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Using a Hay Baler to Pick Up Plastic Mulch

Many growers pick up plastic mulch, but several machines are available for this job. Work at the LSU AgCenter has demonstrated that, in some cases, plastic mulch can be picked up by a hay baler.

Why Use a Hay Baler?
Some growers who use plastic mulch also bale hay. If they can use a hay baler to collect plastic mulch, it would save purchasing a dedicated machine. Plastic wrapped up in a big round bale would facilitate hauling and disposal.

Use of a Hay Baler to Collect Plastic Mulch
A round hay baler has been tested for plastic collection (Figure 1). The plastic must be lifted and loosened in the normal manner before attempting collection. Unlike the recommendations for pickup of mulch by a dedicated mulch collector, plant residue is an advantage when using a hay baler. Plant residue on top of the mulch (Figure 2) helps carry the plastic through the baler without plugging. When picking up clean mulch was attempted, the plastic almost immediately plugged the pickup teeth of the baler, but when the mulch was covered with watermelon vines and weeds, the mat of plastic and plant material was conveyed into the baler without any problems. The downside of having the plant residue in the bale is that the bales contain a high percentage of vegetative matter that must be disposed of along with the plastic, but, without the plant residue, the operation is a disaster.

In summary, a hay baler can be used to pick up plastic mulch if the mulch has been properly lifted and loosened and if there is a significant amount of plant material on the plastic to carry it through the baler. Do not try to pick up clean, bare plastic with a hay baler!

Last Updated: 11/5/2012 1:56:41 PM

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