Second Green Revolution
The Green Revolution swept like a wave in the Indian countryside with its emphasis on high yielding variety seeds, fertilizers, pesticides and better methods of farming. It rendered India from being deficient in food grains to being self-sufficient; however, the increase in agricultural yield couldn’t keep pace with the growing population. To remain self-sufficient in food grains, we needed another green revolution, a second green revolution. Innovative agro practices and newer methods of agriculture had to be adopted towards transformation of Indian agriculture to precision farming practices which will result in increased agricultural productivity both in quality and quantity.
The introduction of plastics in agriculture and its applications are one of the most useful indirect agricultural inputs which held the promise to transform Indian agriculture and bring in the “Second Green Revolution” which was termed as “Plasticulture”.
What is Plasticulture? And Why?
Plasticulture refers to the use of plastics in agriculture in a scientific manner, which not only improves the productivity, but also optimizes the input resources. Plasticulture is used in agriculture, horticulture, water-management, food grains storage, and other related areas. Plastics play a major role in energy conservation as they require minimum energy in production and conversion to finished products. A variety of plastics materials and end products are deployed in plasticulture applications – for water conservation, irrigation efficiency, crop and environment protection, as well as end product storage and transportation.
Plasticulture plays an incessant role in the growing demand of the mankind feeding. Plasticulture improves production in quantity and quality, using fewer pesticides, fertilizers, water, and other resources. Mainly made of Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE) or Polypropylene (PP) polymers, plasticulture is now moving towards biodegradable products. Once collected, plastics wastes from agriculture can be recycled.
How it all started?
The thought of using polyethylene film as mulch in plant production saw its beginnings in the mid-1950s to make a cheaper version of the glasshouse. Dr. Emery M. Emmert, in 1948 was one of the first to recognize the benefits of using LDPE (low-density polyethylene) and HDPE (high-density polyethylene) film and built the first plastics greenhouse. Today, Dr. Emmert is considered the “Father of Plastics Greenhouses”. He was lightheartedly also called the “Plastic Surgeon” due to his use of plastics instead of glass for greenhouses and his use of clear and black plastic as mulch in vegetable production. Today, approximately 2,500 square miles (6,500 km2) of agricultural land utilizes polyethylene mulch for crop production in the world. Majority of plastics growth happened in economically poor countries and previously unproductive and barren desert regions.
Since its introduction in the 1950s, plastics films have been designed and developed to increase produce yield, increase produce size, and shorten growth time. Developments in plastics films include durability, optical (ultraviolet, visible, near infrared, and middle infrared) properties, and anti-drip or anti-fogging effect. Recent developments in this area include UV-blocking, NIR-blocking, fluorescent, and ultrathermic films.
Alpha’s doorway of opportunity in the plastics mulch industry:
With growing demands of plastics and its extensive use in agriculture, the economics of agriculture started showing an upward graph and annual profits of the farmers increased as well. Plastics is a cheaper material compared to any other used for mulching, so the cost of cultivation went down as cost of irrigation, fertilizers, pesticides, etc. reduced over time. With growth in demand, came a slew of suppliers trying to capture their own market share and today, plastics mulch film is a fast-growing market.
Over last 35 years, Alpha, now known as Alpha Plastomers Pvt. Ltd. has been consistent in the innovation of plastic packaging. Today, Alpha is a dominant player in the plastic packaging sector but innovation and diversification does not stop at Alpha. Owing to the growing need of agriculture, Alpha introduced its own version of mulch film, called “Earthy”.