09 Dec 2022
 | 09 Dec 2022

Organic and inorganic nitrogen amendments suppress decomposition of biodegradable plastic mulch films

Sreejata Bandopadhyay, Marie English, Marife B. Anunciado, Mallari Starrett, Jialin Hu, José E. Liquet y González, Douglas G. Hayes, Sean M. Schaeffer, and Jennifer M. DeBruyn

Abstract. Biodegradable mulch films (BDMs) are a sustainable and promising alternative to non-biodegradable polyethylene mulches used in crop production systems. Nitrogen amendments in the form of fertilizers are used by growers to enhance soil and plant-available nutrients, however, there is limited research on how these additions impact biodegradation of BDMs tilled into soils. A four-month soil microcosm study was used to investigate the effects of inorganic (ammonium nitrate) and organic (urea and amino acids) nitrogen application on biodegradable mulch decomposition. We investigated the response of soil bacterial, fungal and ammonia-oxidizing microbial abundance along with soil nitrogen pools and enzyme activities. Microcosms were comprised of soils from two diverse climates (Knoxville, TN, USA and Mount Vernon, WA, USA) and BioAgri, a biodegradable mulch film made of Mater-Bi®; a bioplastic raw material containing starch and poly(butylene adipate-co-terephthalate) (PBAT). Both organic and inorganic nitrogen amendments inhibited mulch decomposition, soil bacterial abundances and enzyme activities. The greatest inhibition of mulch biodegradation in TN soils was observed with urea amendment where biodegradation was reduced by about 6 % compared to the no-nitrogen control. In WA soils, all nitrogen amendments suppressed biodegradation by about 1 % compared to the no-nitrogen control. Ammonia monooxygenase amoA gene abundances were increased in TN soils in all treatments, but reduced for all treatments in WA soils. However, a significantly higher nitrate and lower ammonium concentration was seen for all nitrogen treatments compared to no-nitrogen controls in both TN and WA. This study suggests that addition of nitrogen, particularly inorganic amendments, could negatively affect mulch decomposition but that mulch decomposition does not negatively affect soil nitrification activity.

Sreejata Bandopadhyay et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2022-1333', Anonymous Referee #1, 21 Jan 2023
    • AC2: 'Reply on RC1', Jennifer DeBruyn, 17 Apr 2023
  • RC2: 'Comment on egusphere-2022-1333', Anonymous Referee #2, 20 Mar 2023
    • AC1: 'Reply on RC2', Jennifer DeBruyn, 17 Apr 2023

Sreejata Bandopadhyay et al.

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Sreejata Bandopadhyay et al.


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Short summary
We added organic and inorganic nitrogen amendments to two soil types in a laboratory incubation study in order to understand how that would impact biodegradable plastic mulch (BDM) decomposition. We found that nitrogen amendments, particularly urea and inorganic nitrogen, suppressed BDM degradation in both soil types. However, we found limited impact of BDM addition on soil nitrification, suggesting that overall microbial processes were not compromised due to the addition of BDMs.