Mixed Messages

Feb. 6, 2017
The benefits of applying multiple fibers for revegetation on challenging sites

About the author: Kevin Loucks is president and CEO of Organic Earth Industries Inc. Loucks can be reached at [email protected] or 970.227.9661.

Many people believe little knowledge is needed for growing vegetation—that all you need are seeds, soil, water, fertilizer, mulch and sun. However, effectively growing vegetation requires significant input from the plant and soil sciences, as well as forestry, engineering and horticulture professions. This is why these professionals take courses to advance their knowledge of soil.

Pictured above: Applying a blend of growth media can help revegetate challenging sites. 

Missing in Action

Western Colorado presents some of the most extreme plant growth challenges in the country. This area can experience extreme heat one day and snow the next, high ultraviolet (UV) exposure or minimal UV in the forests and years of drought or extreme rainfall. It also has both sandy and clay soils. Because of these varying conditions, it can be difficult to ensure revegetation success of disturbed areas. These situations also require effective erosion control. Often, a single product cannot overcome all of these extremes.

Conventional thinking is to apply a simple mulch material like straw or wood fiber over the soil surface to replace natural organic material and improve erosion control. This thinking also adds seed to replace those missing in the ravaged soil, then possibly adding fertilizers to replace some of the macronutrients lost from the soil. Then erosion control professionals often step back and let the system sit, in some cases waiting years or decades in the hopes of revegetation.

The pitfalls of this process can be seen in treated areas that sometimes sit bare for decades before vegetation begins to grow. Professionals often medicate the symptoms but do nothing about treating the actual cause of the malady.

In many cases, this process does not provide sufficient materials for initial vegetation establishment. In an effort to overcome these shortcomings, Organic Earth Industries created a complete system that provides the required materials to do exactly what Mother Nature does, only faster. The Earth Essence line was agronomically engineered to overcome the types of extreme conditions found in areas like western Colorado.

At the Xcel Energy project in western Colorado, the vegetation system was applied at 2,500 lb per acre.

Diversified Materials

Each of the materials in Earth Essence Beta HGM2 used on the Xcel Energy project in western Colorado are agronomically engineered to meet the immediate demands of a severely impacted area. This technology was specifically selected for the project because of its engineered organic fibers, focused blend of growth media, and specially formulated soil chemistry materials that improve erosion control, soil development, immediate plant establishment, and long-term plant and soil sustainability.

By using seven different organic fibers, Beta HGM2 provides benefits including:

  • Effective erosion control that improves soil coverage, water absorption and reduced fiber detachment through mechanically interlocking long-term organic fibers;
  • Mulching characteristics that provide various fibers that absorb and release moisture back to the soil at engineered quantities and rates; and
  • Organic fibers that degrade at different rates and provide organic matter back to the system in consistent and sustained amounts, thus improving the soil system by not taxing the environment for additional forms of carbon.

The mixture provides a blend of soil chemistry materials to improve:

  • Organic bonding of the fibers to both themselves and the soil;
  • Water infiltration through macro- and micro-pore enhanced development associated with aggregate formation and soil flocculation; and
  • Soil erosion control through patented polymer technology.

This engineered system consistently releases specific proteins, starches and carbohydrates that feed the microorganisms in the soil over a specified time frame. The system includes natural plant growth stimulants like triacontanol and triaconatol, and a natural source of high-level vitamins; 16 amino acids, including humic and fulvic acid; and other valuable minerals, sugars, starches, proteins and essential fibers.

The system was successful at the Xcel Energy location. It provided sufficient vegetation establishment shortly after snow melt from the 2.5:1 (horizontal:vertical) slope with a silty loam soil when compared to the hydraulic growth medium and wood fiber mulch that also was applied. It also provided effective erosion control despite being applied at a much lighter application rate of 2,500 lb per acre. The wood fiber mulch was applied at 3,000 lb per acre and the hydraulic growth medium was applied at 3,500 lb per acre.

Besides providing vegetation establishment and erosion control performance, the system provided an economic value for the project because of the reduced amount of material applied, single application process and reduced water needs as a result of applying fewer loads from the hydroseeder. 

About the Author

Kevin Loucks