I don’t think anyone knew what to expect when we walked into our first real ag class. Soils? Really? Not the most riveting subject. However, Professor Tim Durham’s soils classes proved to be amazing. Tim gave ecstatic lectures about soils, and gave us a foundational knowledge of agriculture. Not only did he teach us about soil, but also about sustainability in agriculture. His engaging lecture with references to different books and movies as well as asking questions to the class made all of us think about the future of sustainable agriculture. About a week later when we went to Kentland farms and they had a black plastic mulch to prevent weeds from growing, I immediately wondered what Tim would think. So, I searched him up, found his contact info, and sent him an email. I also asked him for his max bench, as a way of getting the conversation started. After a day of checking my email every 10 minutes, I got a response from the professor.
To be honest, I was a bit surprised to find a full page of information on this technique, called plasticulture. I learned that black plastic can heat the soil and allow for an earlier planting, clear plastic can sterilize the soil before planting, and colored plastics like red plastic can increase yield on certain crops. However, it was clear Tim wasn’t for it. Farmers have to manually replace the plastic every year because it photodegrades (frays and breaks) under the sunlight. Runoff deposits microplastics in the soil. Any bits of plastic accidentally left can gum up machines. Incredible amount of plastic waste and huge investment of time. Biodegradable options have worse in-field properties. Tim thus made it quite clear that plasticulture wasn’t the future, despite its effectiveness. With a 325lb bench press, Tim definitely inspired us to raise the bar and work towards a more sustainable future.