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Using hay mats to help things get started

 
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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Ix5_1sDhR0   I came across this video and started to do some searching, but came up with nothing.  Would a hay mat made by a similar machine be useful in recovering large areas of barren ground?  I was thinking that if the hay was to be soaked in a solution of diatomaceous earth and then dried, might help prevent insects from eating what you are trying to plant.  I see landscapers using some kind of plastic netting all the time, and it seems like a shame to waste so much oil.
 
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Hi Tom.

That's a terrific idea! I would much rather, for instance, purchase 1' or 2' wide rolls of hay mats to roll out between rows than I would rolls of plastic mulch for the same purpose.

I could see them being used in any conditions where covering the ground results in more trapped moisture, more soil life, and finally more plant growth to cover the ground, trap more moisture, trap sediment, and so on. I could also see, if treating them with any kind of slurry, including seeds for green manure crops appropriate to such an application and the environment in which the mats are to be deployed, such that when conditions are favourable, the mats sprout, attaching themselves to the ground with the root systems of the green manure plants. If these happen to be what locals feed their livestock on, we've just described ready-made pasture mats.

In your searches, did you find out what was on the spools on the top of the machine? Ideally, the thread used to bind the mat together would be of natural fibre and would biodegrade in place with the rest of the mat.

I reposted the video.



Great find. I have never heard this suggested before, but I like it.

-CK
 
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Hay mats here in Arkansas are used by the highway department for seeding the berms of overpasses on freeway construction projects.
Apparently the highway department purchased a machine because I have seen them doing the seeding and the machine loads a round bale which is then unrolled and stitched with jute twine as it is laid on the soil bed.
They then run another  machine over the mat which places wood stakes and apparently adds another layer of grass seed mixed with scarlet clover seeds, then the hole thing is watered by a water truck.
The day I saw them doing this I stopped and managed to ask the crew boss a little about it. Sadly the machine didn't have any branding on it and the crew boss didn't know where the thing came from.

For home or personal use I think you could get by with just unrolling a bale either over freshly seeded ground or lay it then seed on and through it, a good heavy watering and some judiciously placed stakes with twine tied to each stake should do a pretty good job of holding the mat in place.
The seeds the highway dept. use come up through the mats and the mats then decompose so it is a great mulched seed bed that doesn't wash or blow away while the grasses get established.

Redhawk
 
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There are models similar to the one in the video on alibaba, straw mat machine. Apperantly it uses "Monofilament thread or netting twine" (link but I don't see any reason why it can't be modified. I think there are ropes made out of hemp or wool that might be used for this task.
 
Tom Connolly
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Thanks for your useful responses.  The property that I bought in Nevada is subject to very high winds.  Loose hay or straw would need a lot of attention to keep it put in one place.  The wind is one of the reasons why the soil in this area is so poor.   I will keep looking.   Alibaba sells machines that make 2m wide mats...the machine seems to work rather quickly - maybe 20 feet per minute?  If this did work...if you are really ambitious, covering 1/4 acre (11,000 sq. ft) would require about 2,000 lineal feet of mat...about 1,000 minutes..generously speaking less than 20 hours of work.  Using biodegradable thread would make it really sweet - no threads for animals to choke on, of bumbling land owners to trip on ;)  Then finding some biodegradable hooks/stakes to put in the ground to hold the mat in place.  I have seen fertilizer stakes that were meant to be hammered into the ground and slowly dissolve over a year or so...maybe a sandwich could be made with two layers of mat and compost/nutrients in between....More research!
 
Tom Connolly
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...maybe even make a kind of quilt, with the "padding" being compost, soil, nutrients, etc....think of it as a way of comforting the earth :)  
 
s. ayalp
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Tom Connolly wrote:...maybe even make a kind of quilt, with the "padding" being compost, soil, nutrients, etc....think of it as a way of comforting the earth :)  


That is perfectly possible. They actually do that, in a sense, while they are building prefabricated hay walls. Should not be that hard to modify to include those too. I liked the simplicity and effectiveness though. It adds a lot of value to a very cheep resource. I think a 1.2 m (4ft) width  (maybe less depending on target customer) and 5/7 cm thickness (2-3 inch) would be ideal. If this machines is upgraded as an attachment behind a tractor, that would save a lot of labor costs. Rolls the product or cuts at certain lengths and drops couple of dozen on the field to be picked up later on. The attachment may have a components that sprays some minerals (rock dust or such) and maybe seeds (?- seed balls maybe?) on the straw. It will need to work slower though, I don't think it can work at full speed when organic ropes are used. They are not as strong as netting twine. Specifications of that particular machine was in the link (200m/600 ft per hour) Screenshot is below.

Bryant RedHawk wrote:Hay mats here in Arkansas are used by the highway department for seeding the berms of overpasses on freeway construction projects.


I like that idea very much!

I remember a video of Permaculture Orchard's Stefan Sobkowiak (the guy who goes nuts on nuts:)  on why he used plastic sheets in his orchard (@1:26). Maybe this idea can be implemented on that subject if developed.



