The use of plastics in agriculture has increased over the last decades, providing endless benefits to farmers, as these plastics help them increase production and improve the quality of food.
As a result, the processes involved to achieve a high level of quality in agricultural plastics are of the greatest importance to manufacture films that will allow to improve crops, save in production costs (reducing the investment in pesticides, water consumption and electricity among others) and protect crop areas.
More and more companies are manufacturing plastics specifically designed to meet the current requirements of farmers. But that is not always the case of companies that interfere in sectors for which they have no experience. Agricultural plastics are a unique specialty and require constant investment in state-of-the-art technology for the development of these films from R&D in raw materials and extrusion machines to various on-field applications. Global manufacturers can manage to develop solutions for the needs of different crops and geographical areas where agriculture needs to be made sustainable and profitable.
How to measure the quality of agricultural plastics:
The goal is to manufacture plastics that meet the life expectancy of the product, with the necessary balance between resistance, strength and flexibility. This is exactly what we show in the video that we present in this publication, highlighting the different mechanical tests to which plastics are subjected to find the optimal point of quality.
In addition to mechanical testing, films must also comply with certain optical and thermal properties that are achieved through the selection of speciality resins that are included in the manufacture of these plastics. This also requires testing, analysis and an investment in technology to make plastics increasingly efficient for their use in agriculture.
In the end, the result of the mechanical, optical and thermal specifications is translated into a product data sheet that confirms the quality of each plastic film. It is important to keep this in mind when choosing the right one since, as we have mentioned in different articles, plastic films will be the allies to achieve success in your crops (in the production of flowers, fruits, vegetables, quality food for animals and to reduce operational costs).
Currently, different tests are being carried out with biodegradable components in mulching plastics. Several companies dedicated to the production of agricultural plastics are already producing their own plastic films and are conducting tests to find out how to control and achieve a rate of degradation that adapts to the needs of agricultural businesses.
Agricultural plastic properties
Extensive laboratory tests have been performed to ensure the quality of agricultural plastics, which include among other things, analysing the concentration of heavy metals, ecotoxicity, and volatile solids, as well as comparing their mechanical and permeability properties to guarantee their functionality and performance.
Plastics have made possible the transformation of seemingly unproductive lands into modern and functional spaces for farming. As a result, nowadays several plastic film alternatives can be found on the market and whose manufacturers constantly strive to maintain their quality standards.
The goal is to manufacture films with high-quality materials so they can last longer and extend their useful life, compared to other conventional plastics.
Likewise, as time goes by, continuous improvements to the film’s properties have been made to meet the needs of producers, farmers, and consumers of harvested products. Now, we’ll get into detail about some of the properties that plastic films must have to ensure their quality:
- Weight. This is one of the main aspects to consider since each type of soil and cultivation will require a specific type of plastic film with greater or lesser weight.
When it comes to structures such as greenhouses, for example, plastic films must be lighter to increase the uniformity of light inside the structure by reducing shading.
- Density. In the case of density, it’s important to analyse the crystallinity of polymers, because adjustments must be made to the flexibility, permeability, and thermal properties of those polymers based on their density. When there’s low density, handling and transporting these plastics is easier.
- Thickness. This is another property that guarantees the viability of agricultural plastics, since the measurement units used to calculate their density, either in millimetres or microns, should be thoroughly reviewed. The recommended thickness a plastic film must have to protect crops, especially when there are low temperatures, is 200 – 800 microns.
- Tensile strength. This property is vital to ensure the durability of the film, especially in areas where there is hail, snow, or strong winds. A plastic with good tensile strength properties can withstand much better the deformation processes caused by high or low temperatures.
- Resistance to aging. This is certainly one of the main risks when using agricultural plastics because they are quickly affected by the aging of the materials used to produce them, so it’s necessary to make sure that high-quality materials are used for their manufacture so they can withstand the effect of the environment.
Technical standards and quality control tests for agricultural plastics
Due to the demands of today’s agricultural market, it’s increasingly necessary to carry out a detailed work of research and development, where one of the objectives is to constantly improve technical standards and quality control tests that contribute to optimizing the plastics used in the croplands.
Several mechanical tests are applied as a way to guarantee that agricultural plastic films meet industry-required specifications and respond to industry needs.
The aspects considered in this type of test include the tensile strength, tearing, drilling, and impact of sharp objects.
For example, tensile strength refers to many processes that are carried out to evaluate the properties of the plastic film, as well as to determine its elasticity and total strength.
To verify tear resistance, it’s essential to evaluate the film to determine the degree of force required to tear the plastic.
In terms of drilling resistance, a thorough evaluation of the plastic film should be done to determine the amount of force or maximum energy needed to penetrate the material.
And when it comes to the impact of sharp objects, the same relates to a film resistance assessment that allows measuring the ability of the final material to absorb blows with sharp objects without breaking.
To learn more about this topic, we recommend watching our explanatory video:
When we talk about the quality, and quality control, of agricultural plastics, a company that is known as a global reference is certainly the Armando Alvarez Group, from Spain but also with base in the United States. Latest investments in the Agricultural Division with state-of-the-art technology enable the manufacture of a wide range of agricultural plastic films in 7 layers, an advantage that allows different additives to be added to the layers of the plastics that are produced, aside from having an in-house team dedicated to the R&D of their materials, always aiming at improving their different products and meeting the specific needs of their customers in more than 98 countries.
If you have any questions or inquiries related to the selection of the right plastic film for your crops, you can get in touch with us and we will provide advice to you without any further obligation.