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The Role of Plastics in Agricultural Applications

The growing use of plastics in agriculture has assisted farmers to improve crop quality, increase food production, and even mitigate the ecological footprint. Thanks to the use of plastics, crops can even be planted in desert regions, they can be grown in different seasons, the temperature can be maintained and insects can be prevented from attacking the crops.

The different plastics that are used in agriculture are the following:

  • Polyolefins (polyethylenes (PE)
  • Polycarbonate (PC)
  • Polypropylene (PP)
  • Poly-vinyl chloride (PVC)
  • Ethylene-Vinyl Acetate Copolymer (EVA)
  • Poly-methyl-methacrylate (PMMA)

Let us now understand the role of plastics in various agricultural applications:

1) Silage

Plastic films were developed so that grains for animal feed and straw could be stored during the winter season. Plastic films that are used to store silage are lightweight and resistant to extreme temperatures. Silage can be stored for long periods of time and could be transported to different places due to the lightweight property of plastics.

2) Plastic Reservoirs & Irrigation Systems

When combined, plastic irrigation systems and reservoirs have made an important contribution when it comes to water management. Water can be conveniently stored on dams and the dams can be covered with plastics materials to prevent leakage. The water can then be distributed via plastic PVC pipes to water circulation and irrigation systems.

3) Mulching

Mulching is the process of covering the soil to ensure it does not degrade over time. Plastic films are used to help maintain the humidity and reduce the evaporation of water from the soil. This also enhances the thermal conditions for the plants, prevents weeds from growing, and preserves the nutrients of the soil.

4) Low Tunnels

Low tunnels are made from plastic nets and have similar functionality as that of a greenhouse, except for their height and complexity. These plastic nets can protect crops from insects and extreme weather conditions. Some common crops that are cultivated with plastic net low tunnels are watermelons, asparagus, and strawberries.

Recycling and Recovery Opportunities

The best part about plastics that are used for agriculture is that they can be recycled at the end of their life cycle. They can even be retrieved from the fields to be washed to remove soil particles, pesticides and then be ground into pellets. These pellets can later be used in the manufacture of outdoor furniture.

In conclusion, you can see how plastics have served the agriculture industry over the years. With proper recycling methods, plastics will continue to play a vital role in agriculture and drive new innovation in the agriculture industry.

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