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Photo: Man spraying bright green hydromulch on bare ground. Link to photo information
ARS has helped develop the first 'spray-on blanket' cotton byproduct hydromulch. Hydromulches, usually made from wood and paper byproducts, cover bare lands at construction sites and roadside projects to prevent erosion until vegetation can be established. Click the image for more information about it.

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Cotton Bests Other Spray-On Erosion Control Mulches

By Don Comis
May 12, 2009

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) agricultural engineer Greg Holt helped develop the erosion control industry's first cotton byproduct hydromulch "spray-on blanket." Holt is at the ARS Cotton Production and Processing Research Unit in Lubbock, Texas.

Hydromulch is the bright-green mulch used in spray-on slurries that cover bare lands at construction sites and roadside projects, to prevent erosion until vegetation can be established. In the past, hydromulches were made mostly from wood and paper byproducts.

GeoSkin Cotton Byproduct Hydromulch is made from cotton gin byproducts. It is a combination hydromulch-spray-on blanket that, in recent tests, controlled erosion and promoted grass seedling establishment better than conventional roll-on blankets, and required significantly less labor.

The total runoff from these four mulches, including soil and mulch ingredients, was: cotton, 222 pounds per acre; straw, 7,832 pounds per acre; wood, 7,474 pounds per acre; and coconut, 3,719 pounds per acre.

The cotton byproduct hydromulch was produced using technology developed from cooperative research efforts between ARS; Cotton Incorporated of Cary, N.C.; Summit Seed, Inc., of Manteno, Ill.; and Mulch & Seed Innovations, LLC, of Centre, Ala. ARS has applied for a patent on the process.

The technology has served as a foundation for developing a broader line of cotton byproduct hydromulches for erosion control, including a premium hydromulch for steep slopes, and more recently, a midgrade product for flat- to mid-slope terrain.

One of Holt's studies showed that cotton-based hydromulches established a good stand of grass, compared to other hydromulches and a straw blanket which didn't do as well.

Cotton Incorporated is the research and marketing organization representing upland cotton. The organization partially funded some of Holt's studies, which also involved a farm consultant, ARS colleague Ken Potter in Temple, Texas, and a colleague at Auburn University in Auburn, Ala.

Read more about this research in the May/June 2009 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

ARS is the principal intramural scientific research agency in the U.S. Department of Agriculture.