Erosion control through application of water-soluble anionic polyacrylamide (PAM).


This practice is applied as part of a conservation management system to support one or more of the following:

·  Minimize or control irrigation-induced soil erosion.

·  Reduce wind and/or precipitation erosion.


·  On irrigated lands susceptible to irrigation induced erosion, excluding peat soils, and where the sodium adsorption ratio (SAR) of irrigation water is less than 15;

·  On areas where the timely establishment of vegetation may not be feasible or where vegetative cover is absent or inadequate;

·  On areas where plant residues are inadequate to protect the soil surface from wind erosion; and

·  On sites where disturbance activities prevent establishment or maintenance of a cover crop;

This standard does not apply to the application of polyacrylamides to flowing, non-irrigation, waters.


General Criteria Applicable To All Purposes Changes in management shall be implemented where increases in soil infiltration rates are a result of implementing this practice.

The polyacrylamide (PAM) shall:

·  be of the anionic type meeting acrylamide monomer limits of £ 0.05 percent (%),

·  have a charge density of 10 to 55%, by weight

·  have a molecular weight of 6 to 24 Mg/mole.

·  be mixed and/or applied in accordance with all Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)  Material Safety Data Sheet requirements and the manufacturer’s recommendations for the specified use.

·  conform to all federal, state, and local laws, rules, and regulations.

EROSION CONTROL: Additional Criteria Applicable To Irrigation Induced Soil Erosion Surface Irrigation

PAM shall be used during the first irrigation and after any soil disturbance (pre-irrigation is considered irrigation) and during later irrigations if soil movement is observed.

Mixed concentrations of PAM shall be added to irrigation water only during the advance phase of a surface irrigation. The advance phase shall be considered the time irrigation starts until water has advanced to the end of the field. Dry or “patch” treatments of PAM shall be placed over an area of the first five (5) feet of the furrow.

The resulting concentration of PAM in irrigation water shall not exceed 10 ppm of pure form polyacrylamide, applied on a total product basis.

EROSION CONTROL: Sprinkler Irrigation

The maximum application rate of Polyacrylamide active ingredient shall not exceed four (4) pounds per acre (lb/ac) per single application event.

PAM mixtures will be totally mixed and liquefied prior to injection into the irrigation system.

Injection shall occur on the downstream side of all screens and/or filters and conform to all federal and state chemigation standards.

EROSION CONTROL: Additional Criteria Applicable To Reduce Wind and/or Precipitation Erosion

The maximum application rate of pure form polyacrylamide shall not exceed 200 lb/ac per year. Emulsion batches shall be mixed with pure form polyacrylamide not exceeding 200 pounds per batch.

Application method shall ensure uniform coverage to the target area, minimizing drift to non-target areas.


The following relates to the application of the polyacrylamide practice that may enhance, or avoid problems with the practice but are not required to ensure its basic conservation function.


PAM application rates may need to be adjusted based on soil properties, slope, and type of erosion targeted.

Where reasonably possible, tailwater or runoff containing PAM should be stored for re-use or recycled on other land areas.

Use of polyacrylamide in combination with other conservation and Best Management Practices will improve erosion control.

EROSION CONTROL: Irrigation-Induced Erosion Considerations

Other conservation treatments such as land leveling, irrigation water management, reduced tillage, reservoir tillage, crop rotations, etc. should be used in conjunction with this practice to control irrigation-induced erosion.

PAM may result in an increase in surface irrigation infiltration of up to 60%, with 15% being typical on medium textured soils.

To compensate for PAM changes in infiltration, adjustments in flow rates, time of set, and tillage practices should be considered.

An adjustment from maximum PAM rates and volumes should be considered so long as no visible erosion occurs.

Secondary applications on undisturbed soil may be needed in surface irrigation when sediment or erosion is noted.

Sprinkler systems will likely need multiple applications to achieve a significant erosion reduction.

For sprinkler systems, before and after injecting concentrated liquid PAM (30 to 50% active ingredient) into sprinkler irrigation systems, it is a good practice to pump a surfactant (crop oil) through the injection system (pump, tubing, valves, etc.). Surfactants provide a buffer between

PAM and water so non-flowing PAM does not contact water and form a gelatinous mass that can plug valves and tubing.

For sprinkler injection, the injection pump should be started after water is flowing in the sprinkler system and stopped when the irrigation pump stops.

Applications at the end of the season are discouraged unless the field has been recently tilled.

EROSION CONTROL: Wind or Precipitation Erosion Considerations

Adding seed to polyacrylamide mixture may provide additional erosion protection beyond the life of the PAM material.

PAM may improve water quality, infiltration, soil fertility, and air quality.

EROSION CONTROL: Safety and Health

Use proper personal protective equipment, e.g. gloves, masks, and other health and safety precautions in accordance with the label, industry, and other federal or state rules and guidelines.

If inhaled in large quantities, PAM dust can cause choking and difficulty in breathing. Persons handling and mixing PAM shall use a dust mask of a type recommended by the manufacturer. PAM solutions can cause surfaces, tools, etc. to become very slippery when wet. Clean liquid PAM spills with dry absorbent material (sawdust, soil, cat litter, etc.) and sweeps/collect dry PAM material without washing with water.


Specifications will be developed site specifically for each application. Specifications for this practice will be prepared for each field or treatment unit according to the criteria, considerations, and operation and maintenance described in this standard. Specifications shall be recorded using approved specification sheets, job sheets, narrative statements in the conservation plan, or other acceptable documentation.


