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Occurrence and characteristics of microplastics in soils from greenhouse and open-field cultivation using plastic mulch film

Authors: Ruimin Qi, Yuanyuan Tang, Davey L. Jones, Wenqing He, Changrong Yan 

Abstract: There is a major knowledge gap concerning the extent of microplastic pollution in agronomic regions of China, which represent a plastic use hotspot. In order to clarify the amendment of agronomic region and plastic film mulching mode to microplastics distribution, the characteristics of microplastics distributed in agricultural soils from three typical regions (Beijing (BJ), Shandong (SD), and Xinjiang (XJ)) with two plastic film mulching modes (greenhouse (G) and conventional field-based film mulching (M)) in China were investigated. Microplastics weight and their response to planting regions were also evaluated in this study. The result showed that the average abundance of microplastics in soils from BJ, SD, and XJ was 1.83 × 104 items kg−1, 4.02 × 104 items kg−1, and 3.39 × 104 items kg−1, and the estimated weight of microplastics per kg of dry soils was 3.12 mg kg−1, 5.63 mg kg−1, and 7.99 mg kg−1, respectively. Microplastics in farmland were mainly of small particle size (50 to 250 μm), with their abundance decreasing with increasing particle size. Among the microplastics detected, polyethylene and polypropylene were the two dominant types present, accounting for 50.0% and 19.7%, respectively. The standard total effect of planting regions on microplastic number and weight was 31.8% and 32.3%, and plastic film mulching modes (G vs. M) could explain 34.4% of the total variation of microplastic compositions with a contribution rate of 65.6% in this study. This research provides key data for an assessment of the environmental risk of microplastics and supports the development of guidelines for the sustainable use of agricultural plastic film. Further, it is necessary to quantify and assess the contribution of other different plastic sources to microplastics in soil. Big data technologies or isotope tracer techniques may be promising approaches.

Keywords: Microplastics; Spatial distribution; Morphology and composition; Plastic mulch film; Planting regions;

Published in: Science of the Total Environment, Volume 905, 9 September 2023, Pages 1-10 

Please find the full article here.

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