Fruit quality the focus of new biodegradable mulch research

By Cathy McKenzie, WSU Mount Vernon

DeVetter-80MOUNT VERNON, Wash. – Biodegradable mulches provide eco-friendly benefits to the agriculture industry, but the effects on fruit quality of these weed-controlling, moisture-preserving products are largely unknown.

Lisa Wasko DeVetter leads a WSU team that will research the impacts of biodegradable mulches on fruit quality. (Photo by Kim Binczewski)

A recently awarded, two-year, $40,000 Washington State University grant will fund a study about the migration of chemical constituents from deteriorating biodegradable mulches (BDMs) to developing fruits.

“We would like to help growers and mulch manufacturers gain confidence, validated through research, that growing crops with BDMs allows for the production of a delicious and safe product for consumers,” said Lisa Wasko DeVetter, lead scientist on the study.

“Additional questions remain about the application of these products in organic agriculture, which needs critical review,” said DeVetter, who leads the small fruit horticulture program at WSU Mount Vernon.

Evaluation and migration

DeVetter will work with Carol Miles, professor of horticulture at WSU Mount Vernon, and Shyam Sablani, associate professor of biological systems engineering at WSU Pullman. Miles will assist with evaluation of the mulch treatments, while Sablani will measure chemical migration in strawberry fruits, the model crop used in this experiment.

“A master’s student will complete this project as part of his/her thesis research and will be advised by both Drs. Miles and Sablani,” DeVetter said.

History of research on biodegradable mulches

The grant is one of eight to “Emerging Research Issues” awarded by the WSU College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences. The projects take innovative approaches to resolve significant issues – including social and economic factors – faced by the state’s agricultural industries.

The study continues a history of research at WSU Mount Vernon on biodegradable mulches in horticultural crop production conducted by Miles and vegetable pathologist Debra Inglis.


Lisa Wasko DeVetter, WSU Mount Vernon horticulture, 360-848-6124,

Carol Miles, WSU Mount Vernon horticulture, 360-848-6150,

Shyam Sablani, WSU Pullman biological systems engineering, 509-335-7745,