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When it comes to erosion control methods, there are many different techniques and ideas to prevent soil from being swept away. New methods are always being developed, but some of the more traditional applications still hold a solid place in the industry. Straw Blowers According to Jonathan Person, of TGMI Inc., one of the advantages to blowing straw onto a site is its convenience. "Straw is pretty much readily available, especially in the Midwest region," Person said. "Straw is very easy to come by because you can pick it up at your local farm supply." Another advantage of using straw blowers is the speed at which straw can be applied to a site. A tailgate mulcher can cover an acre to an acre-and-a-half of land in one hour. One tailgate model offered by TGMI Inc. can blow two to three bales of straw per minute, while some of the larger models on the market range from four to six bales per minute. "The reason that we like straw is that straw provides the proper and natural shading for the soil," Person said. "It keeps it cool so the water doesn't evaporate as fast. Straw, because it kind of clumps up and doesn't lay flat, keeps the soil cool enough." Straw is very flexible, which is the biggest advantage of using it. "The thing with straw is that it is going to work in every environment," Person said. "In certain regions there are trends that exist. Michigan is a big hydroseeding state. They're pretty much just hydroseeders in that state." The straw actually serves as protection for the seeds. "With straw as soon as you get your first heavy rain you don't have to worry about any runoff or the wind carrying the straw away," Person said. In regard to the wind, many manufacturers offer crimpers that hold the straw on the seedbed. "Basically it pinches the straw into the soil to keep it from blowing off until you get your first rain," he said. "Hydro" Applicators Hydroseeding is basically what it sounds like - the use of water to apply seed to a site. In this process the mixture has a smaller proportion of mulch added in. The mulch generally acts as a guide for the applicator to see where he/she has applied the slurry. One benefit to this method is the lower cost based on the smaller amounts of materials needed for the application. This process is reported to yield 60 to 70 percent coverage of grass and that is usually sufficient on low-cost projects like highway construction sites and other sites where sod-quality grass is not required. The obvious downside is the lack of mulch protection for the seed. According to James Lincoln of TurfMaker Corporation, hydromulching is a relatively thick wood mulch application. "The quantity and quality of the mulch applied is where you get into some gray areas of the machine capabilities, " Lincoln said. "The recirculation or jet agitation machines, are pretty much centered on paper mulch and advocate thin paper mulch. Then you have the other companies saying you've got to use wood mulch and put it on thick." He added that premium hydro-mulching applications can yield sod quality results 99 percent of the time when proper irrigation is provided, and that reliability isn't there with thin paper mulch applications. Lincoln points out that the mulch applied to the soil reduces moisture evaporation from the soil, which is needed for grass seed to germinate. He also notes that poor growth is almost always attributed to the seed not getting the moisture it needs during certain critical times. "In the IECA (International Erosion Control Association) it has long since been a common phrase among the old-timers that when the conditions are right, many things work and when the conditions are wrong almost anything can fail," Lincoln said. "That makes our world a really murky world because some guy can go out and do a crummy job and succeed, while another guy can go out and do a job that costs a lot more and he works a lot harder, does a lot of things right and he can fail. "So it really screws up our saying, 'Do it the quality way and you will get results,' " Lincoln said. "Well, no, it doesn't work like that. The theme that I have here is that the better we do a job the more we have a probability of being successful. And that is all we are getting is a greater probability. There are no guarantees." The use of either hydroseeding equipment or straw blowing equipment comes down to regional requirements. Areas like Michigan and the northwest are mainly done with hydroseeding because according to Person, they have the right environment for it: plenty of rain, cool temperatures, and the lack of heat and humidity present in the Midwest or in the south. "[The choice] is pretty much regional and that is one of the things people want to consider when buying a machine, " Person said. For more information about these methods visit TGMI Inc. at www.mulchers.com or TurfMaker Corporation at www.turfmaker.com.

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October 17, 2019, 9:34 am PDT

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