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Bacteria-based Bioplastics Have Agricultural Benefits

Virginia Tech research focuses on a completely biodegradable material that can replace traditional films used to cover crops and mulch.

A new video posted by Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) points to research at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS). Overseen by Prof. Rebecca Cockrum assisted by grad student Hailey Galyon, the research aims to develop bioplastic materials from bacteria to replace single-use plastics used on farms.

Completely biodegradable, the material comes from a unique source: bacteria.

It’s said to be ideal as a cover for crops and mulch to replace traditional single-use plastic films. Notably, the bioplastic is much more animal friendly — it avoids problems for ruminates aka cattle, goats, and sheep, which eat available sources that can include plastics that are not digested.

“While you may not see health problems with the animals during their lifetime, it reduces their feed intake and production,” says Galyon.

It would provide a novel, polymer-driven pathway for farms to reduce their carbon footprint and increase sustainability.

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