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Tom Connolly
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Wow! 200 meters per hour!  I have also seen multi needle quilting machines for $1,100....between the 2 of them the possibilities run wild!  But they talk about using straw...not hay.  i wonder if hay is durable enough to be used?  In a desert environment, hay would disintegrate within a year.   Did you get your specs from Alibaba?  I am sure that the system could be more automated but probably for a lot more $$.  For a landscaper or government land manager with thousands of acres that might be worthwhile.  Me?  I am trying to figure out how to automate the earth bag building process a little.
 
s. ayalp
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I don't think using hay will be any different than straw on strength-wise. Hay has seeds though. Besides, hay will be green when cut. Green material can jam the machine (maybe?) Differences between hay and straw (str and building-wise) is very well explained in this post: Using hay for cob?
Yeah, Just click on "link" in the first post of mine. Here again: (Specifications of that particular model )
 
Tom Connolly
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s. ayalp wrote:I don't think using hay will be any different than straw on strength-wise. Hay has seeds though. Besides, hay will be green when cut. Green material can jam the machine (maybe?) Differences between hay and straw (str and building-wise) is very well explained in this post: Using hay for cob?
Yeah, Just click on "link" in the first post of mine. Here again: (Specifications of that particular model )


Good points...I think hay can be dried pretty easily, especially in a desert climate if spread out.  Perhaps, since the purpose of this mat is to allow land to become more fruitful, maybe the seeds in the hay can serve a good purpose by sprouting and rooting.  It would be ideal if a legume produced a plant that could be used as hay since the legume has the ability to add value to the soil.
 
Chris Kott
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I missed that one entirely.

Why would one use hay at all? Wouldn't the use of hay as opposed to straw be really wasteful at best, and risk being nibbled at worst?

I say harvest the hay, weave the straw into mats.

If I were designing the process from scratch, it would take the straw, stitch a bottom layer, be sprayed with some sort of binding agent, maybe an oxygenated compost extract, and then dusted with the seed mix.

It would then get a straw mat top layer and exit the machine, to be pegged to the ground. Maybe finished compost would follow the seed mix before the top layer of straw matting, or maybe it would work to spread finished compost out overtop of the mats.

Either way, that might be a great way to kickstart soil life.

-CK

EDIT: legumes would only be able to make up a fraction of the feed, if thr pasture was intended to feed ruminants, I think like a maximum of 20%, but my figures might be high. Too high a percentage of legumes will cause bloat.
 
Tom Connolly
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Chris Kott wrote:I missed that one entirely.

Why would one use hay at all? Wouldn't the use of hay as opposed to straw be really wasteful at best, and risk being nibbled at worst?

I say harvest the hay, weave the straw into mats.

If I were designing the process from scratch, it would take the straw, stitch a bottom layer, be sprayed with some sort of binding agent, maybe an oxygenated compost extract, and then dusted with the seed mix.

It would then get a straw mat top layer and exit the machine, to be pegged to the ground. Maybe finished compost would follow the seed mix before the top layer of straw matting, or maybe it would work to spread finished compost out overtop of the mats.

Either way, that might be a great way to kickstart soil life.

-CK

EDIT: legumes would only be able to make up a fraction of the feed, if thr pasture was intended to feed ruminants, I think like a maximum of 20%, but my figures might be high. Too high a percentage of legumes will cause bloat.



Purpose is not yet to feed any animals but to feed the ground, add nitrogen, minerals, etc. but especially to create and retain topsoil..create an environment where worms can begin to live, healthy bacteria can grow...choose plants with root structures that are increasingly longer and longer to help penetrate more and more of the earth.  I was thinking that hay, because it would decompose rather quickly, could become part of the compost for the plants...and since it decomposes easily, the next crop-mat can be put on top of it.  It may be possible to soak the hay in something to make it less tasty for animals or insects? Straw would be more durable but likely to exist a couple of years before decomposing.  I am counting on hay to decompose early to allow further plantings of other beneficial crops to perform other functions. It may be possible to do two crops in a year, which would facilitate the achievement of my objectives.  I have always cringed when people talk about laying plastic down on the ground.....
 
Chris Kott
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And there's going to be that much difference between the decomposition rates of hay and straw in a desert environment?

I get the idea, but the organic matter in straw will support the bacterial activity you desire. I suppose you could use the whole plant to weave the mat, in which case you'd get the benefits of both, faster decomposing hay kept in place by more stable straw, and if it were harvested from a polycultured pasture that you wished to emulate or improve upon, intact seed heads would become your seed bank.

Soaking the hay in something impalatable is likely to make it less than appetising for the soil life you seek to feed. I advise against it. Instead, soaking or spraying with a compost extract will put the life you want all over the new mats, speeding up incorporation into a living soil.

-CK
 
Tom Connolly
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I found this re: the decomposition rate of straw:

During de-composition the relative proportion of nitrogen in straw increases because of carbon loss. After the nitrogen reaches about 1.75%, some of the nitrogen in the decomposing straw may become available to plants growing in the soil where the straw is decomposing. This process may take  a long time and nitrogen may not become available to plants from straw for 2 years or longer.

https://eprints.nwisrl.ars.usda.gov/1147/1/93.pdf

The source is a little bit old but I think still valid.  I couldn't find anything about straw, but I have always thought that, because of the cellulose content of straw, hay would decompose much faster...but please correct me if I am wrong.

Also see here: https://thegrownetwork.com/straw-vs-hay-which-makes-a-better-mulch/
 
Chris Kott
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I'm not questioning that. I'm suggesting that hay by itself might decompose too completely to act as mulch, so you might want some straw in there. You might need the straw to maintain enough structure so it holds down the other accumulated organic matter.

-CK
 
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