Soil Tackifiers: Are They Worth Applying?

Soil tackifiers are a type of chemical made from a combination of natural and synthetic sources for the purpose of encouraging greater adhesion in mulch and soil particles. Over time, application of these tackifiers can help to improve soil stabilization by reducing wind- and water-driven erosion.  

Think of tackifiers as the “glue” that holds the soil together. It will bind mulch or straw to an area and protect seedbeds by holding those seeds to the soil and preventing them from moving around. These tackifiers come in a variety of forms, including enzymes, resins, chloride compounds, starches, polyacrylamide and much more.  

You’ll find many different types of commercial tackifiers available on the market, both synthetic and organic versions. Chemical-based tackifiers help to counteract erosion caused by snowmelt, rainfall and wind.  

Keep in mind that stabilizers and tackifiers are only to be used as temporary protective measures to prevent short-term erosion. They are often used in maintaining slopes next to new roads to keep the soil in good condition during construction projects, as well as during seed germination and early growth processes that will result in permanent stabilization. They are not designed to be used in areas that have concentrated water flow, such as channels and ditches. 

Applications Of Soil Tackifiers 

As previously mentioned, tackifiers are often used at construction sites. These areas often have lots of soil disturbing activities happening, such as grading land, clearing vegetation or doing cut and fill work. After this work is done, there are areas of bare soil that are not actively being worked on. If they do not get properly covered and treated, they will be at risk of significant erosion, which could wreak havoc on the construction project.  

This is where tackifiers are ideally used—temporary areas that need additional anti-erosion assistance. Tackifiers are often used along with seed and mulch materials in these areas to achieve temporary stabilization. 

So how do you choose the tackifier will use? Here are some considerations to keep in mind: 

  • Soil types and circumstances: What types of soils are present in the area? How steep are the soils, and what is the length of the slope? Is that sloop graded smooth, or is it still rough? Will the binder require any resistance to abrasion?
  • Application: Is there enough water nearby to properly mix the product before applying it? Are the slopes accessible to the equipment that will be used to apply the product? How frequently does the tackifier need to be applied?
  • Specific tackifier requirements: What are the conditions that need to be present for the tackifier to be used? Think wetness or dryness, slopes, soil types, etc.
  • Additional considerations: Cost, equipment and labor required, preparation needs, transportation needs and maintenance should all factor into your decision. 

For more information about the benefits of tackifiers and selecting one for your project, contact us at SoilAdvocates.

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By |2018-05-09T21:01:28-04:00May 9th, 2018|Categories: Blog, Environment|Tags: , , |

About the Author:

Dr. Leanne J Philip, BSc. (Hon.); MSc.; PhD. is the Managing Director & Chief Scientist of Soil Advocates Inc. She studied at the University of Guelph as an undergraduate (Plant Biology, Environmental Management and Urban Horticulture) and as a graduate student (Plant & Soil Interactions). She has a keen interest in soil sciences, which lead her to the University of British Columbia in Vancouver for doctoral studies in soil carbon sequestration and movement within British Columbia’s clear-cut soils. Further work in soil sciences in Europe and Canada reinforced Dr. Philip’s belief that soil processes and mechanisms belowground drive aboveground aesthetics and plant interactions. While active in both research, mentorship and teaching, most recently Dr. Philip has been working in applied soil sciences in industry and community outreach. Dr. Philip is a native of southern Ontario and is a strong advocate for scientific literacy within her community and responsible environmental stewardship.

2 Comments

  1. Bob Reeves June 15, 2018 at 7:20 am - Reply

    Hi Leanne.
    On the other hand – the completely natural equivalent of this kind of soil binding technology is to encourage the health and vitality of soil microbial communities. One of the most important of these are the mycorrhizal fungi which form a symbiosis with the roots of 95% of plants (in either naturalized or installed landscapes). Mycorrhizae provide multiple services (such as the acquisition of soil water, and nutrients) for their plant hosts in exchange for carbohydrates (sugars) provided by the host. The sugars given to the mycorrhizae (produced through photosynthesis) are surplus to the plant host’s needs – a fantastically efficient and important example of natural symbiosis.

    The extremely dense mycelial networks produced by mycorrhizae act to bind soils – but beyond that – as they explore the soil, mycorrhizae exude a fungal protein called Glomalin. This sticky are persistent substance binds the densely packed clay plate and sands in to aggregated clumps. This soil building startup allows better infiltration of air and water – and thereby encourages the proliferation of aerobic bacterial communities. All of this conspires to stabilize soil and encourage the proliferation of ever larger communities of soil foragers to take up residence in this ‘new’ soil.

    It’s all good – and it’s all natural.

  2. Howard Wildman July 30, 2018 at 8:46 pm - Reply

    Bob, you are right about the benefits of mycorrhizae (and indeed, not forgetting the activities of other filamentous microbes such as actinomycetes and saprophytic fungi) to soil binding, but tackifiers are a useful solution to reduce short-term erosion on bare ground in the period before filamentous microbial communities can become established.

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