This article originally appeared in Storm Water Solutions March/April 2020 issue as "Two-in-One Technology"
According to the 2019 Green Industry Benchmark Report, green industry companies are struggling to find employees despite their growing businesses. Nearly 92% of respondents said it is difficult to find good employees, and nearly 74% plan to raise prices with 41% of those citing rising labor costs. Not to mention, 34% of respondents said the one thing they would improve in their business is attracting and retaining employees.
In the erosion control and revegetation markets, companies report it has been difficult to find skilled workers that can properly install an erosion control blanket or operate a hydroseeding machine. Not only are businesses taking longer to complete the current jobs they are on because they have fewer workers, but many have reported that they are turning down new work because they do not have the employees to staff additional job sites.
Taking all of this into account, it is important for erosion control companies to find ways to navigate the current labor shortage without it taking a toll on their bottom line. It is now more important than ever for business leaders to evaluate their best practices and determine ways to efficiently and effectively complete projects.
Emerging hydraulically applied innovations allow contractors to switch out old, time-consuming technologies that require trucking in topsoil and compost or installing rolled erosion control blankets and replace them with hydraulically applied advancements that provide proven results with less labor.
Grass Master Maintenance and Landscaping LLC did just that on a recent home reconstruction site near Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The contractor chose to use Profile Products’ ProGanics DUAL Biotic Soil + Erosion Control. ProGanics DUAL is an environmentally friendly, hydraulically applied one-step product designed to accelerate the development of depleted soils while simultaneously providing effective erosion protection in a single application.
This solution not only provided the results the client needed, it also saved the company time and money without sacrificing job site performance.
Replacing Outdated, Failing Technologies
Grass Master was tasked with establishing vegetation on about 11 acres of a D.R. Horton home construction site with several retention ponds. On previous job sites similar to this project, the company brought in compost in an attempt to improve soil conditions and establish vegetation. The team spread the compost over the slopes, applied seed and fertilizer with a hydroseeder and then installed single-net straw matting in order to hold the seed, fertilizer and compost in place until germination could occur.
However, when storms moved into the area, the rain washed away the seed and soil. Each time it rained, more soil would wash away, leaving bare spots along the slopes. In the end, vegetation was not establishing as well as the team would have liked.
“We knew we were going to have issues on this site with that solution because blowing the compost with the blanket over it was failing on much easier projects,” said Ben Dutruch, owner of Grass Master Maintenance and Landscaping. “So if we were going to try to use it there, we knew it would fail.”
Grass Master reached out to Profile Products consultant Robert Cobb of Earth and Turf Reps to develop a solution that would not only amend the soil but also hold everything in place until vegetation could establish–even through a Louisiana rainstorm. After visiting the project site, the two companies came up with a simple, effective and efficient solution that could be applied without extra labor.
Applying the Time-Saving Solution
First, the contractor took a soil test to determine what amendments, if any, were needed in order to create optimal soil conditions. Soil testing is crucial to the success of revegetation projects because without a healthy foundation of hospitable soil, the chances of establishing and sustaining vegetation are dramatically reduced.
Results of the soil test showed that the topsoil on site was acidic (pH less than 6) and had low levels of organic matter (less than 1%). Based on these results, Grass Master purchased Profile’s ProGanics DUAL Biotic Soil + Erosion Control from GroGreen Solutions Georgia LLC to test on several acres of the project site. The product combines the properties of Biotic Soil Media (BSM) to ignite the soil-building nutrient cycle with erosion control protection up to the level of a Bonded Fiber Matrix (BFM). It is designed for project sites with poor soil conditions, including those with low organic matter content; low to moderate erosion potential, including slopes up to 2H:1V; limited access where multiple applications add significant cost; and larger projects where efficiency is paramount for contractors.
“Based on the site parameters, this was the perfect project for ProGanics DUAL,” Cobb said. “They were having such poor results with the compost and straw matting, and they needed answers. I brought DUAL to the table, and they agreed to demo with it to see if they could get better results. I was confident DUAL could give them that solution.”
