Biodegradeable film yielding good results for corn crops

A Desable farm has started using a biodegradeable film to help its corn grow.

Last week, when corn was planted at Desable See View Farms, seeds were sown beneath a thin film.

The technology was developed in Ireland more than 20 years ago and the film includes corn or potatoes as an ingredient.

As a salesperson with API Agromart, Colin MacNevin gets to meet a lot of people across the Island involved in agriculture.

One of them was Randy Drenth, a Summerfield farmer.

When MacNevin heard Drenth was experimenting with a biodegradeable film on his corn to help protect his seedlings against cold temperatures and the risk of frost in spring, he decided to try it at his own farm in Desable.

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"One part of my job I really enjoy is trying new things, learning new things and wanting to see how they work out and see success stories," MacNevin said. "In Randy's case when I saw his place and I wanted to try it at home."

Last week, when corn was planted at Desable See View Farm, seeds were sowed beneath a thin film, creating a green house effect, keeping seedlings in a humid environment.

The SAMCO System was developed in Ireland more than 20 years ago and includes corn or potatoes as an ingredient in the film.

Tom Steepe/CBC

"It increases the heat units by 300I DON"T KNOW WHAT THIS MEANS," said Randy Drenth. "That's about a 14 per cent increase in the amount of heat units that we would get here on PEI for growing corn. It gets the corn growing faster, so it will mature faster, less risks to those frosts in the fall. So, minimizing our risk and maximizing our inputs."

So far, Drenth said the thin film has been helping him yield some good results at his farm, one of three Island farms using the technology.

"We are getting about an extra tonne to the acre, so that'd be about an extra 25 percent in yield, and it matures faster," he said. 

'Doing our best'

The natural bio film at Desable See View Farm, has been garnering a lot of attention from passers by who thought it was plastic. The farm's owner turned to social media to to let people know that it was in fact a farmer-driven innovation made of potato.

"I really wanted people to understand that especially commercial farmers we're doing our best," said Judy MacNevin.

"I've been very very happy and pleased to see how many people were so positive coming back saying thank you for what you're doing. Keep it up don't be afraid."

The cost of the new film isn't cheap. It's about 150 per cent more expensive than a regular corn planter.

Tom Steepe/CBC

"There's always a risk," said Judy MacNevin. "We need to do these things we have to take good care of things. Our son is seventh generation — his daughter is eighth. It's important to us that this land be here for another eight generations." 

Over the next four to five weeks, heat from the sun will start to break down the film.

Eventually, Colin MacNevin said, it will disintegrate into the soil and turn into food for the corn as it grows.

"Everything comes to agriculture, everything results back to the soil, soil profile and soil health. It's going to put back a significant amount of organic matter back in the ground after the crop is harvested and that'll be worked in for future crops."

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