Cooperative Extension team seeks better compostable plant containers

Conducting research at University of Nevada, Reno Main Station Farm

9/6/2013 - By: Claudene Wharton
Heidi Kratsch, Cooperative Extension Cooperative Extension’s Heidi Kratsch examines the remains of a new bioplastic, compostable plant pot.

Heidi Kratsch, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension horticulture specialist, and her team are conducting research on possible new soy- and corn-based alternatives for bioplastic, compostable plant containers. 

About 300 bell pepper plants and marigold plants were started in 16 different types of alternative pots earlier this year, and then planted, with the pots, in the ground at the University of Nevada, Reno Main Station Farm, part of the University's College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources. The morning of Sept. 10, Kratsch and her volunteers will measure the height and width of the marigold plants grown in the different pots, as well as rate them in overall quality on a scale of 0 to 5. 

The research is part of a five-year, four-state project seeking to find a better alternative to compostable plant pots currently on the market - ones that will perform well in various soils, including those low in organic matter, such as Nevada's. Researchers at Iowa State University recruited Kratsch to participate in the "Bioplastic Container Cropping Systems Project," which is funded by the USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture. 

Researchers in Iowa, Ohio and Illinois are performing the same tests as Kratsch. The researchers will then compile, analyze and compare their data to determine the best few new compostable plant pots across the various soils. Iowa State University's Materials Science and Engineering Department will manufacture the new pots, which will then be test-marketed in the four states. Kratsch will work with a few local nurseries in Washoe County to conduct consumer and market research.

"One of the requirements of the project is to involve industry from day one," Kratsch said. "The intent is to complete the research and then immediately get the products into production and use."


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