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Title:Performance and environmental impacts of biocontainers in horticultural crop production systems
Author(s):Koeser, Andrew
Director of Research:Stewart, J. Ryan
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Stewart, J. Ryan
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Bullock, Donald G.; Hauer, Richard; Kling, Gary J.; Lovell, Sarah T.
Department / Program:Crop Sciences
Discipline:Crop Sciences
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):sustainable packaging
carbon footprint
Abstract:Market research has help to fuel an increased interest in plant-based biocontainers. Unlike the conventional plastic containers currently favored by greenhouse producers, biocontainers can be direct planted or composted after plant installation. While this effectively reduces landfill waste, biocontainers may influence other aspects of plant performance and production efficiency. Results of this work indicate that biocontainers impact growth both positively and negatively as compared to a conventional plastic control, depending on the plant species grown. Despite differences in aboveground size, plant visual condition remained similar for all containers tested. Containers varied in both strength and their ability to be processed in mechanized horticultural production systems. Injection molded plastic containers were the strongest of the containers tested. Other containers, such as peat, wood fiber, and manure had greatly reduced container strengths – especially when wet. These differences translated into greater damage rates during filling, handling, and shipping experiments. Plantable biocontainers (as compared to compostable) are marketed as a means of reducing labor costs and limiting transplant stress during installation. Outplanting trials showed aboveground plant growth differed by container in two of the three species tested (cleome and lantana). In these species, the conventional plastic control (removed at planting) was always in the top statistical grouping. This suggests direct-plant containers offer little benefit with regard to plant establishment and, in some cases, have the potential to hinder plant growth. When the results of the individual applied trials were combined into an overarching carbon footprint assessment of secondary impacts, little difference existed between the containers tested. While the container itself was a significant component of a final plant’s carbon footprint (17%), other factors like lighting played a much more significant role (over 45%) and deserve greater attention.
Issue Date:2013-05-24
Rights Information:Copyright 2013 Andrew Koeser
Date Available in IDEALS:2013-05-24
Date Deposited:2013-05

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