'White revolution' to 'white pollution'—agricultural plastic film mulch in China

Plastic film mulching has played an important role in Chinese agriculture due to its soil warming and moisture conservation effects. With the help of plastic film mulch technology, grain and cash crop yields have increased by 20–35% and 20–60%, respectively. The area of plastic film coverage in China reached approximately 20 million hectares, and the amount of plastic film used reached 1.25 million tons in 2011. While producing huge benefits, plastic film mulch technology has also brought on a series of pollution hazards. Large amounts of residual plastic film have detrimental effects on soil structure, water and nutrient transport and crop growth, thereby disrupting the agricultural environment and reducing crop production. To control pollution, the Chinese government urgently needs to elevate plastic film standards. Meanwhile, research and development of biodegradable mulch film and multi-functional mulch recovery machinery will help promote effective control and management of residual mulch pollution.

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