In Iowa, new bioplastic materials may enable gardeners to tend their plants more sustainably and could even help plants “self-fertilize” and grow healthier roots, according to research conducted by Iowa State University horticulturists. A five-year study looked at numerous options for bioplastic derived from sources such as polylactic acid and the more biodegradable polyhydroxyalkanoates. They also included byproducts that result from the production of corn, soybeans and ethanol. They found bioplastic containers have the potential to offer another major advantage that petroleum products can’t: the ability to self-fertilize plants.
The study, funded by a $1.94 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture, turned up some surprising results while conducting market research on consumer preferences regarding bioplastics. The researchers expected consumers to prefer bioplastic products that resembled petroleum plastics as closely as possible in appearance, color and texture. The results, however, showed some consumers wanted something different from more environmentally friendly options.