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Mulching in Crop Production

Posted by Sanjeeva Reddy on

                                 Mulching

Mulching is the process of covering the soil around the plant root zone to protect the roots from adverse micro climatic conditions. Mulch cover creates an atmosphere for the plant to perform at its best by maintaining the soil moisture, Soil temperature, humidity, carbon di oxide enrichment and increased soil microbial performance in the soil.

                    Mulching materials       

Various materials like dry leaf, paddy straw, paddy husk, jowar trash, saw dust, dry grass, dry sugarcane leaves, dry coconut leaves, coconut husk and paper may be used as mulch and though beneficial but easy availability is the challenge. Recent days the plastic mulch is taking high scope due to its easily availability, easier handling, transporting and laying. Now a days LDPE and LLDPE plastic films are commonly used for mulching.

            Mulching materials paper

Benefits of Mulching

  • Conserves soil moisture and temperature providing conducive environment for plant growth.

                                   moisture reduction

                                 Weed suppression in mulching

  • Reduces soil compaction caused by equipment and people soil erosion from wind or water
  • Prevents leaching of fertilizers and reduces cost of cultivation

                                 Fertiliser losses reduction

  • Reduces incidence of disease by protecting above-ground plant parts from splashes that carry soil-borne inoculum
  • Improves quality of produce, reduces fruit rot by eliminating contact between fruit and soil
  • Reduces winter injury by minimizing temperature variation, reducing water loss in plants.
  • Provides conducive environment for plant growth
  • Improves seed germination

                             Seed germination

Types of Mulches

Mulches can be generally categorised to two types based on the materials used for mulch

     

Organic Mulches:

Organic materials like dry leaf, paddy straw, paddy husk, jowar trash, saw dust, dry grass, dry sugarcane leaves, dry coconut leaves, coconut husk etc., and Organic mulches are safe as they will get decomposed into soil but their availability is the issue.

                       Organic mulches

Inorganic Mulches:

Non organic materials like plastic films are used for mulch, then they can be called as inorganic mulches. Plastic mulches availability is easier and affordable but disposal is a problem.

                       Inorganic mulches

Plastic mulches are available in different types

 

  1. Black Mulch
  2. Clear or transparent mulches
  3. Two – side colour mulches – Yellow / Black, White/Black, Silver/Black, Red/Black
  4. Degradable Mulches – Photo – degradable, Bio degradable

 

Black Mulch

Black mulch paper helps in effective control of weeds as the black plastic mulch does not allow sunlight to pass through onto the soil. This will arrest the photosynthesis under the sheet, hence the weed growth is arrested completely. Black mulch also helps in controlling the soil moisture reducing the water requirement but soil temperature may be raised under the mulch sheet.

                      Black plastic mulch

Clear and Transparent Mulch

Clear or transparent mulch film will allow the sunlight to pass through giving scope to weeds to grow. Herbicide coating on inner side may help in managing then weeds.

                           Transperant plastic mulch paper

This mulch film sheet may be used for soil solarisation for disinfection killing the plant pathogenic organisms and weeds. Mostly the clear mulches are used in seedling raising nurseries to solarize the soil of seed beds which will give 100 % disease free seed germination.

Two side colour mulch

Two side colour mulch  are photo sensitive films designed in such a way that they can absorb specific wavelengths of sunlight, changes the band of the sunlight which passes through the film and the light is reflected back on the plant foliage having effect on micro climate of plant canopy.

               Two side coloured mulch

The reflected light have a special property which have noticeable effect on growth and development of the crops.

Yield parameters like time of flowering, fertilization, fruit size, fruit colour, fruit weight, the taste will be improved along with healthy plant growth.

                      Best flower and fruit set due to mulch effect

Silver/black coloured mulch  compared to black mulches, re-emit less heat, providing little less lower leaf temperatures.

These mulch paper reflects more ultraviolet rays, which have capacity to repel insects like aphids, thrips & whiteflies, which transmits viruses.

                                    Sucking pests control with mulch

Bi-colour mulches like white/black, silver/black, and aluminized black mulches generally maintain little cooler root-zone temperatures and hence suitable for most of the states of India.

Effects of some of the coloured mulches are given below:

Yellow/black coloured mulch – attracts certain insects & thus acts as a trap for them, which prevents disease.

White/black coloured mulch – Cools the soil and very much suitable to the plains with high temperature and lesser water resources.

                                     Black white mulch

Silver/black coloured mulch – Cools the soil, may not be as white and black coloured but can repel aphids, whiteflies & thrips.

Plastic films are laid before crop planting or transplanting. This includes preparation of seed bed, spread of mulch film and anchoring of edges of the film. These operations, if done manually, become very time consuming, costly & tedious. Therefore, tractor mounted mulch laying machines have been developed and are in use.

                                    Mulch layer machine

The holes may be made using the Mulch hole makers

                                    Mulch hole maker

K SANJEEVA REDDY,

Senior Agronomist, BigHaat.

For more information kindly call on 8050797979 or give missed call on 180030002434 during office hours 10 AM to 5 PM

Disclaimer: The performance of the product (s) is subject to usage as per manufacturer guidelines. Read enclosed leaflet of the product(s) carefully before use. The use of this product(s)/ information is at the discretion of user.


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