Mulching in general is a beneficial practice for crop production. Mulch is simply a protective layer of a material that is spread on top of the soil. It enriches and protects soil and provides a better growing environment. At the same time it acts as barriers to movement of moisture out of the soil. Mulches support infiltration of runoff and irrigation water as the mulches protect the soil surface from the impact of raindrops preventing soil crusting.
The development of polyethylene as a plastic film in 1938 and its subsequent introduction as a plastic mulch in the early 1950s revolutionized the commercial production of selected vegetable crops. Throughout the succeeding years, research, extension, and industry personnel, together with growers, have documented the advantages of using plastic mulch as one component of a complete “intensive” vegetable production system. A variety of vegetables such as muskmelons, honeydews, watermelons, squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, okra, sweet corn, and cole crops have shown significant increases in earliness, total yield, and quality.
1. Protects the soil from erosion.
2. Reduces compaction from the impact of heavy rains.
3. Conserves moisture by reducing soil moisture loss through evaporation. It also reduces the need for frequent watering.
4. Maintains a more even soil temperature.
5. Prevents weed germination and growth.
6. Keeps fruits and vegetables clean.
7. Insulates soil, protecting roots from extreme summer and winter temperatures
8. Can improve soil biology, aeration, structure (aggregation of soil particles), and drainage over time
9. Can improve soil fertility as certain mulch types decompose.
10. Insect-pest reduction.
11. Minimize the insect vectors of viral disease.
12. Minimize other fungal and bacterial disease.
Source: Biotech Articles