 hectares of industrial tomatoes are grown, almost all of which are mulched. This plastic mulches were used and the films could not properly retrieve at the end of the crop cycle Most of the land used for tomatoes is rented out and for this reason has to be handed back clean. MATER-BI films offer an agriculturally and environmentally efficient alternative. Thanks to their biodegradability in soil MATER-BI, mulch films do not leave any residues in the fields and their mechanical and agricultural performance is the same as that of conventional plastic films. In 2009 the Navarre region also included biodegradable films in CMO (Common Market Organisation) environmental measures to support their use among Organisations of Producers, because of their environmental value.
In Italy, CIO - the Consorzio Interregionale Ortofrutticoli, has carried out extensive field experiments to check the effect of introducing biodegradable films in tomato growing, in the main areas devoted to the crop in northern Italy. In this case the cooperative set itself the aim of reducing the use of herbicides, resorting to a typical horticultural technique, mulching, using innovative materials such as MATER-BI that did not introduce further end-of-life operations, which were in any event impossible owing to the nature of the crop and its completely mechanical harvesting (removal and disposal of plastic mulching). Through MATER-BI mulching films weeds along rows were adequately controlled and other advantages for the crop also became apparent at the same time: in their roots mulched plants always developed a larger root system (due to the raised temperature and longer persistence of moisture beneath the film), and resulted in earlier cropping, a greater concentration of output, and superior yields as regards production per hectare. The technique has also been verified with organic crops, where weed control is undoubtedly one of the most problematical aspects and is normally performed mechanically. The solution proved to be particularly effective for this cultivation system. For the specific requirements of the areas of Southern Italy black and white or green films were developed; these films can be used in warm conditions to decrease the soil temperature and avoid adverse effects on the young plants.
In Apulia, out of 20 thousand hectares of industrial tomatoes approximately 4000 are now mulched, and 30% of these with MATER-BI. The area mulched with MATER-BI is intended for mechanised tomato harvesting, which would be impossible using conventional film because it would result in the jamming of mechanical parts.