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Controlling Soil Erosion

Media Contact:
Jennifer Martin, CSREES Staff (202) 720-8188

By Stacy Kish, CSREES Staff
September 17, 2007

Soil erosion from rain and wind produces water quality issues in streams, rivers and lakes, degrades soil quality, and affects human health. Forest Concepts LLC, a small business in Auburn, WA, developed an environmentally-friendly solution called WoodStraw, an innovative erosion control material made from sliced strands of wood that is tailor-made for use on forests, highway projects, watersheds and other natural areas.

Previous erosion control methods, specifically the use of straw, were hampered by lack of stability under windy conditions, possible introduction of noxious weeds, chemical residue from pesticides and short-lived performance. WoodStraw is heavier than straw, making it less likely to be blown away when exposed to high winds.

The patented WoodStraw brand wood-based erosion control material is highly effective. An American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers study in California and Washington indicated application of the WoodStraw product reduced erosion by 98 percent compared to bare soil. In addition, a field experiment by the USDA Forest Service in Colorado noted WoodStraw outperformed all other mulch treatments.

WoodStraw is naturally weed-free and long-lasting. Since its introduction, WoodStraw has achieved regulatory approval by the Washington State Department of Transportation for use on transportation projects across the state and is recognized by the Washington Department of Ecology as an effective erosion control material.

Research and scientific progress continue to shed light on new benefits of WoodStraw. The product is currently being evaluated to see how it would perform for wind erosion and dust control on construction sites and for controlling blowing ash on burned areas such as rangelands.

WoodStraw technology earned an AE50 award from the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers as one of the 50 most innovative new agricultural, food and natural resource technologies of 2006.

This project received Phase I and Phase II funding from the USDA's Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES) Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR) for developing and marketing this product.

The SBIR program enabled the rapid successful commercial launch of WoodStraw. Since completion of SBIR Phase II, the company has attracted several significant investors and brought on board a general management, sales and operations team with considerable experience.

?Without the support from USDA, the depth of science and disciplined engineering would not have been financially feasible,? said James Dooley, co-founder of Forest Concepts LLC.

The CSREES SBIR program makes competitively awarded grants to qualified small businesses to support high quality, advanced concepts research related to important scientific problems and opportunities in agriculture that could lead to significant public benefit if successful.

CSREES advances knowledge for agriculture, the environment, human health and well-being, and communities by supporting research, education and extension programs in the Land-Grant University System and other partner organizations. For more information, visit www.csrees.usda.gov.

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