The Agrimulchfilm Project

Background Information

The South Africa-based Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) is collaborating with the Nigeria-based Elizade University to develop an innovative biodegradable mulch film (BDM) to replace the polyethylene (PE) mulch film commonly used in crop farming.

Mulch films are a critical tool in crop farming as they optimise growing conditions for young crops while limiting weed growth. Africa’s mulch film industry has experienced a boom due to the increasing need to improve crop productivity as population growth increases demand for food. However, conventional PE mulch films are rarely recycled, due to economic costs and film contamination, and tend to end up as waste that is either burnt, landfilled, or stockpiled, and broken down into micro-plastics (micronised) in the soil/aquatic system. In addition to the negative impacts of plastic pollution on environmental health, studies have also suggested that micro-plastics could be detrimental to crop productivity due to alteration of the soil structure.

To address this challenge, the Agrimulchfilm Project is developing BDMs by using locally available natural polymers, such as starch and other additives, to replace the use of conventional PE mulch films. Whereas fragments of the conventional PE mulch films persist in the soil as micro-plastics, the BDMs can be ploughed back into the soil after the utility cycle and are fully biodegraded over time. The project aims to develop at least three BDM prototypes and accelerate their technology readiness towards commercialisation.

As the agriculture industry shifts towards more sustainable production methods, driven by climate change and the increasing consumer demand for green alternatives, BDMs represent an environmentally sound alternative to PE mulch films whose value proposition can be extended to the crop product users.

The primary outputs and targets for this project include:

  1. Develop three prototypes of biodegradable mulch film
  2. Technology demonstrator for at least one product ready for commercialisation
  3. Field trials of at least one prototype contributing to derisking its commercialisation

Updates

The project has successfully completed all phases and delivered its desired outputs, particularly the acceleration of the technology readiness levels of customisable biodegradable mulch film technology.

Three prototypes were developed with three different biodegradation rates – short-term, medium-term and long-term – with at least one prototype successfully tested in field trials and packaged into a technology package, ready for commercialisation. Engagements with BASF South Africa and with Plastech Industrial (Pty) Ltd are underway to ensure continued supply of base material and the licensing of the successful prototype, respectively.

The Elizade University also hosted a successful stakeholder workshop in Ondo State, Nigeria, on 24 March 2024 on the theme “The Adoption of Customised Biodegradable Mulch Films for Natural Soil Conditions in Agricultural System of Nigeria“. This workshop was attended by various representatives of the national government, the All Farmers Association of Nigeria, and members of agricultural-related organisation from across Nigeria.

Going forward, the project team will continue its research and development to optimise the prototypes to make BDM more affordable and efficient.

Connect with The Agrimulchfilm Project

Websites

Timeframe

January 2022 – March 2024

Status

Completed

Countries of Implementation

Consortium Partners

Showcase Resources

The Agrimulchfilm Project: Profile Sheet

Report on the Bayelsa State Advocacy Summit which aimed to explore the potential of customised biodegradable mulch films for sustainable agriculture development in Bayelsa State, Nigeria: Adoption of Customised Biodegradable Mulch Films for Natural Soil Conditions in Agricultural Systems of Nigeria: Advocacy Summit

CSIR Biodegradable Mulch Film Project: Market Analysis Report

CSIR Science Scope article: Good news for sustainable agriculture as biodegradable mulch film field trials start

Scroll to Top