Wed, Oct 31, 2018 - Page 3 News List

COA unveils eco-friendly seedling trays made of pulp

By Lin Chia-nan  /  Staff reporter

The Council of Agriculture (COA) yesterday introduced seedling trays made of paper pulp that decompose in nature and urged farmers to join its effort to eliminate single-use plastic products.

Developed by the council’s Hualien District Agriculture Research and Extension Station and the Hsing Chung Paper Co, the trays decompose in soil in 30 to 40 days, station Acting Director Tsai Yi-fong (蔡宜峯) told a news conference in Taipei.

The eco-friendly trays are expected to replace plastic ones, which are a major source of agricultural waste, given nearly 10 million of them are used by farmers every year, he said.

Suitable for vegetable seedlings, each paper pulp tray can carry 25 seeds and keep out invasive weeds by covering part of the soil next to the seedlings, Tsai said.

The station plans to promote the trays to farmers in Yilan and Hualien counties first, Tsai said, estimating that 200,000 trays would be used in the first year.

Since the station signed a memorandum of understanding with the company in October last year, station researchers have been testing with different forms to find the best shape for the trays, said COA Department of Farmers’ Service Director-General Malinda Fan (范美玲), a former station director who was promoted to her current post in July.

About 4,000 pulp trays would be needed to plant a field measuring 1 fen (分, 970m2), station assistant researcher Lin Wen-hwa (林文華) said.

While each pulp tray costs NT$20 — more expensive than a plastic tray that costs NT$7 to NT$10 — the price can be reduced when the trays enter mass production, Lin added.

Hualien-based vegetable farmer Liao Chung-hao (廖中豪) told the news conference that he has purchased 10,000 trays and used them for two months, with half of the expenses subsidized by the council.

“They have nearly no shortcomings at all,” as they help boost soil fertility, restrict weeds and save time in planting seeds, Liao said of the pulp trays.

Many of the farmers he knows have not adopted the trays and are still watching him experiment with them, Liao said, expressing the hope that the trays’ price would go down soon.

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