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Soil treatment machine promises water cost savings

Jenn Downs, irrigation manager of All Commercial Landscape Service in Fresno, demonstrates the Aqua Cents device that injects polymer materials into soil to help retain moisture.Jenn Downs, irrigation manager of All Commercial Landscape Service in Fresno, demonstrates the Aqua Cents device that injects polymer materials into soil to help retain moisture.

Tom De Lany, owner of All Commercial Landscape Service in Fresno, wants to keep lawns greener with a new water management system that injects water-absorbing polymers into the ground, just below the sod.

Key to the process is Aqua Cents, a device that injects a wet polymer solution 3 ½ inches into the soil. Grass roots grow through the moisture-holding polymer material, which provides a ready source of water.

Andros Engineering of Paso Robles designed the injection machine that features a motor-driven system that thrusts rods into the soil, but runs smoothly with little effort from the operator. De Laney holds the patent for the machine that runs on three wheels — two in the front and one in the rear.

Polymer injection, using Aqua Cents, is now a division of All Commercial Landscape Service.

Ed Norum, an agricultural engineer and first executive director with the Center for Irrigation Technology at California State University, Fresno, helped De Lany in field-testing of Aqua Cents. Norum worked on six field tests that were done recently at residential sites.

A test is now being considered for a municipal park during the second quarter of this year.

Aqua Cents is filled with polymers through a long hose connected to a large container. Evonik Stockhausen Inc., based in Greensboro, N.C, manufactures the polymer mixture, called Stockosorb.

The product is advertised as being especially effective in reducing the stresses of transportation and transplanting on plants and grasses, including turf. It is also designed to reduce the frequency of watering and fertilizing required for establishing sod and landscape plants.

De Lany explained that although water is still reasonably priced in Fresno, the price is likely to go up soon. “We have the lowest cost, but highest usage in the country,” he said.

Also, dry winters like we’re in require conservation of water. And the Fresno water table has been dropping, now found at a depth of about 130 feet, compared to 110 feet in 2002 and about 90 feet in 1990, he said.

Marilyn Creel, water conservation landscape specialist for the city of Fresno, said that use of polymer injection machines is a form of water conservation. But she declined to comment on the economics of using the injection process in Fresno where the price of water is low.

Aqua Cents can cut water use on lawns by 40 percent, Delaney said. But despite the reduction, grass grows greener when polymers are injected into the soil, he said.

“I think we have a winner here,” De Lany said, smiling.

“Lawns will turn green and lush,” he added.

The polymers injected into the soil lasts five to seven years. About 1,000 square feet of lawn can be treated in an hour.

Delaney said he hopes to get the price charged for injection down from an initial 28 cents per square foot to 18 cents per square foot.

At 18 cents per square foot, the cost for a home with a grass yard totaling 13,000 square feet would be $2,340.

De Lany said his immediate business goals are to take advantage of a window of opportunity to introduce new technology and equipment to deliver organic, water-absorbing polymers directly to the root zone of plant material. The initial focus is on lawns and landscaped areas.

De Lany said that by combining the injection system with his company’s expertise in efficient irrigation practices, water savings could be increased to 75 percent.