Journal of Polymers and the Environment

, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 109–122 | Cite as

Performance and Environmental Impact of Biodegradable Films in Agriculture: A Field Study on Protected Cultivation

  • Anu Kapanen
  • Evelia SchettiniEmail author
  • Giuliano Vox
  • Merja Itävaara
Original Paper


The performance, the degradability in soil and the environmental impact of biodegradable starch-based soil mulching and low tunnel films were assessed by means of field and laboratory tests. The lifetime of the biodegradable mulches was 9 months and of the biodegradable low-tunnel films 6 months. The radiometric properties of the biodegradable films influenced positively the microclimate: air temperature under the biodegradable low tunnel films was 2 °C higher than under the low density polyethylene films, resulting in an up to 20% higher yield of strawberries. At the end of the cultivation period, the biodegradable mulches were broken up and buried in the field soil together with the plant residues. One year after burial, less than 4% of the initial weight of the biodegradable film was found in the soil. According to ecotoxicity tests, the kinetic luminescent bacteria test with Vibrio fischeri and the Enchytraeus albidus ISO/CD 16387 reproduction potential, there was no evidence of ecotoxicity in the soil during the biodegradation process. Furthermore, there was no change in the diversity of ammonia-oxidizing bacteria in the soil determined on the basis of the appearance of amoA gene diversity in denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis.


Starch based material Radiometric properties Biotest Microbial community Ammonia-oxidizing bacteria 



The work has been carried out under the project “Environmentally friendly mulching and Low tunnel cultivation- BIOPLASTICS” funded by the European Commission (EC RTD QLRT, Contract n° QLK5-CT-2000-00044). The responsibility for designing and carrying out this investigation was shared equally among the authors: the radiometric and microclimate aspects were studied by Schettini and Vox, and the soil ecotoxicity and microbial community aspects by Kapanen and Itävaara. Marjo Öster and Asta Pesonen at VTT are thanked for their skilful laboratory work in the ecotoxicological and molecular analyses, and Michele Cosmo at the Department PROGESA for his co-operation in the spectrophotometric measurements.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anu Kapanen
    • 1
  • Evelia Schettini
    • 2
    Email author
  • Giuliano Vox
    • 2
  • Merja Itävaara
    • 1
  1. 1.VTT Technical Research Centre of FinlandVTT-EspooFinland
  2. 2.Department of Engineering and Management of the Agricultural, Livestock and Forest Systems (PROGESA)University of BariBariItaly

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