Mulch in crop may be defined as a protective covering (such as saw dust, bagasse, compost, gravel, dry grass, paper or plastic) spread on the soil around plants to reduce evaporation, maintain soil at an even temperature, prevent erosion, control weeds and depending on the material used, enrich the soil.
Although mulching is a simple and valuable practice, little or no importance is attached to it by most farmers. However, it should become an essential part of our farming system especially during the dry period because of its water conserving measures.
Advantages of Mulching
- Moisture retention due to the reduction of rainwater run-off and evaporation.
- Moisture conservation through weed control.
- Reduction of soil erosion caused by water or wind.
- Assistance in weed control by exclusion of light.
- Reduction of soil temperature.
- Addition of certain plant nutrients to the soil.
- Improvement of the soil structure when incorporated for follow-up crops.
- Provides padding on the soil for crops like tomato, watermelon and cantaloupe.
- Increase early and sometimes total yield.
- Reduces fertilizer leaching.
- Decreases soil compaction.
- Reduces fruit rot.
Disadvantages of Mulching
- Requires specialize equipment depending on material used.
- Increases preplant costs.
- Requires removal and disposal depending on material used.
- Provides shelter for pest and diseases caused by organisms such as Sclerotium and Phythium if not properly monitored.