A new soy-based product is making strides to minimize dust on gravel roads.
Developed by NDSU engineer Jim Bahr, the new dust suppressant uses soybean oil and glycerin, a co-product of biodiesel production.
North Dakota Soybean Council and United Soybean Board (USB) provided funding for this project.
Licensed by BioBlend Renewable Resources of Elk Grove Village, Ill., the new product is being marketed as EPIC EL.
Soybean farmers have the opportunity to purchase EPIC EL at 10 percent off the retail price during an introductory timeframe by going to bioblend.com.
In addition, BioBlend will provide the dust suppressant product at various farm shows and state fairs this summer. The company hopes to give farmers and the general public the opportunity to see how well it works.
The U.S. has more than 1.3 million miles of gravel roads. Most townships use calcium chloride to settle the dust.
As an alternative, soybean leaders, since at least the 1990s, have promoted soybean oil to reduce dust on gravel roads.
The early-stage biodegradable products worked but had flaws, said John Jansen, USB vice president of strategic partnerships. Jansen worked for Bunge for 31 years and has worked for USB the last five years.
Over the years, several “waste streams” created during soy processing were tried as dust suppressants with varying success. Jansen said there have been odor problems and the soy-based product from decades ago didn’t hold up to the road traffic.
Many of these concerns are now addressed because EPIC EL has glycerin from the biodiesel-making process that holds triglycerides together and coats the gravel particles.
Road engineers are saying that this new product binds the material and keeps it on the road surface, so you don’t need to grade or replace gravel as often.
“You have the glycerin being mixed with the refined bleach and deodorized soybean oil, so you have a recombining at the molecular level of a product that has been deodorized so there is no odor,” Jansen said. “The color is opaque white (when applied) and it is a very uniform color compared to the older soy-based products.”
He added that Epic EL is not less expensive than its counterparts. Soybeans are at very high prices, and there is demand for biofuels right now. In addition, Epic EL has uses in the mining industry, as well on gravel roads.
“You are using this product because you want to really keep the dust down, you want to eliminate runoff that would kill vegetation or any crops,” Jansen added. “You definitely want to reduce or eliminate the air born dust that stifles pollination for crops, and especially in the area of fruit trees.”
For NDSU and the North Dakota Soybean Council to have spurred on this new dust suppressant is very rewarding.
“North Dakota Soybean Council is very excited about Bioblend's EPIC EL becoming available to the public because it is a soy-biobased dust suppressant that will drive soy demand and offer a sustainable alternative to salt-based dust suppressants,” said Kendall Nichols, North Dakota Soybean Council director of research.
“These are the same reasons that we funded the initial research in 2015 and why it is so exciting to see EPIC EL become commercially available today,” he concluded.