Impact of plastic mulch film debris on soil physicochemical and hydrological properties

Yueling Qi*, Nicolas Beriot, Gerrit Gort, Esperanza Huerta Lwanga, Harm Gooren, Xiaomei Yang, Violette Geissen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The plastic mulch films used in agriculture are considered to be a major source of the plastic residues found in soil. Mulching with low-density polyethylene (LDPE) is widely practiced and the resulting macro- and microscopic plastic residues in agricultural soil have aroused concerns for years. Over the past decades, a variety of biodegradable (Bio) plastics have been developed in the hope of reducing plastic contamination of the terrestrial ecosystem. However, the impact of these Bio plastics in agroecosystems have not been sufficiently studied. Therefore, we investigated the impact of macro (around 5 mm) and micro (<1 mm) sized plastic debris from LDPE and one type of starch-based Bio mulch film on soil physicochemical and hydrological properties. We used environmentally relevant concentrations of plastics, ranging from 0 to 2% (w/w), identified by field studies and literature review. We studied the effects of the plastic residue on a sandy soil for one month in a laboratory experiment. The bulk density, porosity, saturated hydraulic conductivity, field capacity and soil water repellency were altered significantly in the presence of the four kinds of plastic debris, while pH, electrical conductivity and aggregate stability were not substantially affected. Overall, our research provides clear experimental evidence that microplastics affect soil properties. The type, size and content of plastic debris as well as the interactions between these three factors played complex roles in the variations of the measured soil parameters. Living in a plastic era, it is crucial to conduct further interdisciplinary studies in order to have a comprehensive understanding of plastic debris in soil and agroecosystems.

Original languageEnglish
Article number115097
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
Volume266
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020

Keywords

  • Agricultural soil
  • Biodegradable plastic
  • Microplastics
  • Plastic pollution
  • Soil quality

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