Walki’s brand-new fibre-based soil mulching solution has successfully completed its first round of field-testing in Finland. Now, this new biodegradable mulching paper, known as Walki®Agripap, is ready to be trialled on the major European mulching markets.
It is estimated that more than a million tonnes of plastic films are used for mulching every year around the world. Mulch is a layer of material applied to the surface of an area of soil. It is designed to conserve moisture, improve the fertility and health of the soil and control weed growth.
Walki®Agripap is the first-ever organic mulching solution that has been made from natural biodegradable fibres. While traditional soil mulching solutions are made from plastic, and, most typically, from polyethylene film, Walki’s brand-new Agripap uses paper to achieve the same results. Although polyethylene is widely recognised to be effective, the drawback of plastic mulch is that it is not biodegradable.
Whereas Walki®Agripap eventually gets absorbed into the soil, the plastic mulch becomes waste material that has to be removed from the field and dumped or recycled at a high cost. Moreover, the mulch often leaves behind plastic residues, which pollute the soil and reduce its future growth potential. Yields from polluted soil are typically up to 20 per cent lower than those from non-polluted soil.
“Walki’s Agripap solution is the only organic mulch type on the market that is made from paper instead of plastic. It is entirely biodegradable, does not contribute to plastic pollution and, instead, simply dissolves into the soil," says Walki’s Vice President Technical Products, Sales & Marketing, Arno Wolff.
Last year, Walki®Agripap underwent its first round of field-testing in Finland. The tests, which were carried out by independent research institute Luke Piikkiö, compared the performance of different biodegradable mulches for growing iceberg lettuce and seedling onions. The tests demonstrated that Walki’s Agripap was easy to lay in the fields and delivered excellent weed control. The results in terms of yield and durability were also good.
Wolff explains that, following the successful approval of Walki®Agripap in Finland and Sweden, the next step will be put it to the test on Europe’s main mulching markets: Spain, France and Italy. In order to prove the efficacy of the product, and, if necessary, further develop it for different climatic conditions, Walki plans to partner with equipment manufacturers and farmers with an interest in testing the new product.
“Walki developed this product because, having seen the kind of environmental impact that plastic film can have on the soil, it’s clear that there is a need for a more sustainable mulching solution," explains Peter Martin, Technical Service & Development Director, Industrial Packaging.
“Agripap can be used in more or less exactly the same way as traditional mulch films, requiring only some minor adjustment to the machinery that is used to lay the paper in the fields," he continues. “However, this biodegradable mulch doesn’t have to be removed by the farmer before the next season starts."
According to Wolff, the greatest advantage of Walki®Agripap is that the paper is made entirely from renewable raw materials and is fully biodegradable.
“It causes no soil pollution and reduces the need for weed control chemicals," he adds. “As for the farmers, they benefit enormously from less material handling and not having to collect the material or send it to landfill or for recycling."
“Agripap is the perfect alternative for the farmers who care about our environment," concludes Martin.