Increasing longevity of rural roads using soy

Winter is here in Ohio and so are the challenging weather conditions that lead to the deterioration of roads and bridges each year. Ohio’s rural roads and bridges serve as the initial link in the agricultural supply chain. Without a system of well-maintained rural roads and bridges, the soybeans and grain Ohio farmers produce will not be efficiently delivered to elevators, processing facilities, and, ultimately, to domestic and international customers. Unfortunately, rural America is an area of the country in which the condition of roads and bridges is the most severe while also being an area of the country in which available resources are the most limited. Additional investment is clearly necessary, but promoting better longevity and stewardship is also required. 

In an effort to promote greater resilience of rural roads and bridges in an environmentally sustainable manner, while providing an increased marketing opportunity for soybean farmers, the Soy Transportation Coalition (STC) and Hancock County, Ohio, recently partnered on a pilot project in which RePlay, a soy-based asphalt sealant produced by BioSpan Technologies, was applied on a rural county road. 

“Rural counties throughout Ohio and the entire country are struggling to maintain their roads and bridges with often stagnant or declining sources of revenue,” said Doug Cade, county engineer for Hancock County. “As a result, we must be open to economical ways to increase the longevity of our infrastructure. We have been pleased to partner with soybean farmers on this pilot project.”

The penetration of salt, water, and other materials into a paved road — particularly in areas with a freeze-thaw cycle — can result in significant damage and diminished longevity. The application of an asphalt sealant, like RePlay, can provide a barrier to such penetration and significantly increase the useful life of the road or bridge. 

“Because our rural roads and bridges are so critical to our success, farmers need to be willing to step up to the plate and help promote solutions to many of our challenges,” said David Clark, a soybean farmer from Springboro and board member on the Ohio Soybean Council and the Soy Transportation Coalition. “By doing this joint project with Hancock County, we hope to increase the awareness of the use of soy-based sealants for our rural infrastructure and encourage it to be a more widely utilized tool within our state.” 

In August of 2021, RePlay was applied on approximately two miles of County Road 84 in Hancock County via a truck-mounted sprayer. Because RePlay is 88% produced from bio-based products — mostly soybean oil — the product is safe to apply and environmentally sustainable. The road was able to be reopened to traffic within 30 minutes of application. 

“Our ultimate goal in applying RePlay to this section of road is to safely extend our repair schedule by five years,” Cade said. “This will allow us to allocate taxpayer money to other projects that are in more need of immediate attention. While the main payoff of this pilot project will be determined a number of years in the future, I have been pleased with some immediate benefits of applying RePlay. The road now dries faster than the adjacent untreated roads since the sealant helps prevent water penetration. Applying RePlay also slightly darkened the coloration of the asphalt, which will result in quicker melting of snow and ice during the winter. This will all benefit motorist safety. We have also noticed that skid resistance has been maintained in the road treated with RePlay.” 

The STC is working to enact similar projects in all 13 states that comprise the organization. Both RePlay and Poreshield — a soy-based concrete enhancer produced by a different company — are being promoted. 

“The use of soy-based asphalt and concrete sealants checks a number of important boxes,” said Steve Reinhard, a soybean farmer from Bucyrus, Ohio, and board member on the Ohio Soybean Council and the Soy Transportation Coalition. “It first increases the longevity of our roads and bridges. Second, it does so in an environmentally sustainable way. Finally, it provides another marketing opportunity for soybean farmers. We hope to encourage greater momentum throughout the country in using these products.” 

To inquire further about the STC pilot project, contact Mike Steenhoek, executive director of the Soy Transportation Coalition, at 515-727-0665 or msteenhoek@soytransportation.org

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