Livestock producers soon may be covering hay bales with edible, biodegradable plastic.

That’s one potential application for plastic film made from corn zein, says Graciela Padua, a University of Illinois food scientist. Padua created the film, which has plastic qualities and is highly water-resistant.

Zein typically is neglected in corn processing, says Padua, who developed a process to extrude zein resins into pellets. The pellets could be sold by corn millers to plastics manufacturers and used in much the same way that plastic pellets are processed, says Padua.

Besides bale covers, the plastic might be used for mulching and packaging of fresh foods. Another potential application, according to Padua: fast-food wrappers and trays that could be mulched rather than sent to landfills.