Increasing concentration of pure micro- and macro-LDPE and PP plastic negatively affect crop biomass, nutrient cycling, and microbial biomass

Martine Graf*, Lucy M. Greenfield, Michaela K. Reay, Rafael Bargiela, Gwion B. Williams, Charles Onyije, Charlotte E.M. Lloyd, Ian D. Bull, Richard P. Evershed, Peter N. Golyshin, David R. Chadwick, Davey L. Jones

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Over the last 50 years, the intense use of agricultural plastic in the form of mulch films has led to an accumulation of plastic in soil, creating a legacy of plastic in agricultural fields. Plastic often contains additives, however it is still largely unknown how these compounds affect soil properties, potentially influencing or masking effects of the plastic itself. Therefore, the aim of this study was to investigate the effects of pure plastics of varying sizes and concentrations, to improve our understanding of plastic-only interactions within soil-plant mesocosms. Maize (Zea mays L.) was grown over eight weeks following the addition of micro and macro low-density polyethylene and polypropylene at increasing concentrations (equivalent to 1, 10, 25, and 50 years mulch film use) and the effects of plastic on key soil and plant properties were measured. We found the effect of both macro and microplastic on soil and plant health is negligible in the short-term (1 to <10 years). However, ≥ 10 years of plastic application for both plastic types and sizes resulted in a clear negative effect on plant growth and microbial biomass. This study provides vital insight into the effect of both macro and microplastics on soil and plant properties.

Original languageEnglish
Article number131932
JournalJournal of Hazardous Materials
Volume458
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sept 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Llinos Hughes, Elin Thompson and Bethany Fleming for help in conducting this experiment. This study was part of a project funded by the UK Natural Environment Research Council Global Challenges Research Fund programme on Reducing the Impacts of Plastic Waste in Developing Countries ( NE/V005871/1 ). P.N.G., R.B., G.B.W. and D.L.J. acknowledge the support of the Centre for Environmental Biotechnology Project, part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) via the Welsh Assembly Government . P.N.G. thanks Sêr Cymru programme part-funded by ERDF through Welsh Government for the support of the project BioPOL4Life. M.K.R., C.O., C.E.M.L., R.P.E. and I.D.B. thank the NERC for partial funding of the National Environmental Isotope Facility (NEIF; contract no. NE/V003917/1 ) and funding from the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme ( FP/2007-2013 ) and European Research Council Grant Agreement number 340923 for funding GC-MS capabilities.

Funding Information:
We thank Llinos Hughes, Elin Thompson and Bethany Fleming for help in conducting this experiment. This study was part of a project funded by the UK Natural Environment Research Council Global Challenges Research Fund programme on Reducing the Impacts of Plastic Waste in Developing Countries (NE/V005871/1). P.N.G. R.B. G.B.W. and D.L.J. acknowledge the support of the Centre for Environmental Biotechnology Project, part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) via the Welsh Assembly Government. P.N.G. thanks Sêr Cymru programme part-funded by ERDF through Welsh Government for the support of the project BioPOL4Life. M.K.R. C.O. C.E.M.L. R.P.E. and I.D.B. thank the NERC for partial funding of the National Environmental Isotope Facility (NEIF; contract no. NE/V003917/1) and funding from the European Research Council under the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme (FP/2007-2013) and European Research Council Grant Agreement number 340923 for funding GC-MS capabilities.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors

Keywords

  • Enzyme activity
  • Microbial diversity
  • Nutrient use efficiency
  • Plastic pollution
  • PLFAs

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