An Operation and Maintenance Plan must be prepared for use by the landowner or operator responsible for PAM application. The plan should provide specific instructions for PAM applications to ensure it is used properly. Plan items may consist of:

·  Reapply PAM to disturbed or tilled areas, including high traffic use areas.

·  Monitoring advance phases of the irrigation to assure applications are discontinued when runoff begins.

·  Equipment is operated and maintained to provide uniform application rates.

·  Maintenance of screens and filtering facilities.

·  Rinse all PAM mixing and application equipment thoroughly with water to avoid the formation of PAM residues.

·  PAM is a flocculating agent that may cause deposition in downstream watercourses or other locations when it comes in contact with sediment-laden waters. Downstream deposition from the use of PAM may require periodic cleaning to maintain normal functions.

Anionic Polyacrylamide (PAM) Erosion Control

Polyacrylamide found to reduce soil erosion in furrows by up to 99 percent.

July 1999 U.S. Water News Online

ROCKY FORD, Colo. — Tramfloc Polyacrylamide is a linear polyacrylamide that, in many trials and demonstrations throughout the western U.S., has significantly reduced erosion-up to 99 percent.

But Tramfloc polyacrylamide not only reduces erosion, but it also increases infiltration as much as 50 percent. Polyacrylamide helps in high residue furrow irrigation. Because the water has a low sediment content and sediment does not accumulate in the furrows, water flows under the residue. On untreated furrows, the sediment stacks up against the residue which can cause the rows to break over.

“Reduced erosion, increased infiltration, helps with irrigation on land with high crop residues. These three factors alone make polyacrylamide a product that every furrow irrigator should use,” according to Jim Valliant, regional irrigation specialist with Colorado State University Cooperative Extension. “However, polyacrylamide alone or in combination with a super absorbent polymer such as a cross-linked polyacrylamide, has substantially increased yields in corn, onions, tomatoes, and peppers.”

Using a combination of polyacrylamide and surge irrigation, erosion was reduced an average of 64 percent while using 25 percent less irrigation water and producing equal yields of 179 bushels per acre of grain corn when compared to untreated conventional irrigated corn in 1996-98. In 1997 and 1998, using conventional irrigation at the Tennessee Valley Research Center, the addition of polyacrylamide increased yields an average of six (6) bushels per acre.

In trials at the Tennessee Valley Research Center conducted by John Prewit, soil loss was reduced 47 percent when using polyacrylamide on 6 of 11 irrigations and still produced similar total market weight on onions of 370 cwt/ac compared to 357 cwt/ac on the untreated check in the 1996 trials. In 1997, soil loss was reduced 22 percent when polyacrylamide was applied on only 3 of 10 irrigations and total yield was significantly increased from 377 cwt/ac on the untreated control as compared to 425 cwt/ac on the polyacrylamide treated plots.

Fresh picked tomato yields were substantially increased in 1996 from 14.8 tons/ac on the untreated control to 20.8 tons/ac when using a combination of polyacrylamide and super absorbent polymers, as a seed treat. Soil loss was reduced by 39 percent on the polyacrylamide/super absorbent polymer area as compared to the untreated control. In 1997, super absorbent polymers, either as a seed treat or incorporated in the soil, combined with polyacrylamide increased the number of emerging plants from 50 to 300 percent when compared to the untreated control while yields, after thinning, were increased as much as 2.4 tons per acre.

In 1996, soil loss from a Jalapeno pepper field was reduced by 47 percent when using polyacrylamide as compared to the untreated control. Also, fresh picked pepper yields were increased from 4.0 tons per acre on the untreated control to 8.7 tons per acre on the polyacrylamide and super absorbent polymer area. On a Mira Sol pepper field in 1997, the combination of polyacrylamide and super absorbent polymers produced 9.5 tons per acre as compared to 6.5 tons per acre on the untreated check.

At a cost of about $5.00 per pound, lower prices available on larger contracts , and using one pound per irrigated acre per application, polyacrylamide does not cost, it pays, according to researchers. On corn, with two applications irrigating every other row, the total cost would be $5 per acre. With an average increase of 6 bushels at $2 per bushel, polyacrylamide gave a good return on the investment and that is not even considering the benefit of reducing the loss of topsoil. On the onions using 6 applications at $5 per acre, the total cost would be $30 per acre. With just a 1300 pound increase, the increased gross return at $8 per 50 pound bag would be $208 which would more than cover the cost of the polyacrylamide, again giving a good return on the investment.

Polyacrylamide has also been used to reduce seepage in dirt ditches. Work done with ditch models reduced seepage as much as 60 percent by adding polyacrylamide and a soil mix. Tramfloc polyacrylamide added to water in a dirt lateral ditch by Jim Valliant, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension on a BOR grant project, substantially reduced water levels in nearby observation wells as compared to the well in the untreated area. Since polyacrylamide is a ultra potent flocculant, the sediment content of the ditch water was reduced as much as 67 percent, which partially sealed the ditch. As a result, ditch seepage was reduced from 0.65 to 0.36 gpm/ft of ditch. Four applications of 10 pounds made the total cost to reduce seepage by 45 percent on 450 feet of ditch only $200.

Tramfloc Polyacrylamide, made from natural gas, is broken down to carbon and hydrogen by sun and salt and ties up with sediment making it environmentally friendly.

Researchers point out that polyacrylamide reduces erosion which removes productive top soil that fill rivers and reservoirs, increases infiltration, increases yields, helps when irrigating with high crop residue, reduces seepage from dirt ditches, is very economical and environmentally friendly. 


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