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This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 40 No. 5, p. 1375-1382
    Received: Mar 18, 2010

    * Corresponding author(s): sharon.papiernik@ars.usda.gov
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A Standardized Approach for Estimating the Permeability of Plastic Films to Soil Fumigants under Various Field and Environmental Conditions

  1. Sharon K. Papiernik *a,
  2. Scott R. Yatesb and
  3. Daniel O. Chellemic
  1. a USDA-ARS, North Central Soil Conservation Research Lab., 803 Iowa Avenue, Morris, MN 56267
    b S.R. Yates, USDA-ARS, U.S. Salinity Lab., 450 West Big Springs Rd., Riverside, CA 92507-4617
    c D.O. Chellemi, USDA-ARS, U.S. Horticultural Research Lab., 2001 South Rock Rd., Fort Pierce, FL 34945. Assigned to Associate Editor Robert Dungan


Minimizing atmospheric emissions of soil fumigants is critical for protecting human and environmental health. Covering the soil surface with a plastic tarp is a common approach to restrict fumigant emissions. The mass transfer of the fumigant vapors through the tarp is often the rate-limiting factor in fumigant emissions. An approach for standardizing measurements of film permeability is proposed that is based on determining the resistance (R) of films to diffusion of fumigants. Using this approach, R values were determined for more than 200 film–chemical combinations under a range of temperature, relative humidity, and film handling conditions. Resistance to diffusion was specific for each fumigant/film combination, with the largest range of values observed for the fumigant chloropicrin. For each fumigant, R decreased with increasing temperature. Changes in film permeability due to increases in temperature or field installation were generally less than a factor of five. For one film, R values determined under conditions of very high relative humidity (∼100%) were at least 100 times lower than when humidity was very low (∼2%). This approach simplifies the selection of appropriate films for soil fumigation by providing rapid, reproducible, and precise measurements of their permeability to specific fumigants and application conditions.

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