INTEGRATED PLASTICULTURE TECHNOLOGIES FOR PROFITABLE HORTICULTURE

A. K. Goswami, A. Nagaraja and Madhubala Thakre
Division of Fruits and Horticultural Technology, IARI, New Delhi


The word 'PLASTIC' is derived from the Greek words 'PLASSIEN' and 'PLASTIKOS' meaning to mould or shape a soft substance permanent or temporary. Plastic encompasses a wide variety of resins or polymers with varied characteristics. While there are natural polymers but only synthetic polymers are referred as plastics. Plastic has become a popular material in our daily life due to its structural integrity, chemical property and versatile nature. Plastic has many valuable applications in high-tech horticulture includes drip irrigation, plastic mulches, packaging and storage for superior quality of produce and in post harvest management. The term plasticulture is defined as the use of plastics in agriculture. This broad term would include plastic film mulches, drip irrigation, row covers, low tunnels, high tunnels, silage bags, hay bale wraps, and plastic trays and pots used in transplant and bedding plant production. Use of plastic in horticulture crop production has increased dramatically in the last ten years even though the number of agricultural plastic manufactures has been reduced by 40% over the same period. The use of plasticulture in the production of horticultural crops (vegetables, small fruits, flowers, tree fruits, and ornamentals) helps to mitigate the sometime extreme fluctuations in weather, especially temperature, rainfall and wind, which occurs in many parts of our country.


Beneficial properties of plastics include:

Extreme versatility
Lighter weight than competing materials, reducing fuel consumption during transportation
Extreme durability
Resistance to chemicals, water and temperature
Good safety and hygiene properties for food packaging
Excellent thermal and electrical insulation properties
Relatively inexpensive to produce

Use of plastics in Horticulture

1. Drip irrigation
2. Mulching
3. Plastic for raising planting material
4. Green house
5. Low Tunnel polyhouse
6. Shading net house
7. Packaging
8. Floating row cover

Drip irrigation is the most efficient method of irrigating. While sprinkler systems are around 75-85% efficient, drip systems typically are 90% or higher. Water is supplied through a network of pipe using dripper/emitters. Water is supplied at a regular interval and at a required time/ quantity. Since evaporation and conveyance losses are negligible, water use efficiency under DMI is over 90%. Another use of plastic is mulching which is a practice of covering the soil around the plant with an organic or inorganic material / synthetic material which make condition more favourable for plant growth and development. Low tunnels are miniature form of greenhouses to protect the plants from rains, winds, low temperature, frost and other vagaries. Plastic also used for raising planting material include polythene bags, plug trays, grower pots, growing media pots etc.

Future Thrust

Encouragement of environmentally degradable material in horticulture required promotional policies as well as awareness among growers. Availability of low cost construction material for polyhouse/ greenhouse as well as reuse and recycling of used agricultural plastic waste and design of equipment and system for precise application of water, fertilizer and agrochemical to meet crop requirement is urgent need of the hour. Plastic based system for storage and handling of horticultural produce and production of eco-friendly plastics and eco-friendly disposal of waste plastic kept in mind for popularization of plasticulture in horticulture.


References

Agrawal, N. and Agrawal, S. 2005. Effect of drip irrigation and mulches on the growth and yield of banana cv. Dwarf Cavendish. Indian Journal of Horticulture, 62 (3): 238-240.
Singh, R. and Asrey, R. 2007. Cultivating strawberry the plasticulture way. Indian Horticulture, 52 (2): 6-7.

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