On May 1, 2019, Grass Master used a hydroseeder to apply ProGanics DUAL at 5,000 pounds per acre. Because the soil was slightly acidic, the team also mixed NeutraLime Dry into the hydroseeder at 40 pounds per acre. NeutraLime Dry balances soil pH in seven to 10 days after application, ultimately improving nutrient uptake and enhancing plant establishment. They also included BioPrime in the mix at 160 pounds per acre. BioPrime is a biostimulant that improves long-term plant vitality with slow-release nitrogen, seaweed extract, humic acid and endomycorrhizae. This formulation promotes the delivery of micro-and macronutrients, reduces plant stress and feeds young establishing plants for up to nine months. Finally, Grass Master applied Hulled Bermuda seed at 50 pounds per acre and a 19-19-19 fertilizer at 600 pounds per acre. Selecting the correct seed and fertilizer is also paramount to project success.
By using a one-step product, Dutruch says he was able to efficiently apply the soil amendment and erosion control product in less time and at a lower cost compared to employing other solutions. He says in the past, his team would have applied separate erosion control and biotic soil products, but at times, that could be outside of the project owner’s desired price range.
“We were having to spray ProGanics and an erosion control product, so we were doing a double application by having to do the ProGanics and then cover it with erosion control,” Dutruch said. “So it was about twice the application costs, twice the manpower, twice the water use, twice the machine hours.”
While his team had to apply ProGanics DUAL at a higher application rate than what is typically used for a single BSM or BFM, it was still a lower rate than using the two products separately. Plus, the product is high loading at a rate of 75 pounds per 100 gallons of water, also helping speed up the process.
“You have to put a little more down per acre with the DUAL, but it’s a one-time application,” he said. “You get the benefits of the ProGanics and the benefits of the erosion control fibers, as well. So we were able to work that into our price range for what they were willing to spend with a product that actually worked, rather than trying to blow compost and covering with erosion blankets which hasn’t worked well in the past. As a matter of fact, that process actually failed miserably on another project.”
Grass Master estimates that a compost/straw matting application typically requires six to eight people and numerous pieces of equipment to spread the compost, apply the seed and fertilizer and properly install the matting. ProGanics DUAL can be applied with as few as two to three people from a hydroseeder. At a time when labor is hard to come by, Dutruch said this was extremely important.
“By being able to cut our application time to a little more than half the time, we were able to move to the next job quicker,” Dutruch said. “At the end of the day, production is where we need to be. We need to be spraying as much as possible on a daily basis.”
Rainstorms Test the Strength of the Application
Dutruch’s team reported that the application went smoothly, and the chosen product was easier to spray than they initially thought. But while the application went well, the real test would be if the product could hold the seed and soil in place better than the original straw blanket application when placed under environmental stress.
Three days later, Baton Rouge received 3 inches of rain in one afternoon and 6 inches of rain total–a powerful enough rainstorm that the retention pond rose from what Dutruch estimates was 5 feet to 15 feet deep.
There were worries that the product may have washed away. However, in follow up inspections, the contractor found ProGanics DUAL had done its job. The seed and soil stayed in place on more than 90% of the project and only small touch ups were needed to reinforce the site. Throughout the month of May, the site received a total of 10 inches of rainfall, but the solution remained in place and allowed the seed to begin germinating.
In follow up inspections on May 29, less than one month after application, the site had lush vegetation along the entire slope. The grass grew in tall and thick with established root systems. The team then chose to apply ProGanics DUAL to finish the entire site–a total of 11 acres.
“The results were great,” Dutruch said. “We were very happy with it, and the customer has been very happy with it. We still have four or five more ponds to do on that site, and we plan to keep using ProGanics DUAL.”
As labor shortages extend into yet another year, hydraulically applied products have proven to work as well or better than old technologies without the extra time and manpower. Contractors that switch to hydraulic solutions will find they can more easily finish the project they are on and move on to the next one, ultimately improving their bottom line.