Fraises fraîches et saines sur un paillis de plastique pour le contrôle naturel des mauvaises herbes.

microplastics destroy the bacterial fauna of the soil

At the same time as the climate changeagricultural engineers have developed new agricultural techniques. As the classic mulch is sometimes no longer sufficient to preserve the permanent humidity of the soil, they then developed the plastic mulch. Thanks to this new technique, farmers are now able to warm the ground all in saving water and in limiting the proliferation of weeds. Used in agricultural and horticultural production, it allows in particular accelerate the growth of cultivated plants and to prevent the fruit from touching the ground.

Mulching with plastic film is become very popular and has been widely applied in the whole world. However, experts have found that the microplastic used when mulching inevitably deteriorates in the environment and is not weather resistant. Nevertheless, impact of these tiny plastic particles on the environment is still unknown and raises many concerns.

Recently, researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences have launched a study in order to find out how the bacterial community in the soil reacts in contact with these plastic particles.

Microplastic pollution changes soil bacterial populations

The Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS) is located in Beijing. This Chinese agricultural research institution recently set up a Research Team led by WANG Guanghua of the Institute of Geography and Agroecology (IGA). Their objective was to determine to what extent the plastic films used for mulching impact the bacterial flora of the ground.

Fresh healthy strawberries on plastic mulch for natural weed control.

In particular, the researchers found that the soil pollution by microplastics significantly alters the population of bacteria in the soil. They also noticed that plastic materials conventional and biodegradable produce the same effect on the bacterial flora of the soil. This modification depends not only on the exposure time to plastic molecules, but also to the quantity of particles present in the soil.

A potential threat to soil health for the next ten years

Published in the Journal of Hazardous Materials, the results of this study revealed that the most dominant factor in the modification of the bacterial population is the incubation time. However, a dosage 1% microplastics enough to produce harmful effects on soil bacteria.

A scientist with gloves examines a soil sample in a petri dish.

WANG Guanghua claimed that these microplastic particles could constitute a huge threat for soil health and therefore ultimately undermine food security. Indeed, the amount of plastics released into the ground can only increase over the next ten years and reduce bacterial diversity in the soil.


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