Environmentally benign, biodegradable structures for supporting growing plants can be made in a process based on recycling of such waste plant fiber materials as wheat straw or of such derivative materials as paper and cardboard. Examples of structures that can be made in this way include plant plugs, pots, planter-lining mats, plant fences, and root and shoot barriers. No chemical binders are used in the process. First, the plant material is chopped into smaller particles. The particles are leached with water or steam to remove material that can inhibit plant growth, yielding a fibrous slurry. If the desired structures are plugs or sheets, then the slurry is formed into the desired shapes in a pulp molding subprocess. If the desired structures are root and shoot barriers, pots, or fences, then the slurry is compression-molded to the desired shapes in a heated press. The processed materials in these structures have properties similar to those of commercial pressboard, but unlike pressboard, these materials contain no additives. These structures have been found to withstand one growth cycle, even when wet.

This work was done by Robert C. Morrow, Matthew J. Mischnick, Amanda Pertzborn, and Chad Ehle of Orbital Technologies Corp. and John Hunt of the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Products Laboratory for Kennedy Space Center.

In accordance with Public Law 96-517, the contractor has elected to retain title to this invention. Inquiries concerning rights for its commercial use should be addressed to:

Robert Morrow
Orbital Technologies Corp.
1212 Fourier Drive,
Madison,WI 53717
Phone: (608) 827-5000
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Refer to KSC-12585, volume and number of this NASA Tech Briefs issue, and the page number.

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the February, 2006 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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