Plastic alternatives

Features - Going Green

Degradable pots offer another choice for nursery production

July 27, 2010

Biopots, from Bellan International, are made from bamboo, rice husks and straw. Biopots are a pollution-free, degradable alternative to plastic. Grower pots range in size from 2½ inches up to 8 inches. The lifespan is one year outdoors (planted) and three years indoors (planted).


CowPots, which are made from cow manure, has been rigorously tested and validated by the University of Connecticut and many independent nursery partners. The naturally porous property of manure enables tender, young roots to easily penetrate the sides and bottoms of CowPots. This allows for air pruning and the formation of root buds and secondary root development throughout the pot, providing dense, healthy root systems.

CowPots stay intact for at least 12 weeks depending on the growing environment and irrigation methods used. The nitrogen in composted cow manure helps the CowPots naturally biodegrade. Sizes for production include 5-inch square and round, 6-cell flats and 3-inch round and square pots.

Biodegradable DOT Pots are made from all-natural wood fibers – 80 percent spruce fibers and 20 percent peat moss. DOT Pots contain no glues or binders, allowing the plant roots to grow through the pot during a normal production cycle. The plant’s growth is not impeded by the walls of the pot. This creates a vigorous, non-girdled root system that spreads out evenly and uniformly.

Without glue or binders, air and water flow freely through the entire container without the need for drain holes. DOT Pots achieve even air pruning along the entire container surface. DOT Pots are 100 percent biodegradable and 100 percent OMRI Listed. DOT Pots allow quicker establishment of production plants in the landscape, and faster production time when stepping up material and with hard-to-transplant crops. DOT Pots can be used with an auger during landscape installation for additional labor savings.

Made from rice hulls and natural binding agents, EcoForms have an insulating design, which leads to thriving, healthy plants. EcoForms pots contain no wood or petroleum ingredients and do not deplete natural or edible resources. When used outdoors, EcoForms pots will last at least five years and even longer when used indoors. They are intended for use above the ground, and show no damage when exposed to freezing or thawing conditions.
The Grower Series offers sizes ranging from 3-inch up to 6-inch pots.

The Ecotainer is a new and environmentally friendly product made from Plastarch (PSM), which uses starch as its main ingredient. Plastarch is a complete degradation material and is distinctive in terms of mechanical performance such as rigidity, flexibility, ductility and elasticity. Ecotainers perform as well as plastic in an automated production environment, and have been successfully tested at more than 200 growing operations throughout North America. Ecotainers has expanded its line to include 1204 and 306 plantable trays, which will be available fall 2010. Ecotainers are safe to compost with plant waste.

Fertilpots are biodegradable wood fiber pots composed primarily of spruce (Picea abies) fibers, and are manufactured without the use of glues or binders. They are not peat pots. Fertilpots are truly biodegradable and are intended to be planted directly in the ground or in the next larger container. Fertilpots do not require a composting situation to degrade. Because water, air and roots will penetrate the walls of the fertilpot so easily, there is no need for drainage holes. The natural root structure that develops helps to ensure a successful transplant. Fertilpot is excellent for native plant material that can often be sensitive to transplant. Because the plant is never removed from the fertilpot, there is no transplant shock. Fertilpots are available in a wide range of sizes and configurations including strips, trays and preloaded trays.

Jiffypots are made of peat moss and wood fiber. Jiffy offers several specially designed propagation systems, ranging from the Jiffypot; its variations such as the Jiffystrip -- a band of numerous pots together; and Jiffy Polypack -- individual Jiffypots pre-loaded in an insert that will fit your existing tray system. Other systems used in the nursery environment are the Jiffy-7 pellets, Jiffy-7 forestry pellets, Carefree and Jiffy-7C pellets. Preforma is another system well suited for nursery propagation. The new Jiffy Bump-Up block allows growers to root three cuttings, bumping these up in one labor -saving move to the next size container. Jiffy’s nursery products are automation friendly.

Kord Fiber Grow
ITML Horticultural Products’ Kord Fiber Grow nursery containers are made from recycled paper and cardboard. The pots promote healthy plant growth and root development. The pots insulate roots from temperature fluctuations.

The StrawPot from Ivy Acres is made from rice straw, coconut husks and a natural latex adhesive. The pots show no signs of decomposing above ground. Because its material is porous, air circulates through the pot and prunes the roots of plants to the interior of the pot. The consumer can put the StrawPot directly in the ground, where the pots begin a three to six month biodegrading process. Sizes range from 3 ½ inches to 2 gallons.

Western Pulp
Western Pulp’s molded fiber containers are made from cellulose and provide good insulation against heat and cold. The company’s container with a wall thickness of .446 inches, would have approximately 50-plus times the insulation value than an HDPE plastic container with a wall thickness of .05 inches. Western Pulp’s containers are biodegradable and can be composted. Large and extra large containers made from the company’s standard nursery formulation with asphalt emulsion will last longer than thin wall rose containers made from straight paper. Wax permeating its containers will also increase service life, as does adding SpinOut (copper hydroxide) to its Root Guarde formulation containers. The metal and nylon hangers, as well as the brass eyelets used on Western Pulp’s baskets, are not biodegradable, but are recyclable.

Ellepots are made from a degradable paper that allow improved root systems, faster rooting, faster transplanting and uniform growth. Ellepots can be produced with many types of growing media, including peat, coco peat, perlite, pine bark, vermiculite and rock wool. The pots are used in propagation for nursery, greenhouse, forestry, cut flowers and vegetables.

Root Pouch
Root Pouch containers are made from polyethylene terephthalate (PETE), which comes from recycled plastic beverage bottles. The manufacturing process turns the plastic into non-woven fabric. Plants grown in Root Pouch containers produce more fibrous roots that do not circle the pots. The Root Pouch needs 60 percent less space for storage or shipping.

All descriptions were supplied by the manufacturers.