New biodegradable, linseed straw mat hoped to transform future of Australia's agriculture and farming industries

Oct 16, 2012
CSIRO Researcher Dr Malcolm Miao with the new weed biodegradable mat.

Made from linseed straw, the CSIRO mat is 100% organic, and unlike conventional black plastic matting, completely biodegrades.

The mat has been developed as part of the 's National Weeds and Productivity Research Program, managed by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC).

Sixty million square metres of plastic weed mats are used in horticulture, gardens and parks, and homes across Australia each year but most will never completely decompose, according to environmental consulting group AgEconPlus, a partner in the research program.

Recent trials of the CSIRO weed mat showed that it safely biodegrades. Tests also show that because the linseed material retains moisture, the soil under the mat stays healthy and encourages worm activity.

The matting is made using high pressure water jets tha link the fibres together to form a compact fabric. Researchers believe it could also be made using other materials, such as hemp or banana fibre.

Biodegradable weed mat developed in conjunction with Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation.

Preliminary testing by CSIRO in Geelong showed that the weed mat degraded over a few months, allowing the mat to be absorbed into the soil.

"Other benefits of the weed mat were that it effectively retains moisture, allows rainfall to soak into the soil, reduces evaporation, and boosts beneficial worm activity," Research Program Leader Dr Stuart Lucas said.

"We believe the CSIRO mat will encourage much healthier soil. Unlike other black polyethylene weed mats, which can remain underground for years, the CSIRO mat is made from and will disintegrate and compost into the soil at the end of its life," he added.

CSIRO Researcher Dr Malcolm Miao said that the technology could be a major benefit to growers involved with organic and biodynamic production across the horticultural sector as well as manufacturers and suppliers of agricultural and garden products.

"In addition to weed mats, this type of fabric may have a number of other end uses which could potentially benefit other industries. For example, we feel this fabric could be used to create the eco shopping bags of the future, minimising the use of synthetics which reusable shopping bags are currently made from," he said.

The weed mat was one of more than 50 research projects funded under the National Weeds and Productivity Research Program, which ended on 30 June 2012.

The RIRDC Weeds Program invested A$12.4 million in research aimed at improving the knowledge and understanding of weeds, as well as providing land managers with new tools to control weeds and reduce their impact on agriculture and biodiversity.

The biodegradable weed mat development requires further trialling to establish broad acre applications for a range of crops. It is not commercially available at this time.

Explore further: Oregon food label measure headed for recount

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Warming could change South Australia's weed pests

May 20, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Hotter temperatures and reduced rainfall in South Australia due to climate change could prompt a period of 'weed change' across the state, according to a new report from CSIRO.

Beetles play an important role in reducing weeds

Jul 25, 2011

Researchers funded by the UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and the French Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA) have found that ground beetles reduce the amount of weed seeds in the ...

New Delta invader threatens to clog waterways, pumps

Dec 22, 2011

WALNUT CREEK, Calif.-An invasive weed just now taking hold in the Delta could clog water delivery pumps and marinas on a scale never seen here before, but state officials say they are nearly hamstrung in trying to deal ...

Climate change may wake up 'sleeper' weeds

Apr 15, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Climate change will cause some of Australia’s potential weeds to move south by up to 1000km, according to a report by scientists at CSIRO’s Climate Adaptation Flagship.

Biodegradable mulch films on the horizon

Feb 26, 2009

In 1999, more than 30 million acres of agricultural land worldwide were covered with plastic mulch, and those numbers have been increasing significantly since then. With the recent trend toward "going green", ...

Recommended for you

How can we avoid kelp beds turning into barren grounds?

2 hours ago

Urchins are marine invertebrates that mould the biological richness of marine grounds. However, an excessive proliferation of urchins may also have severe ecological consequences on marine grounds as they ...

Genomes of malaria-carrying mosquitoes sequenced

17 hours ago

Nora Besansky, O'Hara Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of Notre Dame and a member of the University's Eck Institute for Global Health, has led an international team of scientists in sequencing ...

Bitter food but good medicine from cucumber genetics

17 hours ago

High-tech genomics and traditional Chinese medicine come together as researchers identify the genes responsible for the intense bitter taste of wild cucumbers. Taming this bitterness made cucumber, pumpkin ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.