A new soy-based dust suppressant is now available for roads, construction sites, wind farms, and more, offering a sustainable and budget-savvy choice for rural and urban communities as well as businesses to improve air quality for people, pets, livestock, and crops.

BioBlend’s EPIC EL Dust Suppressant is the latest industrial use product entering the market after having received research funding from the United Soybean Board and North Dakota Soybean Council. With soybean checkoff support, a North Dakota State University (NDSU) research engineer created the base chemistry that BioBlend Renewable Resources, LLC is commercializing. BioBlend has a goal of selling EPIC EL nationwide on Earth Day, April 22, 2021, after finalizing a license agreement with the NDSU Research Foundation.

EPIC EL is made from soybean oil as well as glycerin, a coproduct of biodiesel production. “The soybean checkoff is driving demand for U.S. soy through innovative and sustainable industrial use products,” said USB Chairman Dan Farney, an Illinois soybean grower. “A long-lasting soy-biobased dust suppressant is a natural choice for farmers, county engineers, government agencies, as well as businesses in rural and urban areas to improve air quality, traffic safety, and sustainability.”

The Federal Highway Administration reports that there are more than 1.3 million miles of unpaved road in the United States, accounting for almost 35% of the nation’s roads.  Maintenance is a major budget item, according to North Dakota State University’s Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute (UGPTI) Program Director Dale Heglund. In North Dakota, about 66% of local roadway budgets are spent on the state’s 60,000 miles of gravel roads. A single piece of equipment used to blade these roads costs more than $250,000.

“When we look at vehicles going down the road, and we see dust going up, that dust is about a ton of material per vehicle per year that we lose,” Heglund says. “And where does it go? It goes onto the crops. It goes into the homes. It goes off the roadway, and we have to replenish it. Now, that’s a shame. When you use products like EPIC EL Dust Suppressant that hold that surface together, we’re not only improving the safety of the roadway, but we’re improving the gravel preservation. We’re keeping it in place. The investment that we made stays there longer.”

The EPA as well as the American Lung Association recognize the importance of dust control. “Short and long-term exposure to air pollutants, such as dust, is associated with a number of adverse health impacts. For instance, short-term exposure to air pollutants can negatively impact lung function and exacerbate preexisting conditions like asthma and heart disease,” says Bailey Arnold, senior manager of clean air initiatives with the ALA. Arnold adds, “Long-term exposure to air pollutants is also associated with chronic bronchitis, reduced lung function, increased morbidity and mortality rates for lung cancer and heart disease, and heightened susceptibility and mortality to infectious diseases, such as COVID-19.”

Dust can also harm crops and livestock, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) as well as Kelly Bengtson who has more than 20 years of experience as a Minnesota county engineer and 10 years as a managing engineer for a Soil and Water Conservation District. Bengtson now serves as a bridge and pavement engineer at UGPTI where he oversaw 2020 demonstrations. “We applied the product in a test strip in September, and it’s still there six months later. I expect it’s going to be there well into this next season. I monitored it quite closely and was very happy with the results. The road held together. There was no rutting, there was no bumping, no washboards, and virtually no dust.

“One of the returns of investment would be that you may not need to re-gravel a roadway as often because you are controlling the dust,” he adds.

Bengtson says the water-soluble product had no odor and offers environmental benefits compared to the salt-based mixtures that are commonly used to control dust and trigger concerns about soil leeching as well as equipment corrosion. “The soybean-based product is not corrosive, and it’s biodegradable so it’s safer to use,” he says.

Use of soybean oil qualifies BioBlend’s EPIC EL for federal procurement under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s BioPreferred® Program. The USDA Certified Biobased Product Label for EPIC EL Dust Suppressant verifies a biobased content of 100%.

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Because of the potential for biobased products to create new markets for soybeans, U.S. soybean farmers have invested millions of dollars to research, test and promote biobased products. Much of this work was done through the United Soybean Board, which is composed of 78 U.S. soybean farmers appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture to invest soybean checkoff funds. As stipulated in the Soybean Promotion, Research and Consumer Information Act, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Services has oversight responsibilities for the soybean checkoff. For more information, visit www.soybiobased.org

North Dakota soybean farmers across the state are represented on the North Dakota Soybean Council Board, which oversees a grass roots promotion, research and marketing program funded by soybean checkoff dollars. The Council’s mission is to effectively invest and leverage North Dakota soy checkoff resources to maximize the benefits of North Dakota soy. The Council is organized by North Dakota State law.