A new U.S. Department of Agriculture grant will allow Iowa State University to develop biorenewable and biodegradable plant containers. The $1.9 million project is led by Iowa State horticulture professor Bill Graves.
The High Plains/Midwest AG Journal reports that non-biodegradable plant containers are currently used for many crops, and replacing them will result in major annual savings:
“Nearly all specialty crops, including bedding plants, tomatoes and other vegetables, and containerized shrubs and trees that are purchased for residential gardening and landscaping, are grown and marketed in petroleum-based, conventional plastic containers. Few of those are recycled or reused,” said Graves. “Our vision is to provide sustainable alternatives that can meet the needs horticultural producers, and that will degrade harmlessly when installed with the plant in a garden.”
An estimated $706 million could be saved annually by the specialty crop industry by converting from petroleum-based containers to bioplastic containers, Graves said. Other benefits include shifting resource revenue from foreign oil to domestic biorenewables and eliminating adverse environmental effects of petroleum-based plastics.