Polymer protects grass

To help the nature to recover from harmful impacts of the mining industry, Svetlana Mesyats and her team from the Geological Institute of the Kola Research Center RAS offer the method, which implies the application of a thin invisible polymeric film onto the soil surface and provides for a fast and successful minesite recultivation.Polymer Protects Grass

It is not surprising that such a polymeric covering is invented in Apatity. People leaving on the Cola Peninsula often need to deal with a destroyed soil cover and a bare infertile land. As a consequence of mining, a significant part of the peninsula is either stripped of the upper ground layer or buried under dumps of the barren rock. Water and wind erosion and sharp fluctuations in temperature make it impossible for a young grass to survive on this infertile ground, only clouds of dust fly over these bare lands. And such a situation is just the same in all mining and metallurgical areas in the North.

However, in the environs of Apatity the problem of dust storms has been solved. A thick grass cover has been created on barren rock dumps, and eyes and mouths of local population are no longer filled with the tons of dust. The idea is as simple as any stroke of genius.

Lawns are usually created the following way. A fertile soil is poured onto a certain plot of land, and a lawn grass is sown. To provide a high quality of lawn, the surface is covered with a coarse cloth (sacking) or a modern polymeric material (e.g., lutrosil). On average-quality or very large lawns, just a thin protective covering of ground is applied over seeds and the soil surface is slightly compacted to minimize erosion. Further success depends only on good luck. A strong rainstorm can wash off the surface layer of soil together with seeds at once, especially, if the lawn is situated in a gully or on a slope facing a road. So, all the work could be ruined. Of course, situation is rather different on lawns covered with sacking. The cloth protects the humus layer from being washed off or blown off together with seeds, decreases the evaporation of moisture, and makes it possible for grass germs to root in soil. In addition, slopes designed for lawns are stabilized using special concrete or wooden frameworks.

However, several hectares of damaged land cannot be covered with a cloth. But a protective covering could be dispersed over the soil surface like a fertilizer from an airplane. This is the way offered by ecologists and chemists from the Geological Institute. The scientists developed a polymeric covering “Biorekulat” for restoring vegetation of mine sites. In fact, this is a durable elastic film that if formed after applying an aqueous emulsion of polymer to the soil surface. Such a film effectively stabilizes the surface by gluing small soil particles together, and later they and seeds cannot be carried away by rainwater or wind. At the same time, the polymeric covering is porous, air- and water-permeable, and does not prevent the earth from breathing. Seeds are comfortable under such a film like under an elfin cloak: it saves heat and moisture and smoothens the fluctuations of temperature in soil. This screen is not an obstacle for young plants, which can grow through it easily.

This film itself is rather durable and stays for several years before beginning to disappear, as it is biodecomposable. It is frost- and heat-resistant: from minus forty to plus forty degrees Celsius. In fact, the most important thing is to let the seeds germinate and root the first year. The second year, the sod (grass-covered surface soil held together by matted roots) is formed, which protects soil from erosion and people from dust, and the covering becomes unnecessary. Thus, this method allows us to restore the soil-vegetation cover on a bare ground within two years, whereas a similar natural process would take decades. Besides, this method is ten times cheaper than the usual way of lawn creation. Using the polymeric film, one can succeed in restoring the soil-vegetation cover on the bare ground even without applying either seeds or a fertile ground. In the first case, one relies on the fact that soil always contains some seeds, and grass will appear without any sowing. In the second case, perennial grasses can be planted even on infertile land.

It should be mentioned that the Russian product “Bioreculat” attracted attention of the British known for their passion for ideal lawns. They consider using of this product not only for lawn treatment, but also for healing bare spots on golf-links.

In Russia, this invention was highly appreciated too. Recently, it won the Grand Prix and a gold medal at the Fifth International Salon of Industrial Property “Archimedes”.

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Olga Maksimenko alphagalileo

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