Agricultural Research Service agricultural engineer Greg Holt helped develop the erosion control industry’s first cotton 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 Hydromulch is made from cotton gin byproducts. It is a combination hydromulch/spray-on erosion-control blanket that performs better than conventional roll-on blankets and requires significantly less labor.

Holt and his colleagues tested the prototype against commercial erosion control blankets made of straw, wood and coconut.

The total runoff from the 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 hydromulch was produced using technology developed from cooperative research efforts between ARS, Cotton Incorporated, 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 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.