What is Mulching?
Mulching is the process of covering the upper surface of the soil for weed control and retaining soil moisture that is available to plants. Mulching in agriculture indirectly acts as a contributor to soil fertility. In agriculture, mulching is either done organically or inorganically, also mulching may be permanent or temporary based mupon farmer’s preference. Compost, dry leaves, hay, straw, sawdust, plastic sheets, wood chips are some of the materials generally used for mulching. There is a lot of importance of mulching in agriculture. Mulching plays a major role in suppressing weed growth, retaining soil moisture, improving soil fertility, in controlling pest surveillance and in altering soil temperature which ultimately paves the way for increased crop growth and yield. Mulching is done in the cultivation of vegetable crops such as tomato, brinjal, potato, cauliflower, capsicum, okra and fruit crops like guava, pomegranate, peach which shows high yield records than under normal cultivation practices.
There are many queries regarding mulching in agriculture like a mulching sheet, stubble mulching, blades, mulching film, mulching machine. However, we will clear all your queries over here.
Examples of mulching materials: There are various types of mulching materials
Mulching in Hindi: आवरण फसल (Avaran fasal – Cover Crop), एंव पलवार (evam palwar – Mulching)
Methods of mulching
There are 6-8 types of mulching viz., given below
Organic mulching: Usually mulching is done with the organic materials such as dry leaves, straw, sawdust, compost, Newspaper, grass clippings. The thickness of mulching will be from 2 cm to 6 cm, depending upon the type of mulching materials. Mulching done with the help of organic materials are known as organic mulching.
Inorganic mulching: In most of the perennial crops mulching is done with inorganic materials like gravels, pebbles, crushed stones, plastic sheets, and plastic films. The thickness of gravels and pebbles mulch is 3-4cm. This kind of mulching is inorganic mulching.
Types of Mulching
Surface mulching: Mulch materials are spreader over the surface of the soil to retain soil moisture.
Dust mulching: Dusts are created during intercultural operation, which breaks the soil capillaries and thereby reducing the soil moisture evaporation.
Vertical mulching: Mainly practiced in sloppy regions. A trench of 30 cm depth and 15 cm width is done with a vertical interval of 30 cm.
Polythene mulching: Along the rows of planted land or around tree trunk the plastic sheets are spread.
Pebble mulching: The soil surface is covered with pebbles which improve the aesthetic view of the surface of gardens and also prevents the transfer of heat from the atmosphere.
Live vegetative barriers: Along the contour line, subabul and gliricidia are grown as vegetative barriers, when the branches of these plants are cut and spread as mulch it additionally adds the supply of nitrogen to the cultivated crop. These are also known as mulching plants.
How to do mulching?
The mulch materials are to be spread around the plant and between the rows for larger plants. In the case of smaller plants, the mulch materials are spread between the rows and also around the plant but not too close to the base in order to avoid disease incidence.
Generally, drip irrigation is suitable for mulched land. The laterals are to be laid under the mulch. For intercropped areas, laterals can be laid above the mulch for adjusting the emitters.
How to dispose the mulch sheets
Disposal of mulch materials is done properly in order not to contaminate the soil. The organic and some degradable inorganic mulch material get degraded in the soil. Plastic mulch materials are not degraded by the soil, so proper disposal of those materials are very important.
Benefits of mulching
There are many advantages of mulching that are given below
Controls weed growth: Organic mulching or plastic mulching can be done to prevent weed growth. As it prevents the penetration of sunlight which is most essential for weed seed germination and photosynthesis. Thus eliminates weeds growth.
Holds soil moisture: During hot and dry climate, mulching prevents the entry of direct sunlight towards the soil this preventing evaporation of soil moisture and also keeps the soil cooler. In another hand, mulching prevents the rainwater run-off, which ultimately increases the amount of rainwater that penetrates the soil. Mulching makes soil looser and further increasing the soil to hold much more water. This increases plant growth by withstanding drought.
Prevents soil erosion: Mulching prevents the raindrop from directly splashing over the soil and washing away that soil. Instead, allows the rainwater to penetrate.
Adds organic matter: The soil is the habitat of millions and millions of microbes, where organic materials act as a source of their surveillance. Organic mulching acts as the source for the microbes present in soil and turn, the microbe fetches nutrients to the plant uptake in available form, increasing the soil productivity.
Improves soil structure: The added organic matter to the soil surface produces slimes and gums which help to improve the soil form and thereby stabilizing soil structure. The increased microbes in the soil create a passage for the penetration of soil and water, thus soil gets to loosen up. This makes the root penetration easier. Earthworm “farmer friend” gets multiplied and makes soil looser and more porous.
Improves soil nutrients: Mulching prevents the leaching of nutrients due to heavy rain. It decays and fixes soil nutrients and making the nutrients available to plant uptake.
Disadvantages in mulching/ Cons of Mulching
- In some cases, mulches provide a suitable habitat for pests. Some harmful insects, mice, rats, rabbits, snakes prefer to be in thick mulches.
- Certain mulch materials are not cost-effective.
- Heavy mulching sometimes leads to accumulating high moisture and thus preventing the aeration in the root zone.
- Nitrogen may get locked up in the bacteria that are decaying the organic.
- This nitrogen deficiency makes plants more susceptible to diseases.
- Mulches make difficulties in irrigating crops by flooding. So, farmers have to shift to the drip irrigation system.
- Mulching is laborious work and also requires a large number of mulch materials.
Conclusion: Mulching promotes plant growth and yields through minimizing intercultural operation such as weeding and retaining soil moisture. However, these advantages over mulching help to come across some of its disadvantages.